Have you ever wondered if there was a skeleton in your backyard? What about finding a skeleton while out on a hike? Would you know how to identify which bones were which? Could you figure out what kind of animal the bones belonged to? In this episode, we join a group of children as they try to assemble and identify the bones of a mystery skeleton.
We begin at the Discovery Center in the Museum of Science Boston, where we meet a group of children and youth staff volunteers at the mystery skeleton station. Margarita Forbes, one of the staff volunteers, is guiding the children through the activity, primarily by asking them questions.
As the children assemble the bones of the skeleton and see how the pieces fit together, we discuss the intent behind the design of the activity with Rachel Fyler, the Education Associate for Childhood Development at the Discovery Center. She introduces us to the concept of inquiry based learning, and teaching with the goal of letting the students be the scientists.
Next we drop in on a book reading at a public library outside of Boston. Here, we find Sara Levine reading to a group of children and their parents from her book, Bone by Bone. This book is a question-based tour of vertebrate anatomy. Sara has brought a lot of props to her reading, including several skeletons that the kids are encouraged to compare and assemble.
We wondered how these interactive learning activities could be incorporated into more formal teaching settings. We spoke to Dr. Sumudu Lewis, Director of the UTeach program at UMass Lowell to get her insights on this issue. She told us about the structure of the Uteach program and its goal to change the way we teach our teachers.
We then go back to the Discovery Center to catch up with our group at the mystery skeleton. We catch them just as they are putting the final pieces together and deciphering the puzzle.
To help us identify the mystery skeleton, and to learn more about how inquiry based approaches to teaching are helping children have fun while learning, tune in to the latest episode of Bone Lab Radio.
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Discovery Center, Museum of Science Boston
Settled within the Museum of Science Boston, the Discovery Center offers an assortment of fun, hands-on activities that are designed to encourage discovery through play. The Discovery Center caters especially to children from infancy to age eight and their accompanying grownups. The learning process is fostered by a core staff of interpreters, often young adults, who enhance the learning process by inspiring curiosity and wonder.
Sara Levine graduated from Haverford college with a degree in English before obtaining a a doctorate in Veterinary medicine at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine. She is now an Assistant Professor at Wheelock College, where she teaches several courses including Human Biology, New England Ecology, Human Disease, and Dinosaur Biology! She favors a hands-on and practical approaches to learning.
Dr. Levine has written several children’s books. Her first, Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons, won Bank Street College Best Children's Book of the Year (2014) and the Utah Beehive Prize (2016). Her second book, Tooth by Tooth: Comparing Fangs, Tusks, and Chompers, won the 2017 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books. Her third book, Fossil by Fossil: Comparing Dinosaur Bones, will be published in 2018. Find more about her books here.
Dr. Sumudu Lewis is the director of the UTeach program at UMass Lowell. UTeach is a practice-oriented teacher preparation program focused on math and science content and teaching using inquiry-based and project-based instruction. The goal of the UTeach program is to develop young teachers whose professional practice embraces inquiry design and engagement through application.
Artwork: Michele Woronowicz
Production: Jeannie Bailey, Jennifer Fish, Jenny Qi, Ralph St. Louis, Kate Woronowicz