As middle school students enter adolescence, education regarding the growing human body becomes even more relevant and important. For young students, wrapping their head around the 206 bones of the human body can seem like a challenging feat. That's why age-appropriate classroom activities allow students to get up close to this mysterious system. Design activities tailored to your students' ability level so that they remain engaged and thoughtful throughout your lessons.
Skeleton craft activities are a gentle way to ease younger students into a unit on the skeletal system. To get students thinking about the structure of the skeletal system, challenge them to build the frame of a model house with wooden dowels or Popsicle sticks. Challenge students to consider the strength, design and mobility of the structure. Use the model homes as a segue to discuss the way that a human skeleton serves as a frame for the body. Another craft option is to provide students with a small tracing of a human body. Students then choose a suitable material to create the figure's skeleton. Students might use toothpicks, cotton-tipped swabs or metal dowels. Lead a discussion about the types of materials students chose and which materials most resemble a real human skeleton.
Name the Bones
Memorizing the names of the major bones in the body can be challenging for middle school students, so avoid rote memory exercises and opt for interactive memorization games instead. If you have access to a replica skeleton, host a bone-naming relay race in which teams of students race to identify the bones with adhesive labels. The team with the fastest time wins a prize, such as a homework pass. Another option is to invite students to write poems or songs about the names of the bones in the body and present them to the class. To make the activity more manageable, assign students groups or types of bones, such as bones in the head.
Bones and Joints
Bones work in conjunction with joints to create an interior body structure that is both strong and mobile. To understand how bones work together to create a system, students must develop an understanding of the types of joints in the human body. Introduce the types of joints in the body through an activity in which students work in teams with skeleton replicas and take turns moving different bones and identify the way that joints connect bones to help them move. After students understand the types of joints, challenge teams of students to identify examples of skeletal joints in everyday objects. Instruct students to collect items that replicate the movement of certain joints and present them to the class. For example, students might use swivel head brooms to replicate the ball and socket joints of the hips.
Building strong bones is particularly important for middle schoolers who are storing up calcium to fortify healthy bones. A lesson on bone strength demonstrates the value of strong bones and the ways that students can build strong bones. Introduce students to bone strength with an experiment that examines the way different substances interact with chicken bones. Instruct your students to place chicken bones in several different liquids, including water, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide and a carbonated beverage. Some liquids, like vinegar, make the bones weak and flexible. In order to prevent bone deterioration, invite students to research the types of minerals and vitamins that bones need to stay strong and healthy. Instruct your students to develop a healthy bone nutrition plan based on their findings.
- The Educator's Reference Desk: Joints of the Skeleton System
- Newton's Apple: Teacher's Guide Bones
- "Teaching Health Science: Elementary and Middle School"; Stephen J. Bender; 1997
- Science Bob: Bend a Bone with Vinegar
- skeleton image by JASON WINTER from Fotolia.com