Students at Westminster Woods are getting up close and personal with animal bones in our new skulls lab. The lab, which is housed in a yurt in our redwood forest, includes many replica animal skulls, including red fox, little brown bat, red tailed hawk, and even a dolphin. When curious students discover that the round, green yurt is filled with skulls, many of them ask excitedly, “Will we get to go in there?”
The new lab is a powerful addition to the hands-on curriculum that is the backbone of our Forest Ecology program. Forest Ecology is grounded in Next Generation Science Standards and experiential learning. In the lab, professional Teacher Naturalists engage students in a structure and function lesson where students identify skulls by making close observations and asking questions. With so many skulls to explore, students may marvel at the jaw strength of a sea lion, compare the sharp canine teeth of a coyote with the molars of a deer, and explore the difference in scale of a mountain lion versus a bobcat. Students may make observations about the size and length of the nasal cavity of a black bear compared to a striped skunk or the optical orbit location of a mouse compared to a great horned owl.
The lab is already a big hit with students who love being able to carefully handle the skulls themselves. And at the end of a day of hiking and learning about the forest, many students share that their visit to the skulls lab was the highlight of their day!
Many thanks to the Margaret V. Ping Foundation, Michael Roa, and Valley Anatomocal Preparations, for making the dream of the skulls lab a reality! We are thrilled to share the new skulls lab with many of the thousands of students that attend our School Programs each year.