How to Make a Skeleton Model for School

Meet Skelly! She’s a bone-afied teacher-made skeleton model. Ha! I wanted to give her a wig and paint her toenails but that would have been too distracting and silly. Right? Especially since her fingers are made of Q-tips. I’m going with the ‘less is more’ philosophy. Initially, the plan was to make a foil skeleton but while that would have helped with flexibility, the foil would not have given it enough tensile strength or detail. So the next idea was dowel sticks of different sizes for the major long bones. It worked beautifully. I built the arms and legs separately. The joints were made of duct tape. I used rubber bands to bunch a bundle of dowel sticks to make the spine. The entire length of the spine had rubber bands tied around it at intervals of 2 cm to represent the vertebrae. I also had to use an empty large water bottle for its hard plastic. I cut out a strip of it for the breast bone and a rounded peice for the hip. The hip was very tricky and I admit it is far from perfect but it worked well enough. I punched holes into the breast bone (sternum), for the ribs (craft pipe cleaners) to wrap from the breast bone to the spine. White pipe cleaners would have looked more realistic but I loved having the rainbow effect.  Holes were also punched into the hip bone to connect the thigh bones by passing a thin strip of the duct tape through the hole, then taping onto top top of the thigh bone.

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Here’s a quick list of everything that was used: dowel sticks, pipe cleaners/chenille stems, duct tape cut into tiny strips, label maker machine, a block of styrofoam, a craft knife, a large plastic bottle, large rubber bands, Q-tips, and a strong pair of scissors.

This is a close-up of the spine viewed from the hip.

The trickiest parts were the clavicle, the hip, and the cranium. If I could change anything, it would be the cranium. I ended up using two pieces of styrofoam that I carved up and put together. The rubber band holds it together. The clavicle started at the vase if the neck with some pipe cleaners woven through the spine. They were then connected to the arms by sawing through the top of the arm dowel and inserting the pipe cleaner through that slit. Tricky stuff. Lol

The hands are my favorite because I was surprised that the Q-tips worked so well. Toes too. I just bent the Q-tips to make joints in the fingers.

I might make a video to show these steps in detail. I am just so camera shy! So for now I hope these pictures can show you how to make a skeleton model for your class. By the way, if you teach older students and you want a more realistic or scientific look, instead of wooden dowel sticks, use white plastic balloon sticks, and use white pipe cleaners for the ribs.