Funny bones

Why did the George The Skeleton laugh when he hit his funny bone?

Because it was humerus!

George The Skeleton stands – or hangs – just 4′ tall, a bit smaller than most of my JE students, and has been introducing kids to his 206 bones for more than 30 years. He is not the least bit creepy; on the contrary, children find his personable smile and articulated limbs irresistible. George has withstood innumerable kids shaking his phalanges and has patiently endured indignities at the hands of mischievous 7th graders (pencil “cigarettes” clenched in his movable mandible, hastily scrawled speech bubbles demanding “No homework!” stuck to his skull). Aside from worn out plastic cartilage and a few bits of hardware I’ve had to replace over the years, he has held up remarkably well.

Why is George The Skeleton so calm? Nothing gets under his skin!

Why didn’t George The Skeleton go to the dance?

He had no body to go with!

The JE students launched the unit by drawing what they thought their own skeleton looked like. George joined us to oversee every following skeletal activity. And, because George is such a humerus kind of guy, we made sure to share jokes with him at every opportunity.

What does George The Skeleton order at a restaurant? Spare ribs!

Playing “Science Says” is a fun way to learn the names and locations of the bones. When Science says “skull,” you rap on the top of your head. For “sternum,” pound your chest; “ulna,” cup your elbow; “femur,” slap your thighs. To introduce “pelvis” I show old footage of Elvis doing some of his signature moves, and we imitate him while singing “Elvis shakes his pelvis!”

What song does Elvis sing on Feb. 2? You ain’t nothin’ but a GROUNDHOG!

We have an extensive collection of bones donated by families who find deer, raccoon, fox, or groundhog skeletons, among many others, enabling us to compare the anatomy of a wide variety of vertebrates. This year we were also lucky to come upon the remains of an opossum out in the woods, where we examined the vertebrae, ribs, and mandible left behind by scavengers.

Why didn’t George The Skeleton cross the road? He just didn’t have the guts!

In most years, each student would have constructed a detailed, life-size skeleton out of a variety of found objects. This year, we reimagined the natural history museum and created dioramic fantasies with human and other animal skeletons.

What is George The Skeleton’s favorite musical instrument? The trombone!

Least favorite? The organ!

George administered this year’s final exam by having students label the bones they had learned over the past month. A teacher passing by stopped to ask what we were doing and was immediately grilled on his knowledge. “Do you know where your scapula is?” the kids demanded. He shook his head. “Your phalanges?” “Nope.” “How about your humerus?” “Uh…, no.” “It’s right here!” they all yelled, slapping their upper arms and shouting “HA HA HUMERUS!” while George smiled proudly at the latest generation of Jemicy anatomical humorists.

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