Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Number Two

Ok, I know the suspense has been killing you - how will she top the Scoop on Poop??? Wait no longer (who am I talking to?!) - today was the day. Today our class focused on animal scat, and specifically the scat of mammals of this region.  This activity was really why I wanted to teach this class, and it went off pretty well.  It began with the making of many many batches of chocolate playdough - there are many recipes online, but this is the one I finally used:
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 salt
2 tsp cream of tartar
mix together, then add
1 1/2 TBS oil
1 cup boiling water
stir over low heat for about a minute, until dough pulls
away from sides of pot - remove and kneed into ball (it will be quite warm)
Here are the girls experimenting with the initial batch.  They started with making the usual sumptuous pies and cupcakes, but quickly began cranking out the poo, and got very detailed when I pulled out the fabulous Mammal Scat bandana that we got for Christmas.  Eliza's only concern about the chocolate playdough was that it smells really good; she thought we should find some way to make it smell more like poop, like let it hang out with Charlie in the litter box. I decided it was ok for our faux poop to smell like brownies.

For the class, I added the bits of things that one might find in real scat - we had bones (rice and slivered almonds), insect legs (rice noodles), dried grasses, feathers, eggshells, and, um, fur. I started with a small bag of dog hair from a friend's dog, and sent out a plea for more, and one of the coop parents showed up with a small bag of deer fur, with some very fresh-looking flesh attached.  I tried to play it cool, but it freaked me out just a little as I gingerly trimmed the fur from the skin. But it looked great!  We began with a guest to the class - one of the parents is a nurse and I'd asked her to talk about what they look for in a patient's poop. It was so interesting, and she remembered that one of the kids had had giardia a few years ago, so he talked about that as well.  Then I read excerpts from Jurassic Poop and Poop:  A Natural History of the Unmentionable.

The kids had a lot to say about everything, and there was a lovely moment when one of the kids who lives on a farm where they raise cows, horses and sheep started talking about exactly what I was going to talk about (how cows, who drink lots of water, can afford to produce huge sloppy flops about 10 times a day, whereas sheep, who get their water from the plants they eat, have to eat a lot more than the cows do, and have very dry, conservative poops, but a lot of them).  If only I could be more improvisational and spontaneous - this is a group that seems to need reining in, and I get into the mode of corralling them and if I could step outside of that I think I would notice that there actually is a nice, if very rambunctious, flow happening.  I think this is only frustrating to me, as everyone got to tell their stories, but I did dwell on it for the rest of the day.  So - the main points were that poop looks different because of what the animal ate, and how much water it contains.  Then we were on to making poop.  I had created little field guides for them of nine animals, with a drawing of the scat and some key information - whether the animal was a carnivore, herbivore, or omnivore, and what the scat might contain.  They seemed engaged and happy - there was a lot of focus, some more stories, and not too much chaos...
Eliza, with some of her poop.

Scat close up (let's see...there are rather large rabbit pellets in the back, a HUGE muskrat pellet upper right, fox in the middle, and the foreground I think is raccoon.  Did you know that you don't often find bones in raccoon poop? They use those nimble fingers to pick them out before eating their meal...).

The field guides
All in all, a successful class, I think! Next week, bird waste - dissecting owl pellets...

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