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Skeletal, Muscular, & Integumentary Systems Lesson for Middle School Biology

Updated on May 18, 2019
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I am a Christian. I was an 8th-grade American History teacher. I am currently a freelance writer, public speaker, & homeschooling mom of 9.

Middle School Biology Lesson on the Skeletal, Muscular, & Integumnetary Systems
Middle School Biology Lesson on the Skeletal, Muscular, & Integumnetary Systems

This is the 7th lesson in a series of 32 hands-on lessons covering middle school biology. This lesson covers the skeletal, muscular, & integumentary systems. In this lesson we dissected chicken wings after drawing & comparing skin layers and joints. I used this plan while teaching a 55 minute middle school biology class. Each lesson plan includes homework assignments and a variety of hands-on activities to make each lesson engaging & memorable. Use these fun lessons with your classroom, homeschool, after-school program, or co-op!

These lessons are written for a class that meets once a week. If your class meets 5 days a week, simply do this lesson one day a week and use the homework assignments (at the bottom of the page) for the work for the other days of the week.

Sharing about joint models they made
Sharing about joint models they made

Homework Review

1. Hand out extra credit tickets to anyone who did the extra credit. Go over the homework questions from the book. (I give out tickets for students who volunteer to answer the questions.)

2. Have each student stand up at their seats, show the joint models they brought as homework, & share about each of them.

Sketching layers of skin
Sketching layers of skin

Layers of Skin

3. Discuss skin.

  • How does our skin help us? (Allow students to share answers) Our skin prevents germs from entering our bodies, produces Vitamin D, regulates our body temperature, protects us from the harmful rays of the sun, keeps the water our body needs from evaporating, and gives us information through our sensory neurons.
  • Look at your skin. Where do you think your skin is thickest? thinnest? most wrinkled? moistest? The protein, elastic, allows skin to wrinkle and then become smooth again on places such as your elbows and knuckles.
  • What about the color of your skin...are we all the same color? Briefly discuss pigments, carotene, and melanin.
  • Look at the layers of skin on p. 80 in the A Beka science book or show pictures of the layers of skin compared under your arms, under your feet, and on your scalp. What parts do they all have? How are they different from each other?

You will need:

  • A Beka science book or pictures of the layers of skin compared under your arms, under your feet, and on your scalp

4. Give students 3 minutes to sketch & label the layers of skin either using the picture on the board or the picture in the book as a model. It's okay if they don't finish. The skin is a lot more complex than you first thought, isn't it?

Dissecting Chicken Wings
Dissecting Chicken Wings

Dissecting Chicken Wings

5. Have students spend 1-2 minutes sketching the chicken wing. As they sketch it, ask them what they notice about it. (The skin is bumpy. It has some feather pieces still on it. It's shiny. Part of the wing isn't covered in skin & has a bone exposed. It has blue veins showing underneath.) Regarding the veins, we did discuss why the veins looked blue under our skin. (The deoxygenated blood is dark red & looks blue under our skin. We'll look at the blood in the veins once we dissect the chicken wing and we can see if the blood is blue or red.)

You will need:

  • chicken wings (I bought mine at Walmart in the meat department.) - 1 for every group of 3 or 4

6. Lead the students in dissecting their chicken wings. A couple of my students wanted disposable gloves. Most students didn't use gloves since this chicken didn't have preservatives on it. I mainly followed the dissection posted below in the YouTube video.

  • Notice the skin on the chicken wing. It's bumpy partly because of the positioning of feathers. Chickens are birds, so they have feathers. You also have a claw, which is kind of like nails on humans.
  • Use scissors to cut open the skin. Be careful to not cut too deeply as the muscle layer sits right under the skin.
  • Use your fingers to get them under the skin & pull the skin away from the muscle layers. Pull the skin down past the elbow & cut so you can see the tendon past the wing.
  • There's not much fat because I boiled the chicken for a few minutes to render the fat. Otherwise, it would have taken us half the class period to remove the skin. I'm going to pass around this chicken wing that I didn't boil. See how difficult it is to remove the skin. Fat would be under the skin & yellow.
  • One muscle starts up here attached here, stretches down this bone, attached to this white tendon. The tendon stretches across that joint & attaches to the bone where the claw is.
  • Use your fingers to separate the muscle away from the other muscle. It's soft and squishy.
  • Pull on the muscle on the bottom of the leg & see what happens to the tip of that wing. It straightens out. The muscle is an extensor. The wing pulls up & is the flexor, which bends the joint.
  • Blood vessels provide muscles with oxygen so they can produce energy. Push down on them and you can move the blood through the vessel.
  • Running alongside it is a thin white line, nerve cell running along the vessel. It's hard to see.
  • Remove muscle from bone so we can see tendons, ligaments, & bones better.
  • This is your flexor muscle that was moving the wing earlier. We did move the extensor. Here's more connective tissue, which attaches your muscle to the bone.
  • The white tissue is shiny is your ligament. Rip that tendon off. Crack that bone. Let's look at the bone marrow. Chicken bones are pretty weak, so it should be fairly easy to break.
  • The red at the end of that bone is the bone marrow. Stick the tip of scissors inside to pull some out. It's red because it does produce your red blood cells and some of your white blood cells. In some cultures they eat that.
  • Take the bone off. On the tip of that bone you can see the end of the bone. Locate it inside here as you crack that joint. Here is your cartilage cap, which covers the tip of your bone so the 2 bones don't rub each other. That reduces friction so you don't have pain when they rub together. You can see the end of the chicken wing, the cartilage cap is white, shiny, and relatively thick. It would have connected to the rest of the body.
  • Look around and explore the chicken wing a bit more. In a couple minutes each of your groups can tell us something you discovered.

You will need:

  • chicken wings (used above) that were placed in boiling water for about 2 minutes just to allow for the skin to loosen a bit.
  • a chicken wing that wasn't placed in boiling water
  • dissecting tools (either a dissecting pan with scissors or a hard plastic plate with scissors or a sharp paring knife)
  • disposable gloves
  • something to cover the table or disposable anti-bacterial wipes

6. Have someone from each group share something they thought was interesting from the chicken wing.

7. Clean up.

Rubbing hands with and without lotion to feel the importance of synovial fluid
Rubbing hands with and without lotion to feel the importance of synovial fluid

Synovial Fluid

8. Discuss synovial fluid:

  • Tell everyone to rub their hands together really hard for 10 seconds and then notice how warm their hands are (from the heat produced by friction) and how rough it felt.
  • Put lotion on each student’s hand and tell them to rub their hands together for 10 seconds again. How was that different?
  • This lotion is like the synovial fluid that helps your joints avoid damage from friction. Since your bones are moving next to each other, they would hurt from the friction caused by them rubbing together if there wasn't something there to cushion them. God designed for there to be synovial fluid between your joints to act like that lotion on your hand & prevent friction.
  • Who knows someone who suffers from arthritis? A main reason they experience pain in their joints is because of a lack of that synovial fluid.

You will need:

  • mild-scented lotion (like baby lotion)

Vertebrae & Calcium

9. Discuss the vertebrae.

  • A very special set of joints runs along out backs. Feel it.
  • You have 5 lumbar vertebrae (touch them), 12 thoracic vertebrae (touch them), 7 cervical vertebrae (touch them). These 24 articulating vertebrae allow you to move in so many different directions.
  • There are also 9 fused vertebrae in the sacrum and the coccyx that don't bend (touch them).
  • [Pass out cleaned vertebrae from a rotisserie chicken.] What do you notice about them? Why is that circle in the middle of each bone? [spinal cord]

You will need:

  • cleaned vertebrae from a rotisserie chicken

10. Discuss the importance of calcium

  • [Pass around a few thin bones from a rotisserie chicken that have been in vinegar for at least a few days to make them soft & rubbery.]
  • Do you remember how hard the bone was from that chicken wing. How does it compare to this bone?
  • I soaked these bones in vinegar for a week. The vinegar reacted with the calcium & the bones, removing it. This is what bones feel like without calcium.
  • Would they hold you up well? In underdeveloped countries, sometimes children don't get enough calcium & they develop something called rickets. Their bones are too weak to hold them, so they start to bow in. Thankfully, if they start getting calcium, after a couple of years, their bones will become strong enough to hold them up.
  • Have you seen on a milk container that it contains Vitamin D? Vitamin D helps your bones absorb calcium, so milk manufacturers add Vitamin D since milk is a primary source of calcium for many people.

11. Quickly go over how to complete the homework journal page.

Looking for More Depth: What We're Reading at Home

Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology (Young Explorer Series)
Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology (Young Explorer Series)
The A Beka book breezes right through human anatomy & physiology...and is a bit dry. We're reading through this book at home and have learned so much! The author does a wonderful job of explaining how God put together the human body and how it all works together. Short activities are Interspersed throughout the text. This is my favorite book on human anatomy!
A Beka's Science: Order & Design
A Beka's Science: Order & Design


Page numbers refer to the pages in A Beka's Science: Order & Design.

  • *NOTE: We are skipping pp. 93-97, but will include it next week.*
  • Friday: Complete your Food Journal for at least 4 days. (I printed . Instead of the "Effects" section, I had them record how many hours of sleep they got that night and how many times they brushed their teeth.)
  • Monday: Tissues to Cells: Read pp. 93-97 & answer 4 questions of your choice on p. 98.
  • Tuesday: Treating Your Body Right: Read pp. 106-113 (Skipping A Closer Look on pp.112-113) & answer 6 questions of your choice on p.113-114.
  • Wednesday: Outward Appearance: Read pp. 114-118 & answer 4 questions of your choice on p.113-114.
  • Extra credit: Get an extra ticket for completing the Skin Tissues Worksheet. (The link for the worksheet doesn't work anymore, so you can copy the image at the below link & paste it into a Word document: .)

Looking for all my lessons?

© 2018 Shannon


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