Children enjoy learning about human anatomy, such as the skull, so they can better understand their physical bodies. Parents, teachers and tutors can help students learn basic facts about the human skull, such as its purpose and structure. Use technical terms to describe the bones in the skull but avoid medical terminology, such as brain functions and skull-related diseases, that may be too advanced for elementary-age students to comprehend. Explain that the major purpose of the skull is to protect the average three-pound human brain.
Children often assume that the skull is made of only one bone, but it is comprised of 22 bones. Teach them that the skull contains eight larger bones that are designed to protect the brain, and those eight bones are collectively called the cranium. An additional 14 bones make up the facial structure.
The skull contains small holes, called foramina, that allow blood vessels and nerves to enter and exit the cranium. Tell students that the small holes are too little to feel with your hand.
Spaces Between Bones
The places where the bones in the skull join together are called sutures. The sutures close and solidify during childhood, but babies have soft sutures that provide some flexibility during delivery. There is an especially noticeable soft spot -- a large suture -- at the top of a baby's skull, known as the fontanelle. Instruct students that they should never push on that indention and that it closes up around age two. A human skull is nearly full-size at birth.
Importance of the Jawbone
The jawbone, technically known as the mandible, is the only bone in the skull that moves. The mandible is the largest and strongest bone in the skull and holds your teeth in place. Tell students that it's critically important to survival because it allows you to open your mouth and chew food.
Symmetry in the Skull
The bones in the face, other than the mandible and the vomer -- the bone that separates the left and right nasal cavities -- are arranged in pairs. Explain to students that this is why their faces are symmetrical. For example, the human skull has two symmetrical cheek bones and eye sockets.
Male and Female Differences
There are some forensic differences in adult male and female human skulls. Male skulls tend to be heavier, larger and thicker than female skulls. Female skulls are more rounded and the mandible protrudes less.
About the Author
As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.
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