Birds, Bones, nature study, Scat

Back to School with Bones

01.16.10 | 17 Comments


This week Seth brought his small animal bone collection to school, and fed everyone “doggie bones” at cooking time.  It all started because our class was scheduled to hike at Russian Ridge on Wednesday.  Russian Ridge is a wild mountain top of wind swept grass and steep oak edges, home to many a coyote.  Seth and I got to talking about coyotes, and more interestingly their scat.  Little boys, as you know are fascinated with scat (and so are some moms).  Since Seth was also the cooking boy we discussed snacks.  We batted around different seed ideas because I thought we should go with the scat theme, and seeds are present in many a fabulous specimen.  Seth said, “I know!  We can bring doggie bones”.  I paused for a moment not sure what to think, he saw my hesitation and explained, “You know mom, hot dogs…we cut the ends, and when we cook them they look like bones”.  There truly is no limit to the creativity children – “doggie bones” it was!

Needless to say, the field trip was canceled due to rain.  I suggested that we do something else for cooking time since our snack was kind of hike specific.  Seth would have none of it.  He insisted that I take him to Whole Foods on Monday immediately after school so he could get “organic turkey dogs” and prepare for his cooking day.  He led the way, took my keys, procured a kid size cart, found the turkey dogs, swiped the bank card and loaded the bag.  On Wednesday he was fastidious, placing the dogs in the cooler himself and hand carrying the bone box to the car.

Seth was not as assertive about presenting the bones for sharing time as he had been about the cooking plans.  Regardless, the kids paid close attention.  Teacher Marie went through and talked about each bone in the tray.  I especially liked the way she asked the kids to touch their neighbor’s back to feel how human vertebrae felt.   The “doggie bones” were a big hit for cooking.  Teacher Marie even produced a deer leg complete with a femur and another bone attached by sinew.  She dangled it while the kids were eating, emphasizing the shape at the ends of the femur, and how much they resembled the shape on the ends of the “doggie bones”.  Gotta’ hand it to teacher Marie for improvisation – there is nothing like a dangling deer femur to drive home a point.


Small Bones in Scat

We came across the above scat at Wilder Ranch bird sanctuary back in May (always good to keep good scat photos handy, never know when you might need them).  We have a rule that we never touch scat with our hands.  We always find a nearby stick to perform our investigations, because after all it’s still poo.  This scat had claws and bones in it.  Sometimes you can find entire skulls like the ones we brought to class.  An easy way to obtain skulls in a dry climate is to let a dead animal or bird decay (in humid environments this could me messy).  The bones in the muffin tray were all from expired rats, birds and mice that we came across.  We put flower pots over the deceased and let microbes, ants and other critters do the work.  We checked on the bodies every few weeks over the summer to note the progress.  If you do this at home, make sure that it is clear to the kids that they only look at the carcass – no touching!  When the flesh feathers and other bits are significantly cleared, move the bones to a box for examination.  If you are squeamish soak the bones in water diluted with some bleach for a day.

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