Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Owl Pellets

Sometimes I get frustrated with outside activities.  Monday we have flute and flute ensemble plus the girls’ job to take care of a neighbors dog.  Tuesdays are for piano and a tutoring position I have.  Wednesday = sewing and cooking.  Thursdays means it is girl scout day.  Friday is usually our free day.  It can get overwhelming, especially when the girls are in the middle of something really great.  This week has been mostly about the Greek Gods.  We began The Lightning Thief and we have a bunch of books from the library.  When we come across a myth in the book, like the story of Kronos, we stop and learn about it.  The girls are also reading the picture books and teaching each other what they have learned.  I showed them how to make a copy of an illustration and use a dull pencil to trace it on their sketch journal.  They both did a great illustration of their first myth (Medusa and The Minotaur).  
Today I did not want to interrupt their learning even for one of my favorite classes, nature studies at The Audubon.  I have the nesting feeling, like burrowing down deep under covers in front of a fire with my knitting, being present to help when needed but distant enough to let learning flow free form.

In retrospect I am so very glad we got up, got dressed, and got ourselves to class.  It was owl pellet day!  The children dissected their own owl pellets.  Lilah’s pellet must have belonged to one gi-normous barn owl because she found a mole and a bird.  It was the first bird skeleton our instructor has seen in a pellet.  They separated the bones from the fur and identified their owl’s last meal.  Grace was frustrated because her pellet contained mostly small bones and no skull.  I assured her that we can order our own pellets and try this again.  The both really enjoyed the small toy-like microscope that enabled them to see the bones with a 10x magnification.  I kept hearing the words “awesome” and “too cool” over and over again.

To end our lesson and really connect their learning to life, our instructor took out Millie, the resident barn owl.  She grew up in captivity at a raptor sanctuary in New York before she made her way to the Audubon.  We usually visit her cage in their sanctuary but since the weather has turned colder, she has been moved indoors.  We learned about her eyesight, use of hearing to capture prey, 14 bones that allow her head to turn 3/4 of the way around, her fringed feathers that allow for silent flight, and her ability to regurgitate what is undigestible.  

Having this experience in a small group was exceptional.  Each child was given assistance with identifying the bones and because the setting was so intimate, we all felt a connection with Millie.   I would hate to think we could have missed this, even though the learning we left at home was equally valuable.  That is why I love homeschooling.  We can just go home and pick up where we left off.


  1. I would have loved something like this when I was little, heck I would love to do it now!!!! Thanks for sharing !!!!

  2. hmmm...I'm thinking a microscope may make a really cool Christmas gift!!

  3. @Gary - have you gone to the Audubon for a walk yet? It has become one of my favorite places. Maybe one weekend we can grab Greg and the girls can give the 4 of us a tour....

    @Theresa - I was thinking the exact same thing! I know Lakeshore Learning has some basic ones that are not expensive. I have not started researching yet.....

  4. Jessica, that class looks amazing. I wish I could come tooooo! (Oh and bring the kids with me, of course, of course). My girl would have loved to see the owl (though she might've found the bones thing a bit much. She's not a fan of the insides of things! :) )
    And SNAP—my boy just finished all the Percy Jackson books, and then inhaled the first book in the new Heroes of Olympus series, set again at Camp Half Blood. These books ROCK. I loved them all, and am as addicted to them as my boy. And I learned so much reading them—total side benefit, which is one of the reasons I love books just so much.
    Lovely post and pictures, Jessica. Thank you!

  5. I've had our owl pellets upstairs for a couple of weeks - we still haven't done them!
    We've done them before and have a chart and such--maybe in the next few days! :)

    Winter time is the time for that, I think. For hunkering down.
    For us, winter means more "at home" days, and different things than in the summer - plays and culture, crafts, baking... definitely homey things. :) Thank goodness for winter!

  6. Last spring I heard about Molly the Barn Owl. Have you heard about her? It was an awesome way to learn about owls. My son would wake each morning and check on her through the computer.


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