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Classroom Skeleton: Whose Bones Are These?

Remember that skeleton hanging in the front of your biology — or art — classroom?

It's possible those bones are not plastic, but actual human remains. A lot of classroom skeletons, in high schools, universities and medical schools, are real.

My high school in Erie, Pa., has one that has been hanging in the back of the art room for years. Students use it to draw and sculpt and learn about anatomy. For this episode of Skunk Bear, teachers and administrators let us borrow the skeleton. We then used a bunch of scientific tools — usually applied at crime scenes and archaeological digs — to investigate this person's past: Who was this person? And where did the bones come from?


Follow Skunk Bear, NPR's science show, on YouTube and Facebook .

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Elissa Nadworny covers higher education and college access for NPR. She's led the NPR Ed team's multiplatform storytelling – incorporating radio, print, comics, photojournalism, and video into the coverage of education. In 2017, that work won an Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in innovation. As an education reporter for NPR, she's covered many education topics, including new education research, chronic absenteeism, and some fun deep-dives into the most popular high school plays and musicals and the history behind a classroom skeleton.
Ryan Kellman is a producer and visual reporter for NPR's science desk. Kellman joined the desk in 2014. In his first months on the job, he worked on NPR's Peabody Award-winning coverage of the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. He has won several other notable awards for his work: He is a Fulbright Grant recipient, he has received a John Collier Award in Documentary Photography, and he has several first place wins in the WHNPA's Eyes of History Awards. He holds a master's degree from Ohio University's School of Visual Communication and a B.F.A. from the San Francisco Art Institute.
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