Pellets to Animated Shorts… Think Tank is Rolling!

Of course I was an owl pellet for Halloween! (I’m being dissected here!)

Before I begin I must give a MASSIVE shout-out to the incredible parent volunteered weekly in nearly all my classes to ensure I can stay at work while my still healing back…. heals! I’m constantly amazed by the incredible community I work in, and thankful to have such wonderful support. I now have parents acting out my read alouds, engaging in content, and adding a new level of knowledge and excitement to the classroom. My back thanks you… as do I!

(We were acting out “How Tall was Milton” a fairy tale about why people may want to use standardized units of measure. Subrat Biswal, parent volunteer extraordinaire, acts as Milton here!)

Now onto everything else….
The Owl Pellet Obsession has not ceased! In fact, the interest students have shown has forced me to delve much deeper into the content than I originally planned! We began our study with a Donor’s Choose funded project through Carolina Biological Supply Company then supplemented with wonderful, small business pellet retailer Owl Brand Discovery Kit . (Thanks OBDK for your quick turn around time and unique inventory at the last minute!)  I even lead the Maury Staff in their own exploration so they could see what it was all about!

As a teacher, when I plan school-wide studies, my challenge is to take one “thing” and make it accessible, engaging, enriching and challenging to ALL students. Since I teach Preschool through 5th, that isn’t always the easiest task, but so far, as our study continues, it is proving to be a valuable one! Of course, in addition to content, all of our lessons are based in using Multiple Intelligences and strengthening our Habits of Mind! Specifically, we ” Wonder, Explore and Ask Questions”, “Look Carefully”, “Use What we Know, Transfer Learning” and are”Adventurous and Open-Minded”.

K and 1 students get their first try at using scientific tools to carefully dissect their fragile pellets. Fine motor, sorting, inquiry…. this group took right to the task!


2nd grade not only dissected pellets but then used new, unique pellets collected from a variety of sources to see if they could find evidence of where the pellet was found.

Left and Right hand collaboration in 2nd grade on their lab!

3rd Grade has been lucky enough to have the DC Department of Environment’s Wildlife Biologist and Ornithologist Dan Rauch come to present about raptors. I’ve never seen students have soooo many GREAT questions about a topic! He’s such a great sport because for each of their questions, he has written back a response! All questions and responses are, or will soon be, posted in the first floor hallway.

 4th and 5th grades took their dissections farther and have begun using dichotomous keys and other organizers to more accurately identify the prey in their pellets. While younger grades are sorting bones into “rodent, mole or bird”, this group of students is using clues found in the bones to find out what KIND of rodent, KIND of mole etc…. Did you know that voles have angled teeth and mice and rats have lobed teeth? ( Yeah, me neither, but now we all know!)

After using a bone chart, students began sorting bones. They will be able to determine the number of prey in their pellet, as well as other details from this data.
Lots of drying work… apparently vertebrae “run” when the glue isn’t dry:)
Drying completed Dichotomous Keys! Each mandible used in the key is glued to the bottom
Love this key! It was fascinating to learn so much more about the prey, and narrow down more about the owl’s diet through this investigation.
Moles have COOL jaws!


PS3 and PK4  are in the middle of various studies, including “Buildings”, “Insects” and “Trees”. During Think Tank, students still have center choice with a variety of materials but our read-aloud and songs are content specific. I’ve been particularly impressed with how excited the students have become about measurement and creating structures that stable or unstable. Whatever the center, students continue to explore science concepts at their own pace…. perfect for their age!


FINALLY…. What do you do when you have indoor recess during construction? You make short animated videos using a great Stop Motion app! Thanks to Animation Chefs for the inspiration! I know that there will be many more of these types of videos to come. Here are our very first student made animated shorts from today!

PHEW….. I’m off to the National Science Teacher’s Association Regional Conference in North Carolina bright and early in the morning so I better pack! I will be taking part in the Next Generation Science Standards NSTA training on Saturday and can’t wait to bring what I learn back to DC! I’m so lucky to have such a great job, in a school and District that values #STEM!

Until next time…
-Mrs. Ford

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Posted in Specials Posts, Think Tank.