Suffolk Owl Sanctuary has developed a rich programme of outreach work with schools and offers a wide variety of educational resources to support classroom learning. Most popular with teachers of all age groups are owl pellets for use in dissection sessions. One such request came from a school in Yorkshire only last month, about which we had some typically positive feedback, complete with pictures!
Peter Riley is a former teacher and award winning author of science books for schoolchildren of all ages. He is well known in the academic world as a “science evangelist” who has always wanted people to know that “science is much more part of our world than we realise, It’s all around us all the time and if we can enjoy it, we will understand our world a lot better.”
So, when his granddaughter and avid Harry Potter fan,Tabitha enthused about her latest science project - habitats - Peter saw an opportunity to bring some excitement to the classroom!
He asked the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary to help by despatching enough pellets to involve all of Tabitha’s class in a dissection session. By studying the contents of the fragmented pellets, pupils would be able to ascertain what owls had been eating and, thus, which small mammals were abundant in their habitat. The pellets were sterilised and foil wrapped before being sent out and were accompanied by photocopiable bone charts and record sheets for listing and drawing pellet contents.
Tabitha’s class used eyebrow tweezers and cocktail sticks to disassemble their pellets and the evidence gathered indicated that most owls had been feeding on mice, with one having eaten a shrew. The children were delighted to discover the shrew’s lower jaw bones “with its red-capped, crocodile like teeth!!”
Peter reports that the children were “totally engrossed and the teacher said it was one of the best lessons he had had for years!”