Last year, when trying to come up with ideas for our bimonthly Adventure Club program, I stumbled across a place to purchase owl pellets. While I didn't think it would be quite the right fit for that program, I saved the information, sure that I could do something with it in the future. As I began planning out my year in Mad Science Mondays, I knew that information was just what I needed.
So, for our January edition of Mad Science (yes, I really am that far behind in program write-ups), we explored the world of owls. I ordered a set of 30 owl pellets, which also came with tweezers and small wooden dowels for dissecting the pellets.
For the program, I prepared a short PowerPoint presentation to start with. I included general information about owls, as well as more specific information about the kinds of owls our pellets came from. I talked about what the pellet was and how it was created. I provided the kids with some tips of what to look for, both on the outside of the pellet and as they began dissecting it. As is typical, I'm not sure how much of the information sank in as I explained it to them, but I always like to provide it for the child who is listening carefully.
Once I finished the presentation, we got down to the business of dissection. I gave each child a plate on which to do their dissection, as well as a pair of gloves to prevent the icky factor. Each kid started with one pellet, though most ended up getting through two by program's end. They also each had a pair of tweezers and a wooden dowel. On the tables where we were doing our dissections, I also laid out sheets that showed the bones we were most likely to find within the pellets. I encouraged the kids to work slowly and carefully so as to preserve any bones they might find and to ask for help if they needed it.
The kids did think it was gross, but they loved trying to identify what bones from which animals they had found within their pellets. Most of the kids wanted to take their uncovered bones home, so I provided small baggies for them to show off their discoveries to their parents.
I didn't have quite the turnout I expected, particularly as I advertised exactly what we'd be doing at the program (in the fall, I had used just a general description for each program). I thought dissecting something kind of gross would be a draw for the kids, but maybe it was just a bad day. The kids who came had a good time and I did as well (can you believe I'd never done this as a child?).
Have you ever hosted a dissection at your library?