Skin, Scales and Skulls

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In this activity, learners examine body parts (including skin, scales, and skulls) from fish, mammals and reptiles. Questions are provided to help encourage learner investigations. Several activities are described, including object identification (what animal and what part of the animal?), free sorting of the objects, and a discussion of similarities, differences, and protective functions of the animal parts. It's written for use as a cart demo in a museum or aquarium, but could be done anywhere animal body parts are available.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
Over $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 4 - adult

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • River otter pelt
  • Seal Skin
  • Sturgeon skin
  • Horseshoe crab molt
  • Assorted crab molts (blue, spider, hermit)
  • Sea Turtle scutes
  • Sea Turtle shells
  • Fish scales
  • Fish vertebrae
  • Alligator and crocodile skulls
  • Dolphin skull
  • 8 large clear Rubbermaid containers
  • Pictures of animals


  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Animals
      • Classification
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Asking Questions
      • Formulating Explanations


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


Source Collection



  • All rights reserved, Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center, 2009

Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation, NSF OCE-0731338