This week in the 5th and 6th grade classes we've been focusing on the Musculoskeletal System. The brain candy table features animal mystery skeletons to encourage kids to look for skeletal features that are different in different animals, depending on their diet, habitat, and body shape. I found a "spider skeleton" in a halloween store that has some serious mistakes, and have used this in a little contest to get kids thinking about some of the other types of skeletons, unlike our endoskeleton, that spiders and insects and other creepy crawlies use. We also looked at some real cross sections of cow bones to get a look at the inside and learn about the living bone, and the role that bone marrow has in producing our blood cells. In one of our activities about bones, the students received a pile of bones from an unknown number of skeletons of the same animal, and approached them like a real field scientist or paleontologist. They made descriptions and drawings of their most interesting bones, and speculated about which part of the animal they were from. Careful observation and recording of specimens is always the first step in a careful scientific analysis, and many skeletons in paleontology are identified from a small number of available bones. I then revealed the type of animal the bones belonged to (chickens), and the kids used a diagram to try and determine which part of the animal they were from. This gave us an opportunity to learn to discuss how the shape and location of bones helps support the the unique body structure of different animals. We then pooled together all of our bones and worked as a group to try to determine how many different animals the sample contained. Real paleontologists often have to work from specimens in bone beds, where the number and size of the animals present is unknown. The students did a wonderful job of working together and using their powers of deduction to separate the bones into individual types and use the number of each type present to make hypotheses about the number of animals our bone sample contained, even though it was clear that some parts of some individuals were missing. In our upcoming lessons, we will be learning more about the way that bones and muscles work in our human bodies as part of the school theme of Identity.