Pine Students Discover Animal Skeletons

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Sixth-grade science students in Pine know that without a skeleton they would be like the blob or a single-celled organism.

"If I didn't have a skeleton I'd be all wobbly," teacher Stacy Horsley said as she suddenly slumped on the floor.

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Katrina Kueny and Sarah Bellah found far more than the five bones they were required to draw and identify in their science journals.

The students conducted an experiment with chicken bones; then dissected an owl pellet to discover and identify bones that have different functions, to protect, support and move.

"These are ligaments, not Ms. Horsley's drool," Horsley said as she handed out the chicken leg bones for the students to see up close.

Students wondered whether the bones were from a human, and whether she ate the chicken (she said it was yummy.) Horsley answered their questions moving the class right along.

Students drew pictures of the bones in their science journals, then Horsley placed one bone for each group in jars.

Her students did not mind the bones in water or vinegar, but a few were upset that she wasted a can of soda on one bone.

Horsley said she had heard that the coke will dissolve the bone. It is her way of bringing a health component into the lesson.

"They drink way too much soda," she said. "What do you think is going to happen to these bones over the long weekend?" she asked. "Write your hypothesis in your journal telling what you think will happen ... Will the bone change colors? Will it get spongy? Will it smell?"

Most students hypothesized that by Tuesday the bones in water or vinegar would get bigger and the coke would change the bone's color.

Horsley said the bone in water would stay the same, although she didn't tell this to the students.

"The one in vinegar is going to dissolve all the hard parts of the bone so you can see the flexible inside, the marrow and the other parts of the bone that you don't normally see unless you broke it open," she said.

The lesson's next level required the students to show they can act responsibly using sterilized tweezers and a dissection tool for gently poking matter apart -- in this case an owl pellet.

Horsley said she loves to let her students explore.

"There will be more bones in there than you think," she told them.

Owl pellets are the regurgitated matter of owl meals and consist of insects and small rodents.

Owls often swallow smaller animal whole. The teeth, claws and fur they cannot digest get stored in their gizzard. Strong muscles roll this matter upward and the birds cough it up.

According to tooter4kids.com, "Owls can kill animals as large as they are or even larger."

Students in Horsley's class moistened the owl pellets with water so they were easier to break apart.

"Katrina," a girl called her friend from across the room, "I think I found a rabbit."

Katrina Kueny was not happy about the thought of an owl eating a rabbit, but she didn't stop from poking her own owl pellet apart to see what she could find in it.

Sarah Bellah and Kueny found far more than the five bones they were required to draw and identify in their science journals.

"Look, here's bat teeth," Bellah said.

"Oh my gosh, don't pull them out," Kueny said.

"I didn't. They just fell."

Horsley told her students that their skulls or rib cages are examples of protection bones.

"Your rib cage bones protect your organs, but they are also structure bones because your muscles attach to them," she said, adding that toes and fingers are examples of movement bones.

Wonder toned students' comments for the better part of an hour.

"There is a skull right here."

"There is some hair and we found some leg bones."

"Oh there's teeth. Look at that. That's awesome."

"What is that? Whoa, there are more teeth."

"That's like its body where the legs come off."

"Holy cow. Cool."

"He ate a bird."

"I think there's a frog in here."

"It's probably like a mouse or something."

Horsley's sixth-graders have studied cells, the heart and now bones and muscles. When students finish their anatomy lessons later in the school year they will get to dissect a frog.

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