877-542-5504 877-542-5504

Want to Help Fellow Teachers?

Please help us grow this free resource by submitting your favorite lesson plans.

Lesson Plan #:AELP-ANM004
AUTHOR: Jeanette Vratil, Lowell Elementary, KS Date: May 1994

Grade Level(s): 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12


  • Science/Animals

OVERVIEW: Owl pellets can be used to teach a part of the natural food chain. They can also be used to teach skeletal structure of rodents. Owl pellets are compact undigested parts which the owl eats. The owl regurgitates these compact pellets which contain fur, bones, etc. of small rodents. Dry pellets will not smell or be unpleasant for students to handle.


  • To teach a part of the natural food chain.
  • To teach skeleton parts by comparison.
  • OBJECTIVES: Students will be able to:

  • Identify a food chain sequence.
  • Classify pellet parts.
  • Compare, identify, and record the rodent skeletal parts to a rodent skeletal diagram.
  • Compare, identify, and record the rodent skeletal parts to a human skeletal diagram.
  • Construct a rodent skeleton from the skeletal parts found in the pellet. (Note: Skeleton may not be complete in each pellet.
  • Compare and record owl pellets from various states if available.

    paper plate-1 per student, sharp dissecting tweezers-1 per student, owl pellets-can be shared within a group, copy of rodent skeletal system-1 per student, copy of human skeletal system-1 per student, pencil and paper to record results.


  • Dissecting tweezers can be sharp and dangerous unless they are used carefully. Brainstorm do’s and don’ts on the board so everyone realizes expectations. This is very important when used at the elementary level.
  • Distribute copies of the rodent and human skeletons. Explain this will be used to identify bones.
  • Distribute paper plates. This will be used by the student to separate the pellet into various categories such as all skulls go into one area, all rub bones into another area.
  • Distribute owl pellet. Each pellet can be pulled apart within the group to be shared.
  • Students take it from here. Separate carefully so small rib bones aren’t broken.
  • Group can combine their categorized parts. Individual categories can be counted and recorded to be shared with the whole class. This can be charted on the board.
  • Ask students to refer to their copy of the human and rodent skeletal system and compare similarities and differences. Ask students to observe skull pieces. They will probably find 2 or 3 different rodent types.
  • Encourage each group to be prepared to report to the whole class their findings.
  • Extension: Assemble a rodent skeleton either each group, whole class, or for interested students.

    Encourage exploration and discussion of group members. A chart can be made on the board to show the number of skulls, etc. found in a pellet by each group. Extension could be to assemble a completed rodent skeleton. Care should be taken with elementary students regarding use expectations of sharp pointed equipment. Some students may hesitate to touch the pellet. Explain they are dry, very hard, and feel kind of like a piece of dried mud and grass. Encourage all students to wash hands carefully when completed.

    May 1994

    These lesson plans are the result of the work of the teachers who have attended the Columbia Education Center’s Summer Workshop. CEC is a consortium of teacher from 14 western states dedicated to improving the quality of education in the rural, western, United States, and particularly the quality of math and science Education. CEC uses Big Sky Telegraph as the hub of their telecommunications network that allows the participating teachers to stay in contact with their trainers and peers that they have met at the Workshops.