During a recent unit on the human body, one of my students announced that his grandmother had fallen in her kitchen and fractured her hip the previous week. Since we had just learned that the pelvis is one of the strongest bones in the human body, he wanted to know why her hip had broken from such a mild fall. His question provided us with a wonderful opportunity to investigate the skeletal system in greater depth, and we were able to complete a number of activities that explored the topic more fully.
Unbeknownst to most people, bone is living tissue. A close look at the inside of a bone shows something that looks very similar to a honeycomb. To keep bones strong, the body is always breaking down old bone and replacing it with new bone tissue. As people grow older, more bone is broken down than is replaced and the bone that forms the honeycomb gets smaller. This can result in osteoporosis, a disease that weakens bones to the point where they break easily. In a person with osteoporosis, the spaces in the honeycomb grow larger and the outer shell of bones gets thinner.
To demonstrate this for your students, distribute a container of honeycomb cereal and some snack baggies to each small group. Ask them to fill one baggie with 50 honeycombs, another with 35 honeycombs, and the last with 20 honeycombs. The first baggie should be very full, making the baggie fat and almost difficult to close. It represents healthy bone. The second baggie represents bone that is moderately osteoporotic, while the last baggie represents severely osteoporotic bone.
To simulate a “fall” by a person with each type of bone, drop a textbook on each baggie from a height of about 1 meter. Count the intact honeycomb after the “fall” and figure out the percentage of healthy bone that remains. For example, if 45/50 honeycombs remain unbroken, this translates to 90%. Students should notice that a far greater percentage of bone remains intact in the healthy bone, and its easy to see how someone with osteoporosis is in danger of a fracture, even with a mild fall.
For more lesson plans that help teach students about the skeletal system, check out the following lesson plans.
Skeletal System Lesson Plans and Activities:
In this lesson students learn about the bones in the skeletal system using Internet research. They also learn about ways to keep bones healthy. One of the activities in this lesson is to create a human skeleton with pasta.
Using the Internet, students do research on the various parts of the skeletal system. They create a model of the human arm to show how muscle and bone work together to allow movement.
This worksheet has students read about the human skeletal system. They learn about the parts and functions of the system. They label the parts of the human skeleton.
Students find out about injuries that can happen to the body and learn how to keep bones healthy. They learn how bones repair, and draw a picture to show what happens. They also learn vocabulary associated with the skeletal system.