Living Bones, Strong Bones

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In this activity about engineering, nutrition, and physical activity, learners design and build a healthy bone model of a space explorer which is strong enough to withstand increasing amounts of weight. This activity contains several engaging mini-activities and stresses the importance of the scientific method. Learners can complete this activity as part of NASA's Fit Explorer Challenge, in which learners train like astronauts, set goals, track their progress, and accumulate points to progress through Exploration Levels and earn certificates.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
4 to 24 hours

Learning Time:
1 to 2 hours

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 11

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Model


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Meter stick
  • Balance scale
  • Gram weights
  • Snack size zipper-seal bags
  • Cooked, clean, dry chicken thigh or leg bones
  • Centimeter rulers
  • Index cards
  • Clear cellophane tape
  • Cardboard squares
  • Textbooks or reams of paper
  • Aquarium gravel
  • Eye protection
  • Red pens
  • Hand lenses


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Solar System
  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
  • Life Sciences
    • Human Body
      • Skeleton
      • Muscles and Skin
      • Health and Nutrition
  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
      • Data Representation
    • Measurement
    • Representation
  • Physical Sciences
    • Motion and Forces
      • Gravity
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Mass and Weight
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results
    • Science as a Career

Informal Categories

  • Food and Cooking
  • Model Building


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

Includes assesments for student learning:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Human Research Program Education and Outreach, NASA Johnson Space Center


  • Public domain, ,

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