Learning the Bones and Muscles of the Head and Face

Charles T. Buzek John Spry School
2400 S. Marshall
Chicago IL 60603
(312) 345-1700


To create an awareness of the complexity of the human body.
To cultivate a life-long interest in the student's personal anatomy.
To learn the most important bones and muscles of the head and face.

Materials Needed:

No materials necessary. The student will be using their own cranium for the
activity. An anatomy wall chart or dummy will be useful but not essential.


Start with the only movable bone of the skull-the mandible. Ask students to
trace the outline. The mandible possesses a complement of teeth. These are
of four types. Students will be able to feel or see the dentition of a partner.

The four types of teeth are incisors, canines, premolars, and molars.
The maxillary bone lies just above the mandible. It carries the upper dentition
which mirrors the lower jaw.

The nasal bone is next for examination. It protects only half of the nose.
The frontal bone corresponds to the forehead. This bone and the others we will
discuss for the top portion of the brain serve to cushion and protect that
important organ.

Students should touch the top part of their skulls. This is the parietal bone.
It is separated from the frontal by a suture which fuses together with other
skull bones after we are born.

The next area of study is the occipital lobe. It is in the back of the head.
The student can feel a bump there. Students should know that the area of the
brain protected by this bone deals with our ability to see.

Along the sides of the skull the students can find the temporal bone. This
leads them to a bump just above their jaw which is formed by a bridge of bone
called the zygomatic arch. This outcropping of bone serves an important
purpose as an attachment for strong chewing muscles which we will discuss next.

The above completes the examination of the bones of the skull. We turn now to
the muscles and in particular those attached to the zygomatic bone discussed
above. These are the temporalis and masseter muscles. Students should chew on
something (a grape is good for this) and feel the muscles contract as they chew.
The muscles which allow us to use our faces expressively are discussed now.

The muscle that surrounds the eye is called the orbicularis oculi. Each student
should wink and feel the muscle contract.

Another ring of muscles that we use constantly is the orbicularis ori. This
circles the mouth and allows us to shape words, eat, express emotions etc.
One emotion that we can express with our mouths is laughter. We can pull
back our orbicularis ori using a muscle attached to that muscle and the
zygomatic arch. This is called the zygomaticus. Students can feel that muscle
by indulging in a little risibility.
Do you know a good joke?

Follow Up:

As mentioned in my previous activity students learn what they use. After this
activity the teacher should use every opportunity to reinforce the lesson.
Quizzes may be given in which actions are listed. The students are then asked
to name the muscle or bone that allows that action to happen.
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