January 26

Owl Pellets

Third grade biologists dissected sterilized barn owl pellets as part of their unit on vertebrates. Owls eat their prey whole. Since birds don’t have teeth, they can’t chew their food. The owl slowly digests its meal by separating the softer materials, such as meat, from the harder materials, such as bones. It then regurgitates the bones along with indigestible items, like feathers and fur, in a pellet.

We used a bone identification key to identify the bones we found. Animal skeletons found in the pellets included mice, rats, shrew, voles, moles, and birds. We discovered that the animal bones have the same names as those in our bodies, such as femur, scapula, clavicle, rib, skull, and mandible.

Click here to learn how to dissect a pellet.
Click here to learn more about owl pellets.

In their homeroom classes this week, third graders were asked to revise a sentence about an owl pellet. Vocabulary development is an essential component of reading comprehension.

Fourth graders read Poppy by acclaimed Newbery-winning author Avi. The story is an animal adventure about an owl who rules Dimwood Forest. Children understand passages like the one following because they dissect owl pellets in third grade.

“…she glanced at the base of Mr. Ocax’s tree. There lay what appeared to be a mound of pebbles. Gradually a ghastly realization came over her. What she was seeing was a mound of Mr. Ocax’s upchucked pellets, the closely packed and undigested bits of fur and bone from his dinners. The vision made her blood turn cold.”

January 26

Silent Flight

“Owls are known as silent predators of the night, capable of flying just inches from their prey without being detected. The quietness of their flight is owed to their specialized feathers.” Click here to read more and to watch a video about silent flight.

Click here to learn more about silent flight. My third grade biologists found this very interesting.

Then I presented a simple demonstration. When I swung the nylon rope, the children could hear a whooshing sound, but when I swung the frayed rope, there was no sound. Why?

The definition of biomimicry is the act of using creation as a model for human inventions. Who would want to develop silent flight?

January 16


At the end of our ecosystem unit, fourth grade biologists worked in collaborative groups to design and construct forest floor ecosystems. The teams had gravel, soil, leaf litter, moss, ground cover, sticks, and grass seed from which to choose. Their challenge was to create an ecosystem that met the needs of their living organisms- plants, meal worms, pill bugs, and crickets. We investigated each of these animals in past labs. Our ecosystems represent a community with different populations who are interdependent with the abiotic (non-living) factors. The students brought the ecosystems back to their classrooms and placed them where they believe their ecosystems will thrive.

How do crickets chirp? Watch the video that Mrs. Denard captured.

Click here to see the video.

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January 15


First grade scientists learned that snow is a form of precipitation. Snowflakes have six sides, consist of ice crystals, and each one is unique. We collaborated in small groups to cut giant snowflakes from circles that were folded in sixths. This was a fun way to apply shape and fraction concepts.

January 8

Foil Painting

After a discussion about how foil is used and the material from which it is made, PreK scientists listed physical properties of foil. They said it was silver, shiny, and smooth. It can be torn and folded, and they observed that it reflected light.

Then we discussed the colors you might see on a snowy day. We noticed that white and blue were the primary colors in several photographs.

Finally, I demonstrated that you can make a color lighter by adding white. That new color is called a tint.

We put all these concepts together when we moved to the lab tables. My youngest scientists combined white and blue paint, as they painted on aluminum foil with a swab. The swab glided over the foil which was also an introduction to friction. When each student finished, we pressed a black piece of paper on top of the foil and made a print.

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