Valley of dry bones

Students in my Ornithology class complete a term paper of bone. Each student is given a dead bird (window- and road-killed). The task: dissect and study the bird, then strip its bones bare (with the help of flesh-eating beetles), and finally re-articulate the skeleton (using the magic powers of the hot glue gun). The project sits at the junction of zoology, horror, and arts-and-crafts.

The bones are presently all cleaned up and ready to be put back together (owls and vultures shown below).

“the valley … was full of bones,/…and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry/…there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone”

Extra credit for breathing on the slain that they might live.

9 thoughts on “Valley of dry bones

  1. Pingback: Quiz: Bird Beaks | Ramble

  2. AP

    Yeah I’ve seen those on display in Spencer Hall. . really awesome work. How long does it take them to re-assemble the bones? I once looked into skeletonizing and reassembling a snake but decided it would be extremely difficult and tedious (though other than scaly legs, not sure that snake anatomy is all that similar to bird).

  3. Sherri McCutchen

    When I taught in Catholic school (Most Precious Blood), the fifth grade teacher had his students attempt to classify and reassemble the bones found in owl pellets. They lined small metal boxes ( e.g. Altoid tins) with black felt as the display background. There was something very Victorian about the resulting work.

    1. David George Haskell Post author

      For all their many failings, the Victorians were at least interested in the amazing particularities of the natural world they lived in. Trying to keep that particular tradition alive… I like the black felt idea.


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