My BEST Science Activity


Title: Digging in a Bone Pile

Teacher: Peggy Moates

Grade Level: Fifth






Describe the activity below.



After studying the skeletal and digestive systems, students will dissect an owl pellet.  You tell the students that for next class period, you plan to take them on an archeological dig.  The day of the class, you give them the mystery object and discuss what they think may possibly be in the foil wrapped object.  They guess, then, you tell them that today’s archeological dig will take place at their desk.  After the “I thought we were going on a field trip sighs”, you explain that this lab activity will remind them of going on a dig to find artifacts.  The lab will last approximately three 45 minute class periods.  Discuss the digestive process of an owl.  Explain what the object in front of them is.  They open the foil and find a glob of something which causes the girls to “Oh, no, I’m not touching that.”  And the boys to explain, what they are looking at is….when you interrupt and talk about the ability of an owl to digest food.  They calm down and you continue to show them a bone identification chart, lab tools, and plan for digging.

The lab session continues with the students absorbed with the treasures they find in their owl pellets.  After the dig is complete, the bones are classified according to kind of animals and type of bone.


Materials Needed:

For Student

Owl Pellet for each student

Probes, magnifying glass, tweezers, plastic baggies, paper towels, a bone identification lab sheet

For Teacher

Poster from Carolina Biological of The Barn Owl and its digestive cycle

Lab time set up for the students to use Excel for constructing a graph

Art and writing materials for sketches and writing



After explaining to the students about the digestive process of a barn owl, continue to tell them what they may fine during their dig.  Remind them that the pellet is clean, but safety must be practiced because of the flying fur.  Describe how to identify the type of rodent the bones belong to by using the Bone Identification Chart.  Instruct the students to make drawings in their Science Journals of favorite bones.  Extend the lesson with a classification activity using Excel to create a graph of the types of bones each student found.  Share the graphs in class discussion comparing total numbers and kinds of bones found.  Use the statistics from the classroom graphs to find the mean and median of the rodent and type of bone found the most.   End the activity with a writing activity. 



Rubric, work sheet, and math problems


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*This is a cross curricular activity.

Science, Social Studies, Technology, Math, Writing, and Art