Friday, April 26, 2013

Animal Classification Using Crayon and Paint Wash Skeletons

The girls and I have been wending our way down to human biology (we actually wended to horses, but we started off intending to study humans) through the order of classification. My main goals for studying the order of classification as thoroughly as we have so far are to have the girls understand that each level of the order tells something important about the living thing (whether or not we quite understand what that thing is--order Perissodactyla, or the Odd-Toed Ungulates, for instance, has given me and Willow fits trying to figure it out: odd number of toes? Per limb or total? Oddly-shaped toes? Odd that they're called toes? The research continues!), and to have them memorize some key classification terms and what they mean--the class Mammalia, for instance, and knowing what a mammal is, or the infraclass Marsupialia, and what that means.

Hands-on learning always makes memorization easier (which is probably why the girls are having to work so hard to get their Latin vocabulary to stick), and so before completely settling down with horses for a while, I had the girls do a couple of research projects involving the classification of other animals.

We own a set of animal x-rays, and now we own a giant lightbox upon which we can look at them!

Willow and I placed a bunch of our animal x-rays on the lightbox at random, and then put a sheet of tracing paper over the entire lightbox, taping it snugly at the sides. I gave each of the girls a white crayon, and they used it to trace the skeletons of each of the animals:

You can see the white crayon if you look carefully.

On a different day, Sydney watered down some black BioColor paint, and the girls painted a black wash over the skeletons on the tracing paper. This made the skeletons stand out really well, although it took a couple of tries to get the paint to the right consistency--too thin, and it just soaks through the paper without leaving much color; too thick, and it covers the paper and the crayon, too.

I hung the giant painting out on the laundry line (and then on the shower curtain rod when it started to rain) to dry, and on a different day we used it to inspire a research project.

I had the girls choose their favorite skeleton from the painting, cut it out, and spray mount it to a large piece of construction paper:

Spray mount is FUN!

The animal x-rays set also includes photos of the living animal that each skeleton belongs to, and its name, so next the kiddos matched their skeleton to its animal, drew the animal--

--and then researched its classification. Normally, I encourage the girls to use Encyclopedia Britannica for their reference questions, but Wikipedia has this great feature of including the entire order of classification for each living creature that has an article about it on their site:

Each level also includes a link, so it's pretty amazing. The girls copied the order of classification for their animal--

--and then together we went through that order, clicking on each level in Wikipedia to learn more about that type. Kingdom Animalia and Order Chordata are reviews, because we've already studied what makes an animal and what a spinal cord does, but it was fun to see what Class Reptilia comprises, and then narrow it down to Order Squamata, which is just the lizards and the snakes, and then we go down to Family Iguanidae, which is just the iguanas, and so on and so on:

Although the girls LOVED this activity, and I thought that it had a lot of value in improving their understanding of animal classification, we actually didn't do this for the horses that we're now studying, simply because we don't have any horse x-rays!

What we DO have, however, are the real-live Cody and Lola, the horses that Syd and Will ride during their weekly horseback riding lessons. And though there aren't as many hands-on projects for studying horse anatomy as there are for, say, human anatomy, it turns out that having a real-live horse buddy to think about when memorizing parts, or talking about classification, is just about the best thing ever.


Tina said...

Sounds like the girls are enjoying horse lessons. One thing I saw on-line somewhere was this woman on youtube giving a demonstration where the bones where painted onto the horse, and she used the horse as a teach tool. Here is the link

One thing that we have done with Emma for fun is to print off words onto paper, laminate them, then play with them in the tub. Not sure if that would work for the girls and their Latin.

julie said...

I LOVE that idea, especially because Sydney is sitting next to me right now, pitching a fit over her Latin. It amuses me to think of all the children, right down to Ancient Rome, who have pitched a fit over learning their Latin. Some day long ago, some other little kid, sitting in the dirt wearing a toga, probably also screamed its head off because it got fenestra and mura mixed up.

Tina said...

Ha ha! I can totally picture both Syd and the little toga clad child throwing a fit!

Tina said...

So, we are getting ready to start with animal classification. Trying to decide how to get started, so I came to your site for inspiration :0)

Have the girls used the animal x-rays since your classification studies? Trying to decide if we should splurge and buy them or just find something else.

By the way, thanks for all the awesome blog posts about your adventures in learning. I plan to use your site often for inspiration when we are not sure what to do next!

julie said...

You know, we haven't used the animal x-rays since. I can't remember if these were a present or a purchase, but I think they'll come in handy in the future, especially for my animal-loving kiddo.

If you didn't want to spend the money on x-rays, I wonder if you could print x-ray images off of Google Images, and work with them that way. You couldn't work with them on a light table, but you could trace and match and copy them, etc. I've also seen these x-ray sets sold more inexpensively at American Science and Surplus--I won't go check if they're there right now, because every time I log onto that page, I spend a hundred dollars on randomness.