ARLINGTON -- Three new additions to the fifth grade at Fisher Elementary School on Tuesday were quite a hoot. Literally.

The school's two fifth grade classes were visited by three live owls, accompanied by Michael Clough, assistant director of the Southern Vermont Natural History Museum. Clough and his owls engaged the students for over an hour, teaching them about owl physiology, eating habits, calls, and the mythology surrounding owls.

"Did you guys talk about how smart owls are?" Clough asked the students, who had been studying owls for the past several weeks. "Their eyeballs outweigh their brains. Not great problem solvers."

This sort of interaction was sought throughout the presentation, as Clough invited questions and participation from the students.

Clough explained the basic physics behind owls' silent movement, and passed around an owl foot for the students to examine. "Bad news if you're a bunny, right?" he said, "An owl can ruin your whole day with this foot."

He went on, "Many people look at owls and say, 'Oh, it's so sweet, it's so cute!' but do you think a mouse would say that?"

The first owl Clough introduced to the class was Smokey, a gray Eastern Screech Owl, who promptly pooped on the classroom floor, drawing a shocked "Eww!" from the students in the audience and a relieved, "Hey, it missed my shoe!" from Clough.

"All the live animals we have at the museum are in captivity for a reason," said Clough.


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For Smokey, that reason is an unknown injury that caused a detached retina, leaving him blind in one eye and unable to survive in the wild. The two other owls that traveled to Arlington with him, Aragorn the barred owl and Diana the saw-whet owl, were both hit by cars.