Last week we had some friends round to learn all about owls. The idea came to me when we saw a friends project that included dissecting owl pellets. It seemed like the perfect activity to do as a group so I invited some friends along. I’m going to share here how I set the afternoon up in case others want to follow a similar theme.
Setting a Date
I made sure a set a date that the majority of our friends could do, but one that also meant I had time to prepare and wouldn’t leave us too overwhelmed. Monday’s and Friday’s are usually the best days for us to host things as they’re our ‘free’ days. I left myself a bit of time to get the various things together and set up a Facebook event and invited friends along.
I had a maximum number of attendees in mind – a number that would be a good split but would also mean that the house wasn’t too crowded.
Making a Plan
We should have had 15 children + two under threes so I decided to split the children into three groups of five (with H and his friend probably moving between the groups and just playing in the house). It was important for me to try and get a decent split for the groups – so keeping the slightly older children together and matching up those that I thought might offer help and support to each other. Once I had the three groups I named them (after owls of course) and wrote them on an A3 sheet to display.
I then planned out three distinct activities. I wanted a lapbooking activity so the children would have something physical to take home and to look back on to show what they had learnt, there would be the owl pellet dissection and I decided to do a cake decorating and craft activity. Think as well about the space you have available. I have two reception rooms that are quite distinct so my original plan was to do lapbooking in one, cake decorating and craft in another and pellet dissection in the garden. The weather had other ideas so the pellet dissection moved indoors and the cake decorating was a squeeze in our kitchen with crafts in the hallway. Not ideal but worked out fine in the end.
Prepare the materials
I knew I had a lot to print and prepare so I decided to get this done the week leading up to the meetup. I put together the lapbook and differentiated one or two of the activities for the older children. I created packs for each child and paperclipped these together and put into a button folder – a different colour for each group. I then did the same for the pellet dissection – made sure each child had a bone matching sheet as well as a mini book to log details about their pellet and an envelope to put the bones into. With the baking, I had five pots ready to put the buttercream into for each child, a plate with the cakes on and dishes for each group with the chocolate buttons etc in for them to take.
This seemed to work quite well and meant that I could quickly prep the kitchen stuff for each new group – important as our kitchen is small with limited space to work in.
On the day
On the day I had one family cancel last minute so I had to re-jig the groups slightly to make them event again. Once everyone had arrived we welcomed all our friends and we had a brief discussion about owls – I asked the children if anyone knew anything about owls and they shared what they knew. I then gave a brief run through of the three activities we were going to do and then Daniel read out the groups. We then moved into the three groups and had around 20 – 25 minutes on each activity. I judged this on how well the pellet dissection was progressing as that was the lengthiest task.
The activities I set up for each group included.
1 – Owl pellet dissection – I had ordered enough pellets for one per child. Each child had a bone chart to refer to, a little booklet that they could complete about their own owl pellet and an envelope to take their bones home in. I had tweezers and magnifying glasses available for this and a large bowl for them to put any waste into.
2 – Crafts – This group decorated cakes with chocolate buttercream, chocolate buttons and M&Ms to look like owls. For this one, I gave each child a plate with a small tub of buttercream, two cakes and a spoon. They then selected their buttons and decorated the cakes. After the cakes were done they moved onto making an owl mask – colouring in and adding feathers. I also had available an owl themed word search and a colour by number for them to do.
3 – Lapbooks – For the lapbooks, I included lots of bits – things about what owls eat, what nocturnal means, the five owls found in the UK, colouring sheet for the front cover as well as an information sheet about Barn Owls (as the pellets were from barn owls). I made up an example one for the children to refer to and left this for this them to look at. I had a pack for each child ready for them to work with – and they could take home what they didn’t manage to complete. Have enough pairs of scissors for everyone as well as pencils, glue and colouring implements.
The children had 20 – 25 minutes on each activity – just enough time for them to get through it and stay ‘on task’ and engaged before moving onto the next. Once they had all worked on all three activities we gathered around the tables to share the cakes they’d decorated and had a drink before a quick play and home.
Daniel and Em certainly enjoyed the day and have spent the weekend finishing off the bits they hadn’t got finished on the day itself. We have been back through the lapbooks and chatted about the information and re-visited the bones they found to note on their charts what they’d found. It’s a lovely way of working with friends and I’ve since organised some more events to learn about other British wildlife (hedgehogs is the next one).