Amidst the snowy backdrop of The Parklands today, it’s hard to believe that in just a few short weeks, our landscape will be blooming with ephemeral flowers and the trees will begin to bud. Today, the Outdoor Classroom team is “thinking spring” and is hard at work eagerly prepping for this year’s Spring Break Camp: Muckology – where we’ll “get up close to the very gross” learning about animals icky habits, and sloshing around in some marvelous mud.
If you’re at home with the kids today (or this weekend), channel your inner grossologist with this fun, stomach churning, edible scientific investigation of the human body’s largest organ – our skin!
DO try this at Home Activity: Give me some (edible) skin!
Animals have a variety of body coverings to help them adapt to their environment. Feathers, fur and scales all play a vital role in an animal’s ability to survive in its habitat. Arthropods like millipedes and pill bugs have an exoskeleton (instead of internal bones) that helps protect them from predators. Amphibians have moist, permeable skin that in some cases helps them breathe. Birds have strong hollow bones made of keratin in their wings and their feathers provide an ideal surface for flight.
Human skin also plays a vital role in our survival. Believe it or not; our skin is the largest organ in the human body! It’s also very important. It covers and protects everything inside our bodies, protects us from injury, keeps our body temperature regulated and allows us to have a sense of touch.
Skin is made up of three layers, each with its own important parts. The layer on the outside is called the epidermis; the epidermis produces thousands of cells that are constantly shedding and being replaced by new cells. Just below the epidermis is the dermis, where you’ll find blood cells and natural oils that keep your skin water resistant. The third and last layer of your skin is your subcutaneous fat layer; it helps keep your body warm and absorb shocks when you fall.
Make an Edible Skin model
1. Pour a layer of miniature marshmallows in a large, shallow dish. This will be the subcutaneous layer of the skin, which is made mostly from fat.
2. Next, mix and pour red-colored gelatin over the marshmallows. This will become the dermis, or inside layer of skin, which is full of blood vessels and nerve endings.
3. After the gelatin has set, add a layer of fruit leather to serve as the epidermis, the protective, outer layer of skin. Add hair by cutting short pieces of black licorice strings and poking them into the fruit leather. (Tip: Poke a hole through the fruit leather first using a toothpick.) Add chocolate chips for moles or dehydrated strawberries for scabs. Yuck! (Or should that be “yum”?)
4. If you have a great time doing this activity, learn more about our Muckology Camp, where more lessons like this are sure to gross out, entertain, and teach!
Kim Allgeier is a seasoned education professional with more than 10 years’ experience designing programs in a variety of informal education settings. Allgeier served as Education and Interpretation Manager for The Parklands for two years. Her expertise was critical in developing and implementing the enriching educational programs that are the core of The Parklands of Floyds Fork mission. Allgeier is a graduate of Western Kentucky University where she studied history and library media education.
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