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Teacher: Christine Hoisington who teaches at Springville Elementary School in Springville, NY. Christine Hoisington can be contacted at

Name of Best Practice: Mr. Skelly – The Skeleton with a Message

Rationale/Purpose of Event: The teacher uses a visual cardboard model of a human skeleton as a instructional resource to assist students to learn muscle and bone identification as well as healthy nutrition habits.

Suggested Grade Level: K-5

Materials Needed:

1. Cardboard skeleton with moveable joints - Take apart and laminate for durability. A second skeleton is helpful if you will be taking pictures of Mr. Skelly participating in real activities.

2. Large laminated dialogue “balloons” (like those used in the comics) and dry erase markers.

3. Props - paper muscles, labels of the names of the bones, food –imitation or pictures of food items, a diagram of the food pyramid, picture of a heart rate monitor, picture of a pedometer, clothing etc. With the use of a digital camera, pictures can be taken and printed of needed props. I have made Mr. Skelly some sneakers by taking a picture of a right and left sneaker, printing and taping them onto his feet.

Mr. Skelly – The Skeleton with a Message

Mr. Skelly is a cardboard skeleton placed on the wall. With the use of dialogue balloons, Mr. Skelly “talks” to the children. He can introduce or reinforce facts, concepts and skills. His jointed body can be moved into various positons. Props can be used to add interest and understanding to his message.

With the use of humor, and a bit of creativity and exaggeration with your props, Mr. Skelly can become a very powerful teaching tool. Change his messages and props once or twice a week to keep him fresh and interesting. Some of my examples of Mr. Skelly talking:

“I drink milk! The calcium in milk helps to keep my bones strong” (Mr. Skelly is holding a glass of milk and has a milk mustache. His bones are labeled)

“I like to be active! Exercise helps to keep my bones strong” (Mr. Skelly’s bones are labeled. Pictures are displayed of him out on the playground equipment. I took my “extra” Mr. Skelly out for the photo session. The children and teachers really liked the pictures)

“These are my triceps muscles. The triceps muscle extends the lower arm.” (Mr. Skelly has a paper football positioned like he has just thrown the football.)

"These are my quadriceps muscles. They help me jump high! (Mr. Skelly has a basketball and is jumping towards a basketball hoop.)

"These are my femur bones. These bones are the longest in your body." (Mr. Skelly is standing vertically and there are two arrows pointing to each of the femur bones in leg.)

During the week of Halloween I added some extra humor. I replaced Mr. Skelly with a purple skeleton and dressed the purple skeleton in spider-printed boxers. There were about 30 empty boxes of grape “Nerds” on the wall near him. The purple Mr. Skelly said, “I think I’ve eaten too many grape “Nerds!” The week after Halloween Mr. Skelly talked about good nutrition and ate lots of fruits and vegetables.

View Pictures of the Skeletons


Provide students with additional physical examples of the consequences of poor health, e.g., actual or models of diseased cardiorespiratory organs, etc., which convey very powerful messages.

Teaching Suggestions/Tips:

Place Mr. Skelly in a "high-traffic" area of your school.

Mr. Skelly will eventually have a wife and children. I have already bought some baby skeletons. He will celebrate holidays and participate in schoolwide events. Although I have only been doing this project for a short time, I hope to continue for years to come.

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Posted on PEC: 10/15/2007 and has received 80 votes.

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