Ron Gelardi, an environmental educator from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, recently brought his Skull Science program to fourth-grade classes at Boyd, allowing students to examine the skulls of mammals for clues to determine their role in the environment.
Gelardi’s collection of over two dozen mammal skulls native to New York provides students with the opportunity to observe the artifacts hands-on, from red fox and opossum to black bear. This collection of both bone specimens and quality replicas has been built over more than 20 years of in-classroom educational programs. The Skull Science program was crafted to use classic scientific method techniques of inferential learning for students in upper elementary school. Given the “tools” on which clues to look for, students work together to make observations, hypothesize what the parts of the skull might indicate about adaptation or behavior, and draw conclusions about diet and mammal family, or even identify the species.
“At the beginning of my presentation, students are sometimes overwhelmed by the collection of mysterious skulls on display, but after being led through a narrated analysis, they argue the finer points of rodent skulls, deciding what characteristics indicate squirrel instead of groundhog,” Gelardi said.