Have the Family Become Scientists!

an exclusive feature by Victoria Waller, Ed.D*

Let’s face it, kids love science—all types of science. Recently I read an article in Newsala (the online news for kids that I absolutely love) about a company that has devoted their lives to owl vomit, and I was fascinated. And, knowing kids… I knew they would be fascinated too. 

The owl was once the symbol of Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, so as an educator I have always liked owls. Unfortunately, I never ever saw one up close until a trip to Ireland; that cemented my love for them. The trainer held this gorgeous bird close to me and as I looked into his eyes, I saw the wisdom everyone had talked about for years. 

Barn owls eat rodents, shrews, moles and birds. Then about 12 hours later they will vomit up a small lump of fur and bones called an owl pellet. The pellet will contain a near-perfect skeleton of the animal eaten. They are one of the only birds of prey that swallow the prey whole and the skeleton comes out whole. Captivating, right?

There are six companies in the Pacific Northwest that sell owl pellets. They collect the pellets, sort them, bake them in a large oven, sanitize them, and wrap them in foil and ship to customers. Pellets, Inc., (www.pelletsinc.com) where I bought the kit, makes sure the pellets are tested by an independent testing lab, ensuring that the pellets meet or exceed all requirements of the consumer protection agency. The pellets are mostly sold to schools and museums. I found every child I show these pellets to are totally excited to dissect them.

I like the classroom kit because it contains 15 wrapped pellets, the bone sorting chart which helps to identify the animal the bone came from, and a fantastic guide with step-by-step directions on exactly how to dissect the pellet and more. Your family will be totally engrossed with this project; it will be hours of fun. And soooooo interesting!

If you want to read more about owls, Amazon has many owl books. My favorites are Owl Babies by Martha Waddell, a board book for young kids; Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel for beginning readers; and my favorite book for readers (or to read to non-readers), Jean Craighead George’s book, There’s an Owl in the Shower. 


*As an educator for over 40 years, Dr. Victoria Waller has taught thousands of students to read and write using their passions and strengths: sharks, roller coasters, rocket science, the Titanic and even Pokemon, to name a few. The children learn to read, but more importantly, “love” to read, which lasts a lifetime.