A mass of squirming children locked eyes on me and fell quiet as I came out of the classroom door. For a group of over fifty first graders, sitting still as a mouse is no small feat. But seeing a live Great Horned Owl on their ACES teacher’s arm was no small event either. With a shuffle of feathers and a blink of those big yellow eyes, the audience was captured…
Last month, ACES hosted the first ever Owl Night at Crystal River Elementary School. The event was part of a Family Science Night series that ACES is hosting in partnership with the school. This event culminated the first grade’s Project-Based Learning (PBL) unit on owls, addressing the state science standard on how all organisms have physical characteristics that help it survive. PBL is a collaborative effort to engage students in a new way of learning that focuses on student driven questions. Whisperings of the event, and the promise of a real Great Horned Owl, made for eager students and parents alike.
The event buildup resulted in a full house, with families participating together to share in the wonder of owls. “Owl Parts” projects the students made in their homeroom classes adorned the lunchroom tables, making the space come alive. The main event was held in the Kindergarten space, which was transformed into Owl night stations with an owl “Pin My Parts,” activity, owl pellet dissections, a predator and prey matching game, and an owl mask craft table. Before long, I could not recognize my sweet-faced first graders, replaced instead with feathery foreheads and curved beaks. For one lucky student, the transformation went even further when we dressed the volunteer up in an owl costume based on the audience’s input about parts of an owl!
...the much-anticipated finale at last, a visit with ACES resident Great Horned Owl and a plan for feeding demonstration. I whistled to him and lifted my hand, mouse at the ready, towards his beak. Students held their breath, hoping to hear the crunch of the rodent skull. Nothing. I whistled again. Nothing. No interest in a meal at that moment, just another blink of those big yellow eyes.
In a room where first graders meet the wild, things don’t always go perfectly as planned. But no doubt, our first Family Owl Night was a hoot, a standout event that CRES students and families enjoyed together!
~ Kitty Winograd, ACES Educator