“Here’s Looking at ‘Who’ Kid”!

A barn owl nesting at Summit School provides real-life science lessons for elementary students

        Summit Elementary School has a new face on campus, and it’s not a student or teacher.  A barn owl recently made its home in a mulberry tree near Hartmann Hall auditorium, piquing the interest of Summit’s K - 6th grade students, and providing teachers Kim Eck and Sheri Usher an opportunity to teach real-life, hands-on science lessons to their students.

        Kim Eck, Summit’s K – 2nd grade teacher, first discovered the owl during the summer when she was prepping for the start of the 2017-18 school year.  She noticed “white markings” and small animal bones on the ground underneath a mulberry tree.  When she looked up, she noticed an owl tucked away in the tree leaves.  Kim presumed once school started, the influx of kids and teachers would scare the owl away.  But it seems the joyful cacophony of kids and school bells did not discourage the owl, and instead it continued to live in the tree for several months, much to the delight of students and staff.

        “The owl is cool,” said Cassidy Thompson, Summit 2nd grader.  “You don’t get to see owls (in the daylight).  It has a white face and looks like a branch.”

        Ms. Eck and Ms. Usher encouraged students to observe the owl in its natural habitat and to also dissect the owl’s pellets (remains from what it has digested then left on the ground) to frame the science lessons learned in class about how animals live and survive in nature.  “The kids have learned first hand that the owl eats beetles, gophers and mice,” said Ms. Eck.  “We’ve also seen the owl spread its wings, allowing the kids to observe its large wing span.”


Summit students dissect the remains from the owl’s pellets to determine what it’s been eating

The owl still remains on campus, just recently moving to a barn house near the school playground.  The kids visit the owl there frequently, and remain fascinated by the owl’s behavioral patterns.  “If you look under the (mulberry) tree, you can still see the owl’s (pellets), so it looks like it’s going back and forth between the tree and barn,” said John Wilcox, Summit 1st grader.  “I am very excited to be able to watch and learn nature like this up close.”

Summit school students apply their in-class learning and outdoor observations at the

Western Foundation Vertebrate Zoology Museum in Camarillo in November 2017