Last year, when I came to Shetland, I visited Skeld Primary School and spent a lovely morning visiting the pupils and building a bug hotel. I have kept in contact all year, with Helen Perry, Head Teacher (and class teacher!), and was keen to return this year. The school couldn’t be more different to the school I teach in. It consists of just one class, with 16 pupils, aged 5 – 11 years… all taught together. The school overlooks a huge bay with stunning scenery.
Thinking about something I could do this year with the pupils, I remembered some owl pellets I had saved. Knowing that owl pellets were something the pupils were unlikely to have access to on Shetland, I thought it would be activity to share.
The pupils have been following my live cameras and told me all about a blackbird nest they had been following in the school grounds. They were SO interested in all I had to tell them about the cameras in my garden and the work I do.
I then explained all about barn owls and how and why they produce a pellet. A barn owl swallows its prey whole. The digestive juices dissolve all the flesh from the prey, leaving behind the indigestible parts; the bones and the fur. Every day, the owl regurgitates this material in the form of a pellet. These pellets contain the skeletal remains of all that the owl has eaten. There were some grimaces at the prospect of handling something that had been regurgitated by an owl! This is a common reaction, which always disappears once we get stuck in! Soaking the pellets in warm water and disinfectant, we softened them…
Once the pellets were softened, the children started to pull them apart. I had provided them with some pictures of some of the bones they were likely to find…
There was much excitement, especially as they discovered skulls within their pellet. Soon, there were piles of dissected bones and lots of concentration as bones were examined under magnifying glasses!
Once they had taken all the bones out, we mounted them onto black card, using PVA glue. All the pupils mounted them in different ways…
It was an absolute delight to work with these pupils… their enthusiasm and interest was infectious and they were so engrossed and involved with everything they were doing and with their final, mounted bones.
Thank you, Skeld Primary, for another wonderful morning… I am sure you enjoyed it as much as I did!
… and of course, we had to do a silly photo as well!!
I will return next year… of course!!