Owl Pellet Lab-A Skeletal System Study - (Terry Oneida)

Owl Pellet Lab-Hands-on Skeletons

7th Grade Life Science; Rio Norte Jr. High, Santa Clarita, CA

Terry Oneida

2 Block periods, 95 minutes each

Chapter 13, Sections 2 and 3

September 20 and 22, 2010

 Objectives:  Students will be able to:

1.  Predict what they may find inside of the owl pellet after a discussion of how digestive system uses skeletal and muscular systems to digest food for energy and growth of an organism

2.  Measure a scientific object (pellet)’s length in centimeters and mass in grams

3.  Observe by touching and feeling what a real skeleton looks like

4.  Identify bones of the skeletons found by scientific investigation

5.  Compare and contrast skeleton bones between an owl (animal) and a human skeleton

6.  Analyze data from a scientific inquiry

7.  Form conclusions based on the data

8.  Communicate the results of the data by using a graphic analysis (pie chart)

 California Content Standards:

5. b. Students know organ systems function because of the contributions of individual organs, tissues, and cells. The failure of any part can affect the entire system

5. c. Students know how bones and muscles work together to provide a structural framework for movement.  b. Use a variety of print and electronic resources to collect information and evidence as part of a research project.

7. Scientific progress is made by asking meaningful questions and conducting careful investigations. As a basis for understanding this concept and addressing the content in the other three strands, students should develop their own questions and perform investigations. Students will:

a. Select and use appropriate tools and technology (including calculators, computers, balances, spring scales, microscopes, and binoculars) to perform tests, collect data, and display data

c. Communicate the logical connection among hypotheses, science concepts, tests conducted, data collected, and conclusions drawn from the scientific evidence.

d. Construct scale models, maps, and appropriately labeled diagrams to communicate scientific knowledge (e.g., motion of Earth’s plates and cell structure).


1.  Hand out owl pellet worksheet packets, hand out lab supplies to students (10 min.)

2.  Instructions, video, animation, Powerpoint based on student prior knowledge and new knowledge to successfully complete lab (15 min.)

3.  Lab dissection, worksheet and clean up (35 min.)

4.  Classroom data analysis and pie chart (15 min.)

5.  Begin owl foldable to create place to put scientific inquiry data (10 min.)

6.  Closure and homework information.

 Note:  The series of lessons before this activity introduced the human body and organ systems, the organizational levels of cells, tissues, organs and organ systems and further information on skeletal and muscular systems.  This is IMPORTANT prior knowledge that students will need to understand the academic language and relevancy of this hands-on activity.

 Activity:  Show video of how to dissect pellet, show animation, show Powerpoint demonstration, have students copy data chart on p. 3 of worksheet packet

 1.  Discuss academic language:  term—prediction.  Then ask students to make their prediction of what they may find in their owl pellet by writing it into their worksheet packet. 

2.  Discuss how students should measure their owl pellet using the cm side of the ruler.  Have students measure their owl pellet and record in their worksheet packet.

3.  Discuss what data students are to record:  number of rodents, shrews, moles and birds in their data chart

4.  Students dissect owl pellet, sort, organize and classify bones according to bone sorting chart and dichotomous key, then record data.

5.  Collect student data onto overhead Excel spreadsheet or Google Survey depending upon computer access in classroom.

6.  Students should see their individual data on screen along with all other classmates’ data.

7.  Students should see how their data is represented into a graphical pie chart.

8.  Discuss with students what the data represents, ask them to verbalize using academic language to dispel any misconceptions that students may have about being able to “do” the activity, collect and analyze data, form a conclusion and then communicate the data.  Collect for all class periods then re-process the data using a similar Excel spreadsheet or Google Doc and re-analyze and discuss data again as a “scientific community” so that students understand that their data can be shared by collaborative efforts to gain understanding and practice of the academic vocabulary and learning objectives.  Discuss as a class so that all students can see, hear and explain.

9.  Have students make a foldable as a place to put all of their data into a creative work product. 

10.  Further assessment activities include having students write an essay question in their own way (venn diagram or complete sentences) explaining how to compare and contrast human and animal skeletons (based on tying in prior knowledge and new learned knowledge from this activity), and how to record, analyze and communicate data (i.e. what do you do with it once you collect it?)

 Further lessons based on this activity might include further discussion of the food web (it was not a learning objective of this lesson)

 Reflection:  If I taught this lesson again, I would incorporate a worksheet where the students labeled the parts of the human skeleton and rodent skeleton on the same page to get a visual of the two together.  This will help reinforce learning objectives for skeletal and muscular systems so students can see that each organ system is dependent upon the other to provide structure and movement and that there are similarities and differences between animal and human skeletons and its relevancy to real world situations.

 Resources Needed:

1 owl pellet for each student

White paper for each student

1 dissection tool for each student

1 pair of tweezers for each student

Safety glasses for each student

Gloves if desired

Color pencils, crayons for data and pie chart

Excel or Google spreadsheet for data collection and discussion (attached)

Owl pellet worksheet packet with dichotomous key, charts, and information (attached)

Skeleton chart with human and rodent skeleton
Please contact me if you want the Google doc version so that I can share it with you. 


Norman Herr,
Oct 6, 2010, 11:16 AM
Norman Herr,
Oct 6, 2010, 11:13 AM
Norman Herr,
Oct 6, 2010, 11:15 AM
Norman Herr,
Oct 6, 2010, 11:13 AM
Norman Herr,
Oct 6, 2010, 11:18 AM