Gross Anatomy

Spotted Owl, Strix occidentalis.

Academic Level

Ontario: grade 5
Quebec: elementary cycle 3


Gross Anatomy is a hands-on, inquiry-based exploration of mammalian anatomy and what it reveals about the way mammals have adapted to their habitats. Students examine animals' dentition, digestive systems, and scat replicas to make links between these physical adaptations and their place in the food web. Students learn about the principles of digestion and the conversion of food to energy. They study the digestive systems of several animals including a rabbit, a pigeon, a pig and a ruminant, as well as a human's digestive system. Students engage in a real anatomy lesson.


50 minutes

Schedule and Cost

  • October 21, 2014 – June 18, 2015
  • Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday
  • Workshop starting time: 9:30 a.m., 10:45 a.m.
  • $8 per student for the workshop (tax not included)
  • Second workshop on the same day: $4 per student (tax not included)
  • See if your class qualifies for Nature Express, our financial-aid programme.

Specific Curriculum Links



Grade 5

Science and Technology
Understanding Life Systems: Human Organ Systems Understanding Basic Concepts

  • Identify major systems in the human body and describe their roles and interrelationships.
  • Describe the basic structure and function of major organs in the digestive system.

Hide the specific curriculum links for Ontario.



Elementary Cycle 3

Mathematics, Science and Technology Competency 1: To propose explanations for or solutions to scientific or technological problems

Essential Knowledges / Living Things / Matter

  • Metabolism of plants and animals, Anatomy of animals.

Essential Knowledges / Living Things / Systems and Interaction

  • Interaction between living organisms and their environment.

Hide the specific curriculum links for Quebec.


A bear near a garbage can.

The class is divided into six working groups and each group sits together at a lab table. Each group has a tool case for dissecting an owl pellet, a set of skulls (rabbit, deer, owl, coyote, shrew, black bear and human), notepaper and pencils. The programme unfolds in three steps:

  1. Examining mammalian dentition
  2. Examining the mechanics of digestive systems
  3. Dissecting the products of digestion (pellets).
    To culminate the activity, student groups make presentations of their hypothesis and findings to their colleagues.

Role of the Teacher

  • Divide the class into six teams
  • Observe the students' strategies
  • Encourage questioning
  • Guide the students in the safe use of the tools at their disposal.

Role of the Student

  • Work collaboratively
  • Examine the data
  • Use a variety of observational techniques and tools (e.g., microscope, computer)
  • Formulate questions
  • Put forward hypotheses
  • Use different types of reasoning (e.g., deduction, comparison)
  • Communicate results.

Additional Resources

Natural History Notebooks. [Online]. Canadian Museum of Nature.
Short articles, photos and illustrations for more than 250 animals, notably mammals and birds.


Information and Reservations

Reserve now!


  • 613.566.4701 / 1.800.263.4433
  • TTY: 613.566.4770 / 1.866.600.8801