Whooooo's Teaching About Owls?

01 November 2015 / Leave a Comment

Can you believe it is already November? This is Melissa with Teacher Treasure Hunter and I want to share with you some cool ways to teach about owls. I LOVE to teach about animals and many of the products in my store are animal and science themed. It is such a fun way to get kids engaged in reading informational text. This is one of the best times of the year to teach about animals because so many classrooms focus on nocturnal animals. Two of my fall favorites are bats and owls. A few years ago, I was able to see a pair of great horned owls while on a hike. This summer while camping a big colony of bats swooped repeatedly over the tent area. Yay! I finally was able to see bats AND I knew there would be fewer mosquitoes in the area. By the way, a group of bats can also be called a camp - so.... I saw a camp of bats while I was camping!

Before I even start a unit on owls, I have usually been talking about them in class. One easy way to introduce some facts about owls is during math class. Most elementary classes talk about symmetry early on in the year. This is a great time to also introduce the word asymmetrical (not symmetrical). Owls have an asymmetrical face because the ear openings are in different spots - one is high and the other is lower. This helps them pinpoint the exact location of sounds. While you're talking about owl ears, it's a great time to clear up a common misconception - tufted owls such as the Great Horned Owl - do not have ears on the top of their head! These tufts are sometimes called ear tufts, but they are not ears and do not play a role in hearing. They are simply tufts of feathers. 

I want to share with you some helpful resources for your owl studies. One really fun thing to do is to listen to the calls of various owl species. 
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I have this book and we love to use it in class. It's a beautiful book and can be a bit hard to find. Keep a look out for it and you might find it at a used book store or perhaps your local library carries it. I actually found it a garage sale and bought it for $1.00! It has a little toggle button and electronic display on the side. You push the button until you get to the bird that you want to hear (each one is numbered) and then press the button to hear the sound. Such a fun and engaging resource!

These sounds can also be found online. Journey North has a great page that gives you a few of the different calls of some common owl species. 
More Favorite Owl Books!
Another great resource is the Audubon Society. I have had local representatives come to my classroom to share with the students. They usually bring some owls that have been preserved (taxidermy) and some wing sections and feathers. They also bring with them a huge amount of knowledge to share with the students!

Another engaging lesson during a study of owls is to compare the wing span of various owls. Compare the average wingspan of the Great Gray Owl (60 inches) and the Elf Owl (about 6 inches). A fun way to do this is to have the average wingspan of several different owls. Divide the students into group and give each group one of the measurements. Have them measure out that length of adding machine tape. Then put them all in order from shortest to longest. 


One of the students favorite things to do while studying owls is to dissect owl pellets. This year, I was able to get the owl pellets for my class donated through Owl Brand Discovery Kits. They have a spot on their web site to request a donation. This was great for me because otherwise I would have needed to cover the expense. The owl pellets were great and the company was so responsive to my questions. I highly recommend them as a source to purchase owl pellets. 

Some other things that will be helpful for dissecting owl pellets:
1) Divided tray - makes it easier to sort the bones
2) Bone charts - to identify the bones. Many companies offer these for sale and there are some free options online. Here is a good one that is online: Bone Chart
3) Plastic Forceps - some pellet kits include these. The ones from Owl Brand did not, but I already had some in my classroom. They are helpful to pull the fur away from the bones.
4) Wooden dissecting probes - like a small skewer. These were included with the Owl Brand kit. They are useful for really getting the bones clean.
5) Skeleton illustration. You will need a diagram of the skeleton of common owl prey. Most of the owl kits in the US contain pellets from barn owls. They eat mice, voles and shrews. They sometimes even eat small rabbits or birds. We did find a few tiny feathers in our owl pellets. Rodent Skeleton  & Bone Charts & other resources
6) Black construction to assemble the skeleton and mount it (use classroom glue)

Prey Skeletons

Owls Everywhere!
If you are looking for more resources for studying owls, check out my owl unit.

It includes:
*Vocabulary Cards
*Owl Read the Room (vocabulary activity)
*Owl Memory Match
*Owls Here and There (an original non-fiction book)
*All About Owls (an original non-fiction book)
* Anchor chart titles for KWL and/or can-have-are
*My Owl Book (mini book for students to record what they've learned)
*Measurement Activity
*Owl Facts mini poster - 4 designs
*Label the owl worksheet
*2 student worksheets (Where do owls live? & Birds of Prey)
*List of additional resources

Does your class study owls? I hope you found some helpful resources in this post. Have a wonderful week!


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