Student Projects

The Boneyard Project

Author: Nick Ehlers

Grade: 11th

Subjects: Biology, Humanities

Snake head bones
Four bird head bones
Snake bones

What are the ethics surrounding owning and/or supporting organizations that use animals and animal products?

How do the anatomy, physiology, and skeletal structures of small mammals and reptiles compare and contrast to the human body?


In The Boneyard Project students learn about anatomy and physiology of small mammals and humans while considering ethical questions about utilizing animal products.In The Boneyard Project students explore the various perspectives surrounding the animal and pet industries. We begin by getting to know our classroom animals and unveiling who has what kind of pets at HTHCV. As we are gathering these data, we will also be discovering the anatomy and physiology of mammals and reptiles through in-class dissections. During this process we will be preparing these organisms for our flesh eating beetles and field experiments by removing all organs. The beetles and wild insects will do what they do best – decompose deceased animal remains leaving behind only a bit of cartilage and bones. As this occurs, you will prepare lab drawings and photo representations of the dissections for presentation. Once the fleshy portions of the animals have decomposed, students will recover the remains and reconstruct the skeletons for display at Halloween and Dia de los Muertos exhibitions–labeling key features, major bones, and functions of each skeleton.

Product #1– In class animal care guides and school-wide survey of pet owners

Product #2– Prepared animals for beetle and experimental decomposition

Product #3– Field decomposition experiments (documentation and photos)
Product #4– Visual display(s) of reconstructed skeletons for Halloween & Dia de los Muertos

Students will know:

  • Ethics surrounding the animal and pet industries
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Decomposition
Week 1: -Project launch

-Who’s your pet? What’s their life story?

Week 2: -Form groups and discuss project roles

-Animal care guides, survey, and field experiment design

-Dissections (animal #1)

Week 3: -Continue animal care guides, survey, and field experiment design

-Finish dissection of animal #1 (if needed)

-Field trip to the Natural History Museum (find inspiration for final product(s))

Week 4: -Critique animal care guides, survey, and field experiment design

-Refine animal care guides, survey, and field experiment design

-Gather and prepare bones for reconstruction

-Identify necessary supplies

-Identify bones and strategize reconstruction

Week 5: -Reconstruct (anatomically correct) skeletons (animal #1)

-Show off your Boneyard knowledge – Exam I

-Dissections (animal #2)

-Finalize animal care guides

-Conduct survey and field experiment

Week 6: -Continue reconstruction (animal #1)

-Brainstorm exhibition design, displays, lighting, etc.

-Compile survey results

Week 7: -Reconstruct (anatomically correct) skeletons (animal #2)

-Create museum quality skeleton display(s), survey and field experiment presentations

Week 8: -Continue working on museum quality skeleton display(s), survey and field experiment presentations

-Prepare for exhibition

Week 9: -Finalize Halloween Exhibition room design

-Finalize Dia de los Muertos exhibition design

Week 10: -Final set-up

-Halloween Exhibition on Wednesday, October 30

-Dia de los Muertos Exhibition on Friday, November 1

Week 11: -Permanently display our BoneYard project product(s)

-Show-off your BoneYard knowledge – Exam II

-Socratic Seminar

Community Exhibition

Interdisciplinary exhibition with Spanish classes for Dia de los Muertos