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Owl Pellet Dissection During Hybrid Learning

May 2021

On a beautiful spring day in May, Peterson students in teacher Ildiko Stennis’ class explored the task of dissecting owl pellets at the tranquil Bryan Osborne Nature Area. In-person students individually dissected an owl pellet on a picture placemat and matched the bones with the picture chart. While students studying at home did it through a simulation giving all students access to the content material in an equitable way. 

The in-person student Students were delighted as they discovered rat skulls, tiny vertebrae, and even lightweight bird bones.  

“I found 3 fragments of lower jaws of rats!” said Anderson, a delighted 7th grader.

“I got a complete rat skeleton in the end,” said student Patrick Wei.

The owl pellet dissection lab touches on key concepts in ecology, including predator-prey relationships, food webs, and the animal adaptations of the barn owl which make it such a fierce predator.

“Through the use of visuals and hands-on activities, many special education students, including those with ADHD, can hyper-focus on the activity and be successful,” commented Ms. Germann, a special education resource teacher who was assisting in Ildiko Stennis’ class.

“I loved how we invited the Opportunity program students to do the owl pellet lab with the general education science students to foster inclusion and collaboration,” said Stennis. “Each student was successful, and even the nervous students eventually were able to build confidence, touch the pellet, and pick out the bones during the dissection.''

Opportunity program teacher, Laura Marriquon, said ”A big thank you to Mrs. Stennis for including our students. The students enjoyed working together and had fun dissecting the owl pellets.”

“Seeing the next generation get excited about science and discovery brings fulfillment to me and gives me hope for everything to come in the future,” Bryan Osborne Nature Area Curator Kelly Overdujin. “A huge thank you to Ildiko Stennis for her enthusiasm and ability to facilitate scientific discovery for her students, daily.” 

Despite COVID-19 and the constraints of social distancing and masking, students are still able to safely do hands-on labs, such as the owl pellet dissection, in an outdoor setting. We look forward to a time when students can regularly visit the Bryan Osborne Nature Area and explore concepts of science in the natural world. 

Many thanks to Overdujin, who welcomed the students so that they could enjoy nature and participate in hands-on labs in the beautiful nature area.