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STEM Activity: X-Ray Exploration

STEM Activities

Learn about animals from the inside out! Match X-ray images of skeletons to their animal counterparts, and then create a new skeleton of your own design! Share your creations with us on our Camp Invention® Facebook page using #CampInvention.


Materials Needed

  • Animal and X-ray printout
  • Pretzel sticks and/or pretzel loops


Step-by-Step Instructions

Activity One

  1. Go online and locate various images of animals (tiger, lion, snake, etc.) and their corresponding skeletons.
  2. Print out these images and have your participants match the animal images with the correct skeleton images.
  3. Ask the children what helped them match the animals to their skeletons.
  4. Have everyone work together to create a list of the similarities and differences between the various skeleton images.
  5. Facilitate a discussion where children think about the bones in their own bodies. Have them sketch out what they think a human skeleton looks like.

Activity Two

  1. Gather the X-ray images used in the first activity.
  2. Cut out various body parts from these printouts (legs, ribs, skull) to create a jigsaw puzzle.
  3. Mix two or three different animal X-rays together to create new hybrid animals. 


Activity Three

  1. Extend the fun by building a skeleton of your own out of pretzel shapes.
  2. Have your participants create new skeletons from their imaginations.
  3. Pretzel sticks are great for making long bones. Use other pretzel shapes to form hips, skulls or shoulders.
  4. Ask your participants to explain how their animal would move, and how the skeletal structure they’ve created enables this.


What Are We Learning?

This activity can kick-start a discussion about bones and X-ray technology. X-rays are an important way to see the structure of skeletons inside living creatures. Learning about structure helps us understand how bones function together to protect soft tissues and why different creatures move in different ways (walking on two legs or four legs, hopping, etc.).

Take this opportunity to introduce children to National Inventors Hall of Fame® Inductee William Coolidge, who invented the X-ray tube in 1913. This invention, which was then popularly called the “Coolidge tube,” completely revolutionized X-rays and remains to this day the model upon which all X-ray tubes for medical applications are patterned. Today, X-rays are used in medical diagnosis for fractures, in radiation to fight cancer, in airport security and even to reveal counterfeit art. What new ideas might your STEM activity participants have for the use of X-ray technology?


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