Having a good understanding of basic human anatomy can help kids get a grasp on life sciences and may well inspire an interest in a future health-care career. Understanding how bones, ligaments and joints work could also help kids train and exercise properly in sports. Children learn best through play, so making use of interactive games could help students make sense of the skeletal system and understand its importance in daily life.
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Play a matching game by writing down the scientific name and the common name of bones on separate cards, for example: clavicle -- collar bone, cranium -- skull, patella -- kneecap, femur -- thigh bone. Give each student a card, and have him find its partner. You could also make a few sets of the cards, divide the students into teams and give each team a mixed-up set. The game is to be the first team to match all its cards correctly. Another bone game is a form of Simon Says. For example, "Simon says touch your clavicle," and the students who touch the incorrect bone exit the game. A bone game that has no eliminations is a version of the Hokeypokey, in which students stand in the circle and put their own named bone into the circle "put your left femur in, put your left femur out, put your left femur in and shake it all about...."
Joints make up a vital part of the skeletal system. Various types of joints provide different kinds of movement. Use this joint game to illustrate the point. Source various everyday joints -- for example, a door hinge to illustrate a hinge joint, and construction toy pieces such as LEGO and ZOOB to illustrate ball-and-socket joints and pivot joints. Give each team an identical selection of joints and a sheet of paper listing the main joints of the body, with a blank line next to each joint name for the classification. The students move their own body joints to get a sense of the movement that each joint allows, and then use the everyday examples to help them classify the type of joint. For example, the shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint; the elbow is a hinge joint; the neck is a pivot joint. The first team to correctly classify each type of joint is the winner.
A ligament is flexible tissue that joins two bones together. In ligament tag, assign two kids to be ligaments, giving them either the femur or the humerus as a starting point. Give the remaining children tags with the bones of the upper and lower limbs, each child being a different bone. When the game starts, each ligament has to find all the limb bones that attach to one another. Once all the limb bones have been collected, the first team to arrange itself in correct connecting order is the winner.
Games for Younger Students
Children from kindergarten to second grade would benefit from games that give some insight into the skeletal system in general, without in-depth detail of all 206 bones. A 15-piece skeleton floor puzzle at the Learning Resources website is suitable for ages 3 to 6. Or try a skeleton relay race. Print out a basic skeleton template from the Family Fun website for each team. Cut out the parts of the skeleton and place each team's skeleton in separate bowls. Use a relay-race format for the teams to collect one bone at a time to assemble the skeleton.
There are a variety of online games designed to reinforce learning. Some use a click-and-drag system to label skeletons; others have an interactive quiz format. Many also give extra information about various bones to stimulate keen learners.
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