QUINCY — With tweezers in hand and plastic goggles in place, Bryleigh Burnett set out to find out what an owl might have had for dinner.
Poking through an owl pellet turned into a treasure hunt Wednesday for students in Billie Ruble’s class at John Wood Community College’s JDub Academy.
“Look at that tiny bone,” seven-year-old Bryleigh said of one discovery.
“I have no idea what this is, but I found it,” Bryleigh’s tablemate Aislynn Shull said, sliding it next to a small pile of feathers. “I found another bone.”
Dissecting an owl pellet — the regurgitated fur, bones and teeth that owls can’t digest from their prey — gave the 13 students in Ruble’s Keep Calm and Put Your Lab Coat On class a hands-on look at biology.
“I just want them to get excited about science and to learn some things to retain throughout their summer break,” Ruble said.
Lessons throughout the week focus on states of matter and chemistry, with activities like making ice cream floats and “elephant toothpaste” made out of hydrogen peroxide, dish soap, yeast, warm water and food coloring, and DNA.
“I just want to learn new things and have fun,” said Bryleigh who likes science and had never dissected an owl pellet.
“I’ve been thinking about being a scientist, but I’m thinking about being lots of other things when I grow up,” seven-year-old Aislynn said. “It sounded really cool.”
The owl pellets always are a hit — whether at JDub Academy or with Ruble’s students at Central High School.
But students first learned more about owls during a read-aloud story time and worked to master vocabulary words including parliament, the name for a group of owls, and nocturnal.
A lab report had students estimating the length, width and weight of the owl pellets and hypothesizing on what they might find, then they created “creatures” out of the bones they recovered.
After online-only sessions last year due to COVID-19, John Wood Community College’s JDub Academy returned to traditional in-person learning this year with offerings including welding and robotics, cake decorating, Minecraft and outdoor adventures.
“The kids are excited,” Kathleen Rodgers, JWCC’s manager of career services and community based outreach, said midway through the academy’s first week of classes. “I’m just hoping kids can enjoy themselves and they’ve stepped out of their comfort zone and tried something new.”
Classes continue the weeks of June 14 and June 21 with hands-on learning opportunities available for K-12 students. Registration is available online at jwcc.edu/programs/jdub-academy.