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Teaching Children About Bones: Fun Ideas for a Skeleton Unit
This is our current science book. We love it! Easy to use and great to learn from.
We are loving our science curriculum this year. Currently, we are in the above book. I like it because it is easy to prepare and use and really helps the girls understand. It also comes with a CD of cool activity pages. However, since I have a 3rd grade student and one in Kindergarten I felt like we needed to slow it down a bit and spend some more time really working with each concept. Here is what we added to our unit on the skeleton. We had a blast and the girls learned a ton. They even passed my brother, who is a PA student's, bone quiz! Happy Learning!
Our first project was to make a "color coded bone guide". The goal really was to become familiar with the name and locations of the bones. We got this graphic from the CD that came with our textbook but any skeleton picture will work. Once you have your skeleton you'll need markers or crayons and a list of bone names. We made our list together. My 3rd grader read the names out of the textbook and I typed them out and made copies. After we had our supplies we read through the section of the text that named the bones. It does have a diagram to look at as well. As we read each name we located it in the body and the girls chose a color for it. They then highlighted the name on their list in their color and colored the bone on their skeleton the same color. As they worked I said the name and location over and over and said things like "Oh, the femur is the top of your leg so when you sit on my lap you're sitting on my femur!". Again the idea is to hear, see, and interact with the bones in order to know them better. When we finished we glued the skeleton and bone guide list to pretty paper and hung them in the kitchen. They served as a great reference our whole unit and sparked a lot of conversation with people who were in and out of our kitchen that month!
After we made our color coded guide we moved on to labeling the real thing! I just copied the bone list I made for the first activity and then had the girls cut apart the words. Then we took turns taping the labels to each other. We used our guide and the diagram in the book to help us name and locate the bones. It was really fun and really helped cement this information in their minds. However, we learned that the baby isn't a very good model as she tried to eat all the labels!
Once we had a good handle on bone names and locations we moved on to learning about their shape and function. We read the section in the textbook about this and then used a skeleton model to help us find examples of each kind. When we were done we took the labels from the previous activity and used them to put the bones in categories. I wrote the names of the four major bone shapes (long, short, flat and irregular) on white boards and then drew lines to separate them. The girls then took turns drawing a label card from our stack, finding it on the model and then deciding which category it belonged in. We helped each other and talked a lot about how the shaped made sense with the job that bone needed to do. We took pictures of our finished project so we would have a reference to use as we thought more about bone kind and function.
We read this book as our read aloud during our skeleton unit. We loved it! It's interesting, a touch scary, and full of great facts shown mostly in pictures and little journal entries. The girls loved it and remembered a ton from it.
If you don't have an actual skeleton model available, it really helps to have books with great pictures and diagrams to look at so the concepts become concrete for kids.
A study of the skeleton couldn't be complete without an exploration of joints. We really enjoyed this part of the study. We read about joints in our textbook and then used the model to look for examples in the skeletal system. Once we found them we moved our actual joints to feel how they moved. We did the activity in the book where you look for examples of kinds of joints in your house and then compare how those joints move with how their skeletal counterparts move. The girls had a blast doing this and even had a little presentation ready to show daddy when he got home!. We extended our study of joints a bit with this site. I loved how it shows both the joint and how it works in layers that are clearly labeled. The girls really liked seeing it this way and seeing it actually move. (This site has a lot of cool stuff like that, certainly worth remembering when you're working on science units.)
This is another site with good bone information presented in a way kids can understand and enjoy.
This was our final bone project. I had seen a similar project on line where the students labeled all the persons insides and decided to do it making only the bones. I split the project into 2 parts. First I traced each girl on the large piece of paper. Then I asked them what color bones are. They said white. I explained that we'd be using materials to make the skeletal system within the outline we just made, then I sent them on a hunt through the house to gather any white materials they thought would be helpful to make their skeletal system. I really like that they did the thinking and gathering. Once gathered I gave them the bone labels we had been using and then asked them to use their materials and the labels to create a skeletal system. My 3rd grader did it completely on her own. I helped my younger girl by asking lots of questions to help her focus and break down the project. They decided to lay it all out first and then use the labels to check it. After the final check they used tape to hold the bones and joints in place. The next day I hung the skeleton up and placed the girl in front of it. As she looked at the bones, she told me their names and I typed them on the computer. We then printed her list and she cut it out and taped each name to the matching bone. It was a really good way to see just what she had learned and how she was able to use this knowledge. We left them hanging up during our recent book group gathering as well as our annual costume party and they led to some great conversations and wonderful opportunities for the girls to "teach" their friends as well as some adults they love. Powerful, practical learning. I love it. We so enjoyed this unit and look forward to the rest of our journey through the human body. Hope you find our ideas useful.