Home School Life Journal From Preschool to High School

Home School Life Journal ........... Ceramics by Katie Bergenholtz
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales

Using Anatomy Models

July 2009
My youngest son loves bones. He has ever since he was three years old, and we first studied human biology. We used Donald Silver's wonderful book, The Body Book. The book is full of reproducible patterns and easy step-by-step instructions so that students can make paper models of the major organs and systems of the human body. Quentin has made it a few times all on his own since then, just because he wanted to.
December 2011
He became interested in plastic models next. He was thrilled to get this model for Christmas one year.
He took this model apart and put it back together many times. I highly recommend it for human biology study. I was amazed at all that he discovered for himself just by exploring the model, that he could not discover from the two-dimensional paper model.

You don't always have to buy models, either. We have made several out of household items.
Recently Quentin has expressed wanting a life-sized skeleton model. I knew that we could not afford the $200+ price tag. Then I found Mr. Thrifty budget skeleton. He is only 33 1/2 inches tall, so is not life-sized, but he is large enough to make additional observations for he is anatomically accurate. One of its uses is for medical students. Some of the comments at Amazon talk about it not having some of the details needed for medical students, and that may be so, but it has plenty of accurate detail for study, even through high school human biology.
October 2013

So, how do you use a model, once you get it?
Because my son is interested in the subject, I don't have to do much of anything in order to get him to learn from it. But there are things you can do to encourage students to learn from models. You don't have to make it dreary rote memorization. You might be surprised to find that if you just tape labels to different parts of the models, you students will learn their names without even trying.
Once they have learned them, you can take the labels off and see if your kids can identify different anatomical features on their own. 

I find that if you make a little corner for the model, post an appropriate anatomical chart and include a few books in the corner, students will make their own explorations by referring back to the charts while studying the models. It has gotten everyone in the family interested, and observations have come into the family's conversations.
They have marveled over how our backbone curves. They noticed how the knee is constructed, with the joint, covered by a knee cap. They have counted the number of bones in the hands and feet. The marveled over how much of our rib cage is cartilage. Nothing, however, surpasses the memory of the first night Quentin received the model. While I was reading our books for our night reading, he held his model in his lap (another good thing about having a smaller model). He held the model's hand in his hand and you could see by the look on his face that he was comparing his own hand to the model and imagining what his own bones looked like beneath his skin. The look also was one of utter fascination, joy and awe at God's handiwork.


  1. Hello friend!
    I LOVE that you always see your children's interests and RUN with them! I am most definitely pinning this post, since we plan on studying the human body in January- you always have the best ideas!

  2. Wow, thanks so much for this! I'm adding Mr Thrifty to our list of things to get!!

    You always amaze me with how .... amazing you are as a parent and educator. :)

  3. How cool that Quentin has such a passion for the subject and you support it. He looks so pleased with his new bony friend :)

  4. This is another inspiring post, Phyllis. I really enjoy seeing children learn this way. How wonderful that Quentin is so interested in human biology and learning so much on his own!

  5. Isn't it wonderful - how when kids tune in to God's creation the passion blossoms?

  6. Oh goodness, now I want that model even if we supposedly are done studying bones. My boys would love it. I can just see them doing the same thing as Quentin.


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