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The North American Barn Owl Part 3 – Paper Owls and Owl Boxes

K1 Owl Art

Owls and Owl Boxes

(See other posts related to ‘Barn Owl’ Lessons  – here, and here.)


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The North American Barn Owl Part 2 – A Reflection

The past two Thursdays I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and into a Kindergarten classroom for the first time.

I taught two mini-lessons on owls.  (See this post, for the full lesson idea.)

The lessons went well.  I was nervous teaching such a young age group, but it went better than I thought.

The fist day I read ‘The Barn Owls’ by Tony Johnston, and then asked students what they already knew about owls.

They knew so much already, and we were able to make a big list.  The kids commented on how much they already knew.

We then headed up to the grade 1 classroom where we  used their smart board to view Molly’s Box live.  We also watched some recorded videos of the box and a video of an owlet hatching on YouTube.

The Kindergarten students had great questions and were very engaged watching Molly and her babies ‘Live’ via ‘The Owl Box’ on UStream.

They did start to get a bit restless, (not surprising), but they were nonetheless engaged.

Surprisingly, the hardest thing to convey to the students was what it meant to watch something ‘Live’ as opposed to pre-recorded like the YouTube video.  It was also challenging to explain to the K1’s that Molly was in California, so it was only 11:30pm there, while here in Helsinki it was already mid-morning.

The following Thursday we headed straight up to the grade 1 classroom.  We looked at the list of what we already knew about owls and then made a new list of things we knew about Barn Owl’s digestive systems. (It was more just me telling them about the Barn Owl’s digestive system.)

Molly’s UStream channel was down so we watched some pre-recorded videos of Max (the oldest owlet) expelling pellets.

Since I wanted the kids to further understand the distance between Molly and them, I made a really simple google map to show the distance between San Marcos, California and Helsinki.  The Kindergartens found the map so interesting – it sparked more questions and discussion than the owl pellets.

(My idea to use a map came from Heidi Hayes Jacobs’ new book – Curriculum 21 – Essential Education for a Changing World.  She argues that maps should be used throughout the curriculum in order for students to be able to relate to geography in a meaningful way.  For more about this, check out the book, or Curriculum 21’s Ning, or this great post by Silvia Tolisano on her Langwitches Blog.)

We then headed back to the Kindergarten classroom to make our own edible owl pellets! (Scroll to the bottom of this entry for the recipe.)

These were a very messy highlight.  The kids loved making them, and loved tasting them even more. We added ‘rodent bones’ to the recipe, (mini marshmallows and small pieces of white chocolate.)  Delicious!

I was having so much fun, I forgot to take pictures of the K1’s but I revisited them when their teacher had them do a follow-up activity making owls from paper plates.

Paper plate owls - so much fun!


What went well:

  • Reading the picture book and asking students for prior knowledge
  • Watching Molly live and watching pre-recorded videos
  • Making edible owl pellets

What didn’t go well:

  • Questioning
  • ‘Lecturing’
  • Understanding

What I would do differently next time:

  • I would consult the classroom teacher about questioning – the K1 teacher was really helpful during my lesson, asking clarifying questions and prompting the students
  • I would have taken more of an inquiry approach, maybe try to get real owl pellets to look at and touch – I did not intend to ‘lecture’ Kindergarten kids, but that’s what happened because of lack of time and maybe my inexperience with this grade level
  • I would take more time to look at and discuss the map – I’m slowly realizing the importance of maps in lessons, regardless of subject or grade level
  • I would do a better job of checking for understanding – after making the edible owl pellets, most K1 students couldn’t express themselves when their classroom teacher asked them to recall one thing they learned

This was so much fun and I can’t wait to work with the Kindergarten teacher and students again.

Next: My first skyping with students.  Coming soon…

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The North American Barn Owl

So, I’ve been mildly obsessed with `The Owl Box‘ – this U-Stream channel that’s gone viral lately and is completely addictive!


The story behind The Owl Box is a great one.  Carlos and Donna Royal set up this owl box in their back yard complete with cameras (one for daytime and an infrared one for night-time), and waited for something to happen.  The owl box went unused for two years before a barn owl chose to nest in it.  They named the owl Molly and her mate McGee.

Since they have started broadcasting online, Molly has laid five eggs, four of which have now hatched.  The channel is so popular, at times there are tens of thousands of people watching.  This has garnered an incredible amount of attention for the couple and their city of San Marcos, California.  Carlos has skyped with schools around the U.S., talking about owls and answering questions from inquiring students.  There is Molly merchandise and even an e-book in the works.  (Reference:

The educational opportunities The Owl Box offers are endless.

I approached the Kindergarten teacher at my school and told her about The Owl Box.  I offered to come in and teach a lesson on Owls for their on-going unit of inquiry on ‘The Four Seasons’, obviously relating the Owl and her nesting cycle to the season of Spring.

So, this Thursday, I’m going into the Kindergarten class for a fun owl themed morning.  I’m very excited and it’s been fun putting together what I hope will be an engaging lesson.

This is my lesson plan so far:

  • Prepare edible pellet mix
  • Make sure smartboard and U-Steam work in G1 teacher’s room
  • Ask K1 teaching assistant to make a giant cut-out of an owl where we can post ideas and questions
  • Photocopy and mix sequence of ‘nesting cycle’ from ‘Owls’ by Gail Gibbons
  • To learn about the nature of owls through a case study on the North American Barn Owl
Mental Set (in K1 room):
  • Read ‘The Barn Owls’ by Tony Johnston
  • Think Pair Share – Ask students what they know about owls (display somehow-giant owl cut-out?)
Input & Modelling (In Gr 1 room):
  • Talk about how Owls are born (what do students already know about the nesting cycle?)
  • Show Molly on the smart board, answer student questions (or at least try to, I’m not an expert)
  • Write down student questions (display somehow-giant owl cut-out?)
  • Focus questions on the nesting cycle and on digestion
Practice (In K1 Room):
  • Put ‘nesting cycle’ story in order
  • Make (edible) owl pellets
Check For Understanding:
  • Ongoing: I will be checking for understanding as students ask question and as they sequence the ‘nesting cycle’
Closure / Reflection:
  • Review what we know, and what we’ve learned
  • Have students bring home Owl Pellet to parents and explain what an owl pellet is
  • Have students bring home ‘nesting cycle’ to explain to parents
  • Give students links to the ‘Owl Box’ on U-Stream and the ‘Molly’s Box’ blog
  • ‘The Barn Owl’ by Tony Johnston
  • ‘Owls’ by Gail Gibbons
  • Display for ‘What we know’
  • ‘Nesting Cycle’ sequencing photocopies
  • Edible Owl Pellet materials

I got the edible owl pellet recipe from The Barn Owl Trust.

I tried it out this weekend, (yes we had owl pellets for desert at Easter dinner).

Edible Owl Pellets

A closer look

They were delicious, kind of like chocolate truffles.  If I was living in North America I would use this recipe from Dr. Rickert’s Education Adventure.  (Taken from ‘Owl Puke’ by Jane Hammerslough.)  It has stuff that’s hard to find and expensive here in Finland.  (It’s not nut-free either.)

I will post a reflection on the lesson after teaching it.  I can’t wait!