October 2010

Virtual Owl Pellet Dissection: World’s most famous barfologist…

I haven’t had a chance to post messages in a while, as I have been very busy. However, today I feel there is a good reason for a post. This term I teach a science methods course to future elementary teachers. I like teaching my student-teachers (even though I see them ONLY for two hours every two weeks, as they are a special Problem Based Learning Group). In two weeks we will be doing an Owl Pellet dissection. (see Barred Owl’s photo). What can I say? The first time I heard about it I was just terrified. I have never studied biology beyond high school (and even there I refused to do dissections) and I have been always terrified of touching wild animals and insects, especially the things you certainly do not want to touch, for example their barf or feces. Why would a person want to do that? I could never understand it. However, as I had to prepare for my class, I decided to go online and see what is out there. Luckily for me, I stumbled on the web site: . I am so grateful for the team who created it. What a great idea. When a person like me (a child or an elementary teacher) goes and explores these things virtually, you do not feel as apprehensive and amazingly, at some point, you become curious. So I did dissect my virtual owl pellet (go and check – it is very interesting) and I did get my own certificate¬† –KidWings Virtual Owl Pellet Certificate Milner, but what is more important, along the way I realized that I do want to go and do a real hands-on dissection. To me this simulation and web site provided a great introduction and inspiration. Of course I will still wear my gloves and make sure I do not touch anything I do not want to touch (I will be using tweezers for sure), but the entire virtual procedure made me interested. I think it is a great way of making the kids interested. I am looking forward to using this simulation and the hands-on activity in the classroom.

3 Responses to Virtual Owl Pellet Dissection: World’s most famous barfologist…

  1. Jody Hildreth

    I am the creator of the KidWings website, and I am so pleased that you found the Virtual Owl Pellet Activity useful. I hope the future teachers that you share this site with will also find this site useful. You are the first person I have heard say that the virtual dissection made you interested in trying an actual hands-on dissection. I hope you follow through with that. Usually teachers use my site as a pre-teaching activity, but I can now see that it is a good way to get the “gross” factor out of the way for students (and teachers). Thanks for the great review!

  2. Marina Milner-Bolotin

    Dear Jody:

    Thanks for doing it. I shared your site with my student-teachers and I hope they will find it as interesting and useful as I did. I have ordered pellets- I have a set now, so we will do a real hands-on dissection, but the simulation experience was the thing that inspired me to put my gloves on and enjoy it. I do find it very interesting how owls digest their prey. As a physicist I also find it very interesting how owl can pick up relatively heavy animals and fly with them (heavy compared to their own weight) and how owls see and many other interesting questions.

    The idea of making a game as a puzzle was very nice and I like your daughters doing the activity on the video, so I could see how it is done (I noticed they didn’t wear gloves,so I presume the pellets are relatively clean?).
    Best wishes, Marina

  3. Erin

    I love the owl pellet website. I have used it with my class before we did the actual hands on dissection. Great website.


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