In science class, we are currently studying the skeletal system. My goal is always to engage students in their learning process, so I wanted to find ways to make the subject interesting.

Labeled Skeletons

A few days ago I gave pairs of students plastic skeletons and a lists of bones. Their instructions were to make labels with the names and attach them to the skeletons in the correct places. These plastic dollar store models are not perfect replicas of the system, but we talk about that,  and I ask them to label the items where and as they should be.

Since Halloween is almost here, it’s a great time to find these at dollar stores. If you watch toward the end, you could get them for even cheaper. I usually buy a variety of sizes, as the students love putting this project together.

Students Dissecting a Chicken Wing

Later in the week I took the lesson deeper by giving teams of three students a real chicken wing and dissecting kit.  They had three goals/check-points:

  1. Remove most of the skin without distributing the muscles and observe the muscles as you move the wing.
  2. Remove the muscles to reveal the bone and observe the joint where the wing connects. Name that kind of joint.
  3. Cut a bone in half and observe the inside of the bone. Describe what you see and why you think it looks like that.

Once the students got past their squeamishness about touching chicken (mind you, most of my students are vegetarians and have no contact with meat), they quite enjoyed it.

Dissecting under a document camera

To make the lesson even more valuable, I had one pair of students do their cutting under the document camera at my desk and projected it on the large screen at the front of the room. That way other students could watch and see what they should be doing.

If you don’t have dissecting kits, I recommend using meat trays from the butcher of your supermarket. I often ask the butcher for a stack and get them for free. You can also use finger nail scissors and small paring knives. You might even ask your doctor if he would be willing to supply your class with a few kits. Remember, it never hurts to ask.

The other day at the pharmacy I was making small talk with the pharmacist and noticed he had several large bags of cotton balls on his shelf behind the counter. I asked, “Why do you have so many cotton balls?” He said they used them for vaccinating, but that they really didn’t vaccinate often. I said, “Wow, I could use those in my class.”  He said, “Great!” And gave me two bags with 4,000 cotton balls.  I couldn’t be happier!

As a teacher, keep creating experiences that students will never forget! Cutting up chicken wings is one of them!