Below are some simple instructions to help a child dissect an owl pellet by him or herself.
owl pellet bone chart
Where to Find Owl Pellets and Owl Pellet Bone Chart:If you are lucky enough to have an owl living on your property, you can collect owl pellets that have not begun to disintegrate. Wrap each one in aluminum foil and bake them at 250° for four hours to sterilize them.
If you're like the rest of us, you need to purchase owl pellets. They are available through Amazon, (affiliate link), but because I needed a lot, I purchased small owl pellets through Carolina Biological supply. They also provide free resources like bone charts for you to print at home. Other printables are available if you explore the free resources provided by them. I printed this bone identification chart. When I taught an owl pellet dissection workshop this summer, I printed one of those for each child plus the others for the group to share as a resource.
(I hope I don't have to say this, but if you plan to sell an owl pellet kit, don't use a free resource intended for classroom/personal use to do so.)
Create the Owl Pellet Dissection Kit:
Before placing everything inside the kit, write directions on the outside of the envelope. I would suggest including the following information:
- Be gentle. The bones will easily break.
- Create a disposable work surface. A paper plate works well.
- Separate the bones from the fur and/or feathers.
- Identify the animals within the owl pellet.
That's right. Though the small owl pellets measure just over 1 inch in size, most of them have three small skeletons inside. Some have more! Finding the easy-to-identify skulls makes this easy to figure out.
It's fun to see a child who thinks they don't like science enjoy the dissection process with an owl pellet. If you provide an owl pellet dissection to a group, be prepared to address sensitivities before passing out materials. A dissection will make some uncomfortable. In a group of 32 children, two boys initially did not want to participate. I still provided both with an owl pellet, and both participated through observation. One took his pellet home for his family. The other began dissecting it after understanding more about the dissection by watching his friend.
Give the Owl Pellet Dissection Kit:
When you provide the owl pellet dissection kit to a child, be sure to let the parent know exactly what it is! If they'll be doing it with you, look up some fun facts to share with the child. Owls are amazing creatures, but there are some myths out there about them. The Owl Pages is a great one-stop resource.
It's not about owls, but if you like to get kids excited about science, consider my book, Insects as Producers!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through an affiliate link, I earn a small percentage at no cost to you. Thank you!
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