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Teaching with Skeletons at Halloween


Skeletons are Excellent Bone Anatomy Teachers at Halloween

Skeletons make excellent teaching tools for teaching bone anatomy especially at Halloween.

Since my daughters were in Kindergarten and Pre-School I have been going into their classrooms at Halloween to teach their classmates about Bone Anatomy and have some fun in the process.

Not only are the skeletons an effective, interactive way to teach children about skeletal anatomy, but it is also a way for them to be less afraid of skeletons at Halloween.

Over the years I have found many different skeletons to use for different levels of presentations.

In presentations for the fourth through sixth grade class and they were very interested in the skeleton model, but perhaps even more so the stretchy skeletons favors that I gave them to take home.

The original Squidoo lens on this topic Doin' the Bone Dance and Other Creative Ways to Learn Bone Anatomy contains a review of many of the different resources along with ideas and links for lesson plans. It is another good resource to review.

What you will find in this lens are the resources for teaching with various skeletons: floor puzzles, models, wall murals, posters, x-rays, images, magnetic skeletons, stickers and other fun stuff. This year I discovered the Skeleton Wall Mural (Wallies) in time to use them in the classroom. I also found the skeleton molds which will be a good way to reinforce the anatomy lesson with a fun skeleton treat.

There is also an image gallery collection with links to many of the historic skeleton anatomy drawings from Historical Anatomies on the Web and other images that are in the public domain for use. These illustrations are not only fun, but historical ways to have the kids learn about skeleton anatomy.

Image by FeodoraU.

Scary Skeleton Image

Image by Woodleywonderworks

Image by Woodleywonderworks

Scary Halloween House byWoodleywonderworks.

Available on Amazon

Available on Amazon

Using Skeleton Puzzles to Teach

The Skeleton Floor Puzzle made from giant foamie pieces was the first skeleton that I found, which gave me the idea of going in to teach kids about skeletons.

This floor model worked well with younger children, even pre-school age children, who enjoyed taking turns to put together the skeleton pieces and assemble a skeleton.

What works well with the skeleton puzzle is that once it is assembled the foam puzzle pieces measure about 4 ft tall, which is the size of the first graders, taller than the Pre-Kindergartners. We would hold the skeleton up to everyone to see how they measured up against the skeleton's height - another good way of making the skeleton more fun and less scary.

Skeleton Floor Puzzle available on Amazon

Wooden Skeleton Layer Puzzle on Amazon

More Skeleton Puzzles

Skeleton Models

Image by melodi2

Image by melodi2

Skeleton Study by Melodi2.

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Image from Wikimedia

Image from Wikimedia

Using Skeleton Models to Teach

As the girls (and their classmates) have gotten older, we've move from using the Skeleton Puzzles to using more skeleton models.

Fortunately, I discovered that their school had a skeleton (in the physical education closet), so for the past 4 years, in both classes (1st - 6th now) we've been wheeling out "Slim" the skeleton at Halloween for a bone anatomy lesson. (Although once the other teachers found out we were using the skeleton model, they started using him too.)

There are other skeleton models and puzzles available in different sizes that can also be used for teaching.

One year we tried assembling a wooden skeleton, which didn't seem to work so well in learning the anatomy. The wooden skeleton puzzle was pretty challenging to assemble, so the kids were focusing more on the assembly of random pieces rather than learning the names of the bones.

"Slim" has been a much better teaching tool. Budget Buckey below looks to be very similar to their Slim.

Human Skeleton from Wikipedia. Used under a GNU Free Documentation License.

Skeleton Models

Lesson Plans Using Skeletons

Lesson Plans and some fun activities using skeletons. There are more resources compiled in the Doin' the Bone Dance and Other Creative Ways to Learn Bone Anatomy lens.

Wallies Skeleton available on Amazon

Wallies Skeleton available on Amazon

Using Skeleton Murals to Teach

In 2010 I discovered the Wallies Peel and Stick reusable Skeleton (to the right) and gifted one to each of my daughter's teachers.

Not only did these Skeleton Wall Murals work as great teaching tools, but they also were great Halloween decorations. In one class the kids helped to put the vinyl skeleton pieces up on the wall as an interactive, kinesthetic learning experience. They had fun adding in the bats.

The details on the Skeleton Wall Murals are enough for the kids to make out the bones that they need to identify at this stage of their education. The fact that they are reusable makes them a great resource to use year after year for teaching and for decorating. They come in different sections.

The following year I used the Martha Stewart Wall Cling Skeleton (seen in the right side bar). This Skeleton looks to be slightly more realistically drawn, rather than the caricature version with the wall murals. It will go well with the historical anatomy drawings that I used for quizzes.

Wallies Peel and Stick Skeleton available on Amazon.

Skeleton Wall Mural

Skeleton Sticker Book

Skeleton stickers are another fun way to teach kids about bones.

Whimsical Skeleton Anatomy Wall Stickers

More fun skeleton bones that can be used to decorate the classroom walls during Halloween.

Old Anatomy Drawings - Jost de Negker

Available on Amazon

Available on Amazon

Available on Amazon

Available on Amazon

Using Skeletal Posters to Teach

One of the classic teaching tools is to put posters up int the classroom.

Laminated skeleton anatomy posters make for good visual teaching tools that can be put up on the wall and used by students.

I brought in laminate skeleton anatomy posters last year as a teaching tool. I was able to find posters that were age appropriate for 4th and 2nd graders, a little less detailed than the ones shown here. Teachers of younger students can use the larger colossal poster or look at teaching stores to find other posters appropriate for younger age students.

The posters here may be best used by those doing a more in-depth study of anatomy, something that one can refer to while getting dressed in the morning and reinforce one's knowledge of skeletal anatomy.

Skeletal System posters available on Amazon.

Skeletal System Posters

Skeletal System posters to hang on the walls, so students can look at them (when they are daydreaming) and maybe still learn something.

Colossal Poster of Skeletal System

Available on Amazon

Available on Amazon

Using Bone X-Rays to Teach

One of the newer teaching tools that I found was a set of x-rays of the bones that can be used to teach skeleton anatomy and this standing skeleton x-ray.

Next year I will need to develop something to teach 6th graders and I think that the x-rays might be a good resource to use with older children, middle school ages.

The set of 18 X-rays images can be arranged together to create an entire body that is about the height of a child (5 feet) a good height for younger children.

The standing Skeleton X-Ray measures 69 inches or is 5 ft. 9 inches, a good height with older children.

Skeleton X-Rays set available on Amazon

Skeleton X-Rays on Film

3D Skeleton Motion Capture on YouTube

3D motion capture animation study showing a skeleton from different angles participating in different sports from anacardofrito.

Image from Wikimedia

Image from Wikimedia

Using Skeletal System Images to Teach

One of the benefits of the Internet is that there are many different places where you can find old copyright expired drawings and illustrations of skeletons that people used to study human anatomy in the past. The images selected here to highlight are ones that are, due to their age, in the public domain.

Several of the skeleton anatomy resources from the historical text books and authors have been included in smaller versions in the galleries and links that follow:

  • Bernhard Albinus: Tabulae sceleti et musculorum corporis humani
  • Govard Bidloo: Ontleding Des Menschelyken Lichaams.
  • William Cheselden: Osteographia or The anatomy of the bones.
  • Andreas Vesalius: De corporis humani fabrica libri septem.

I have included links tn the images where I found the illustrations in the next module. Click on the taken to the collection of images for downloading.

These illustrations can be adapted to handouts for students to identify the bones. I created a quiz using one of Cheselden's Skeletons (Plate 34)

Be advised that some of the books, Bidloo's in particular contain dissected illustrations that younger children might find disturbing, so be sure to check the images yourself before sending children or students on an image hunt.

Image Source: Govard Bidloo. Ontleding Des Menschelyken Lichaams.

Table 87. Wikimedia.

Resources for Anatomy Images

The National Library of Medicine with the National Institutes of Health hosts the Historical Anatomy on the Web.

Historical Anatomies on the Web is a digital project designed to give Internet users access to high quality images from important anatomical atlases in the Library's collection.

The links below are just a sampling of some of the online resources.

A Look at a Walking Skeleton on YouTube

A medical animation of walking skeleton from


Skeletons - Scary Death Symbols or an Opportunity to Teach?

I have been teaching children to be less afraid of skeletons at Halloween for many years. In October 2009, I wrote about these experiences in the ADEC (Association of Death Education and Counseling) Forum in an article entitled "Skeletons in October: Scary Death Symbols or an Opportunity to Teach Bone Anatomy to Young Children?"

The article was featured under the Teaching Thanatology (Death Education) section.

For those who are interested in reading this article a PDF File is available to download at our website, Skeletons in October.

Source: Dyer KA. October 2009. Skeletons in October: Scary Death Symbols or an Opportunity to Teach Bone Anatomy to Young Children? ADEC Forum: The quarterly publication of the Association for Death Education and Counseling. Vol 35, No. 4 p. 20.

Toy Skeletons

Image by ollinger

Image by ollinger

Skeleton Toy by Ollinger.

Available on Amazon

Available on Amazon

Using Fun Skeletons and Food to Teach

One of the things that I've done from the beginning is to find fun skull or skeletons that I can give the kids to play with after I am done talking about the skeleton. Over the years I've found stickers, stretchy skeletons (a hit even with 5th grade class), erasers and skeleton cups.

The skeleton "prizes" help to reinforce the lesson and also help to keep them from being fearful about skeletons, since they become just a fun play object.

Next year I may end up baking some healthy skeleton treats with skeleton cupcake molds and pans.

NomNom Cupcake holders available on Amazon.

Skeletons in the Closet Game

Nonskulls Cupcake Molds

Stretchy Skeletons on eBay

The stretchy skeletons were some that I used for many years, to the point that the kids remembered and wanted new ones to play with from one year to the next.

The stretchy ones are the best.

Other Lenses on Teaching with Skeletons and Bones

How have you used skeletons in the classroom for teaching?

© 2010 Kirsti A. Dyer

Comments on Teaching with Skeletons

anonymous on September 18, 2013:

nice I appericiate you

Kirsti A. Dyer (author) from Northern California on November 03, 2012:

@DIY Mary: It has worked well. This years presentation led to them happily figuring out bone names and gleefully tossing around skeleton toys.

Mary Stuart on November 02, 2012:

I admire your approach. It seems like a fun way for kids to learn about human anatomy while nipping in the bud whatever fears they might have about skeletons as symbols of death.

OUTFOXprevention1 on October 30, 2012:

Great way to teach and integrate skeletons and Halloween!

anonymous on October 29, 2012:

Brilliant ideas! Thanks!

Kirsti A. Dyer (author) from Northern California on October 14, 2012:

@anonymous: You are welcome.

anonymous on October 14, 2012:

keep posting such great lenses thanks for share

Kirsti A. Dyer (author) from Northern California on October 12, 2012:

@lucky izan: The Terminator Skeletons are scarier and not anatomically correct, so you couldn't teach the anatomy bones using them.

Kirsti A. Dyer (author) from Northern California on October 12, 2012:

@ikepius: It does tend to make the lesson a bit more memorable.

lucky izan on October 12, 2012:

why don't you use robot skeletons from the terminator movies, it will be cool

ikepius on October 12, 2012:

Great idea! This way they never will forget.

Kirsti A. Dyer (author) from Northern California on October 10, 2012:

@LabKittyDesign: I was looking for resources that could be used by Teachers which were in the Public Domain and copyright free. Netter's books are probably still under copyright.

LabKittyDesign on October 09, 2012:

What? No mention of Frank Netter's books? Harrumph! :-)

Kirsti A. Dyer (author) from Northern California on October 07, 2012:

@Lisa Remmick: I've tried to make it fun as a parent and a teacher.

Lisa Remmick on October 07, 2012:

Skeletons are cool year round and what a great why to teach about anatomy at the same time. Teaching was never like this for me when I went to school.

Kirsti A. Dyer (author) from Northern California on October 07, 2012:

@BarbaraCasey: It comes from having a background in medicine, teaching and being a parent.

BarbaraCasey on October 07, 2012:

Wow. The teachers were never this creative when I went to school. Great stuff.

Kirsti A. Dyer (author) from Northern California on October 05, 2012:

@Nancy Hardin: It is too early to know.

Nancy Carol Brown Hardin from Las Vegas, NV on October 05, 2012:

Excellent educational lens! Who knows how many children you may have started on a career in medicine by taking the mystery and horror out of our skeletons? This lens is blessed by a SquidAngel, and is also used for my educational quest! Thanks for sharing.