As part of their study of the food chain, fifth graders in Muna Atwa's science class dissected owl pellets. They learned what pellets are made of (indigestible material that does not pass through an owl's digestive tract), and why they are important for scientists. As Muna writes, "dissecting pellets is a way we can study both owls and their prey."
On the day of the dissection, fifth graders were tasked with separating the bones from any fur or hair. After they located and removed the bones, they identified what animal it came from, such as a rat, vole or bird, and used diagrams and a dichotomous key to tally how many types of bones they uncovered (mandible, pelvis, humerus, etc.). Students then used the bones to reconstruct a skeleton of the prey found in the owl pellets. The hands-on lab helped illustrate the apex predator's place at the top of the food chain.