Reading mammal poop is like reading a gossip column. The contents are full of scuttlebutt and an astute observer learns who was here, what “restaurant” they ate at and sometimes who they stalked. Kids love snooping field poop, or as they learn to call it – scat. Scat is everywhere if you know what to look for and where to search. Coyotes are commonly found in most of the country and this replica of their scat is a great learning tool.
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Coyote scat provides terrific chitchat, or insight into the natural community. They are omnivores and you can quickly learn what they’ve been eating if you’re willing to look. Acorn Naturalist is a provider of educational tools and they have an exceptional collection of scat replicas that include the Coyote Scat Replica Desert Specimen with Mesquite Seeds. This is so life-life you almost don’t want the real thing – almost. This resembles a smushed tootsie roll that has been rolled in small seeds and squeezed at the ends.
Coyote’s are omnivores; they are opportunists and eat all types of food. The contents vary with where the coyote calls home. The coyote that initially provided the field-collected sample that this replica was created from lived in the desert and ate mesquite seeds. (Wouldn’t you just love to have the job of collecting the field samples?) We know this because we recognize the seeds and we know where the source of those seeds grows. If the seeds are available during a specific time of year and we find this during that time of year we know to look for the tree, which will be providing food and shelter for a variety of other animals. Acorn Naturalist has other coyote scat replicas for teachers. They have one filled with pieces and parts of prickly pear (opuntia) cactus pads and fruit. Both replicas teach about food preferences. Other Acorn Naturalist Coyote Scat Replicas are less fruity and with more animal ingredients (small bones, fur replicas). For comparison you can also get replicas of wolf, fox, and domestic dog scat.
I have a fairly large collection of these realistic, life-sized scat replicas, in addition to some actual field samples (sealed in clear plastic tubes). My replicas are all cast from field-collected scat and they are perfect for studying food webs, habitat, and predator-prey relationships. These prove valuable for building food webs. They can be used in the classroom or as preparation for field work. Students don’t have to memorize the characteristics or properties of these; they can be used with a variety of keys (books, ring keys, and charts) for field identification. Using these in class prior to conducting field work, however, is a great way to get them over the initial reactions of “nasty” and they can be used for instruction on “how-to-look” at scat.
This desert specimen, with the mesquite seeds, Coyote Scat Replica is truly one of my favorites. It makes the point that coyotes are not just carnivores, they are in fact omnivores. It’s also incredibly realistic. It looks moist, as if freshly deposited and the coyote might be sitting on a nearby ridge watching. The color, texture, and shape look real. Only the touch and lack of insects gives it away (most scat doesn’t really have much smell). All of the Acorn Naturalist Scat Replicas are detail-rich.
No, this is not made from actual scat; it’s just molded from actual field-collected droppings. It is made from tough phthalate-free polymers. It can withstand most handling including the occasional startled “yucky” drop. Mine have been through many summers of classroom and nature center use. Personally I like to set them in a box with some items typically found naturally along with the coyote specimen such as native soil and small rocks, dropped leaves, and grass blades. Spraying it with a water bottle enhances the experience. The polymer creates a soft, rubbery texture that complements the shape of the feces left behind.
The mammal scat replica collection from Acorn Naturalist also includes bat, black bear, beaver, boar, bobcat, cougar (mountain lion), domestic cat, domestic dog, mule deer, whitetail deer, elk, grey fox, red fox, javelina, marmot, mink, mouse, muskrat, opossum, river otter, skunk, porcupine, prairie dog, cottontail rabbit, jack rabbit, woodrat, domestic rat, Norway rat, squirrel and wolf scat replicas. Place several of these out at stations, with plaster casts of animal tracks and a couple field guides, and kids become fascinated (after they finish pretending to be grossed out).
Do you teach outdoor education skills in scouts or at a nature center? Do you teach habitat and predator/prey relationships in the classroom? If so, I recommend any of these. This particular specimen is appropriate for anyone in the mesquite-covered southwest. Or you can use it not saying exactly what the seed is and simply explain that coyotes happen to eat all types of fruit and seeds. This is the best dung around--no competition!
Eventually everyone will want to touch the replica, some will be somewhat more apprehensive than others. This provides a healthy, safe way to study animal excrement and it prepares students for field observations. A collection will help develop identification language and skills that are more acceptable than just poop. It will encourage students to make mental connections regarding the habitat. But be prepared. Your well-educated students will enter the class the day you conduct this lesson saying poop and will leave saying scat. However, when they get home there will be no scat. When their parents ask, “So, what did you do in school today?” they will respond with “teacher made us touch poop.” You might get a few phone calls.
My thanks to Kids and Family CL MaryTara!
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Amount Paid (US$): 8.00
Type of Toy: Science and Nature
Age Range of Child: 9 Years or Older