It’s not every day you can dig through the remains of an owl’s undigested dinner or dress up as an aquatic insect.
Madison County fifth-graders were invited to participate in the 4-H Environmental Field Day Tuesday and Wednesday at the county fairgrounds,
The activity was devised to “reconnect kids with nature,” said Scott Darst, a 4-H Youth Development Extension Agent with the University of Kentucky.
Several hands-on activities engaged students in learning about water quality, identifying wildlife, entomology, soil, forestry, nutrition, adaptations and parts of a tree.
At one booth, children dug through owl pellets, a mass of undigested remains from the bird’s dinner, said Cheryl Hankins with the Madison County Extension Office.
About four hours after a meal, owls must regurgitate this “little treasure trove of bones” before they can eat again, Hankins said.
Students were given a bone chart and “turned into forensic scientists” to identify the objects found in the owl pellets, she said.
Blake Newton, with the University of Kentucky’s entomology (scientific study of insects) department, brought a variety of creatures to discuss, including a rose-haired tarantula.
Tarantulas are not found in Kentucky, but fishing spiders live here and grow to be almost as large, he told the students.
A tarantula has large teeth, but its venom is not dangerous to humans, Newton said. It does not build webs because it hunts for its food.
According to the Children and Nature Network, “children gain 83 percent of their knowledge through television, internet and video games,” Darst said.
They also spend around 55 hours a week in front of a screen, he added.
“So, 4-H is combatting these statistics and are forming clubs, events and activities so children can learn about the world around them,” he said.
Crystal Wylie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.