Studying the Skeletal System in the Lower Elementary Classroom

April 22, 2016
namc montessori lower elementary science skeletal system
Knowledge can be best given where there is eagerness to learn, so this is the period when the seed of everything can be sown, the child’s mind being like a fertile field, ready to receive what will germinate into culture.
—Maria Montessori
To Educate the Human Potential, p. 3.

Studying the human body and investigating the different systems is fascinating for elementary students because they enjoy learning about topics that they can relate to personally. Students seem to especially like exploring the skeletal system and identifying all the bones in their body. They build a strong understanding of the human body and related abstract concepts by working on the many hands-on activities and extensions presented in the NAMC Lower Elementary Health Sciences manual. And they are especially drawn to the many practical extensions to the NAMC lesson on investigating the skeletal system. Along with presenting these activities, I make a point of engaging my students through the addition of a number of extensions that give them a hands-on understanding of the skeletal system.

One of the extensions that is a favorite of our students is our classroom floor-puzzle of a realistic human skeletal system. Students enjoy sitting on the floor constructing this life-size replica of the human skeleton. Sometimes they work on the puzzle individually, and other times they work in pairs.

Another practical extension I make available for students is a set of life-size x-rays of bones in the human body. The students analyze the x-rays to identify the bones. They can also build the whole skeletal system out of the x-rays. We have also purchased x-rays of many animals that the students enjoy viewing and comparing with the human skeleton.

Montessori Lower Elementary Studies: The Skeletal System

namc montessori lower elementary science skeletal system

During our study, I like to invite a speaker (usually a parent) to the classroom who has a profession that somehow relates to the skeletal system, such as a doctor, a nurse, or a chiropractor. I invite the speaker to discuss his/her job and share knowledge of the skeletal system. One year, our speaker was a parent who is a doctor, and for his presentation he had a set of x-rays of broken bones. He knew that the students were working with the x-ray extension and thought they would be interested in seeing what broken bones look like, too. The students were fascinated. The parent generously donated the x-rays to the school after seeing the students’ excitement. So now each year, we put these out on our shelf as well. Students enjoy trying to identify and match the broken bone x-rays to the healthy bone x-rays.

Another of my students’ favorite extensions involves a set of life-size bones that I created. I cut out all the bones, laminated them, and then put Velcro fasteners on the backs. The students work on this extension in pairs. One student is the skeleton model and the other determines where the bones go. The model puts on Velcro fasteners in all the areas where the bones will go. The partner identifies each bone and places it on the model. (When presenting this extension, I discuss being respectful of each other’s bodies, personal space, and comfort level.) This extension adds to the students’ understanding because they are placing the bones directly on a real body. For this extension, and for the others, I have created a control that the students use to check their work. This allows them to independently explore their areas of interest.

namc montessori lower elementary science skeletal system

Studying the skeleton also offers opportunities for a number of cross-curricular links. For example, I connect the study of the skeletal system to art by inviting the students to draw a skeleton and to create the skeletal system from different mediums, such as clay. I also encourage them to sing funny songs about the skeletal system, which the students find entertaining and contributes to their enjoyment of the topic.

From my experience, studying the skeletal system is a fascinating topic for students. I find that the more activities and extensions I have prepared for them to explore this topic independently, the more they are drawn to it and the more they learn.

Julie — NAMC Graduate, Montessori Teacher
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