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Family Fun Connections: Skeletons

Last fall, my son fell in love with one of the Halloween decorations at his school. It was a crow skeleton, complete with what I can only describe as “feather bones” on its wings and tail. We stopped to admire it twice a day on our way in and out of the building, and I got a kick out of it every time! With Halloween just around the corner, why not spend some time exploring animal skeletons?

Head OUTSIDE and try:

  • Look for vertebrates and invertebrates – how many examples can you find of each? If it’s getting a little chilly for insects, a rocky beach is a great place to find invertebrates like periwinkles, barnacles, and mussels. 
  • Put on your paleontologist hat and pretend to dig for fossilized bones! Then use your imagination to put together a stick skeleton. 
  • An animal’s skeleton affects the way it looks and moves. For example, many primates have long forearms and fingers for swinging between and grasping branches. Animals with hooves are walking on modified toes. Owls have bony rings that keep their eyes fixed in place, and extra vertebrae in their necks so they can turn their heads to compensate. Can you move like any of these animals?

Then have some bony fun INSIDE with:

  • Several zoos have shared collections of animal x-rays online and they are fascinating to look at! Here is one from the Oregon Zoo and another from the Minnesota Zoo (there’s even a quiz you can try first). What do you notice about these skeletons? How does that compare with how these animals look or move?
  • Owls eat their prey whole and later cough up a pellet containing all the things they couldn’t digest, including bones. Dissecting an owl pellet and identifying the bones it contains is a fun way to learn about an owls’ diet. You can buy owl pellet dissection kits at the Maine Audubon Nature Store!
  • For another spin on the masking tape skeleton project in the video above, try offering q-tips (a mix of whole and cut in half) along with an animal outline as an invitation to create and rearrange a skeleton.


Image used under the Creative Commons license.