Assembling an Elephant
Do you ever wonder how skeletons in museums stay together? When an animal is alive, its bones are held together by ligaments - little pieces of strong tissue that connect from bone to bone. When an animal moves, it uses tendons - little pieces of strong tissue that connect bones to muscles. But when an animal is just a skeleton, it doesn’t have ligaments, tendons, or muscles to hold it together - so why aren’t museum exhibits just piles of bones? Teams of scientists and artists are able to bring skeletons back to life through articulation - piecing a skeleton back together from a jumble of bones. Any skeleton can be articulated - from a tiny mouse to a huge dinosaur!
Articulate Your Own Elephant "Skeleton"
You can articulate your own elephant skeleton at home, using the materials below! You will need:
- “Assembling an Elephant” activity sheet
- Metal brad fasteners (available at most office supply and craft stores)
- Hole punch
- Colored pencils, crayons, markers
- Optional: Thick paper and glue stick
Step 1: Print out the “Assembling an Elephant” activity sheet. For extra strength, print this on card stock or use regular printer paper and glue to a thicker paper, like construction paper or a file folder.
Step 2: Cut out your elephant along the dotted lines.
Step 3: Punch a small hole over each “X” on the activity sheet using a hole punch. A pencil point can also be used to do this. (Kids, ask an adult to help with this.)
Step 4: Assemble your elephant! Match each colored “X” of the legs and head with the “X’s” on the elephant’s body, and push a brad fastener through them. The yellow and purple legs and red head will go on top of the elephant, and the blue and green legs will go under the elephant. Flatten the prongs of the fastener on the back of the elephant.
- Without the colors, would you know where each bone was supposed to go? How do you think scientists know where each bone goes? Does learning about articulated skeletons change the way you look at specimens in museums?