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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Upper Elementary Students Creatively Learn Scientific Features of Animal Skulls by Making Movable Books


Arts integration in science has benefits of increasing student engagement and understanding. Lessons focusing on form and function of animal skulls provide an effective example of how handicrafts integrated with science instruction motivate students and support learning. The study involved students ages 9-12 during a week-long summer day camp. Students applied animal skull concepts of eye positions of predators and prey, relative eye sizes of nocturnal animals compared to tunnel-dwellers, shapes and functions of different types of teeth, and terminology and functions of different bones, openings, and structures of animal skulls in making moveable book pages. These pages featured pop-up constructions, a lift-the-flap page, and a turning wheel behind cut-out windows in a page to convey the skull concepts. Additional creativity was incorporated through making a three-dimensional cover related to the Mexican Day of the Dead with skulls made from pieces of recycled plastic bottles, drawing figural-transformations, and creating animal skull models from household or discarded materials. The lessons included classification of images of skull features on cards and examination of realistic animal skull models. Pretest-posttest science content results indicated large gains with a very large effect size; attitude surveys and student work showed high motivation and creativity.

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