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Lesson Plan

Comic strip of the life of a deer

After assembling the deer skeleton, discuss how it died, then draw a comic strip of it's life and death, using graphic techniques to make time go slower and faster.
Science content (2016 curriculum): 
Biology: Life Cycles (2)
Biology: Food Webs, Ecosystems, Biomes (3, 4)
Activities in this lesson plan: 

Assemble the deer skeleton.

Lay out the assembled deer.
Ask students what they noticed about the skeleton that might give us clues about its life and what happened after it died.
Listed in probable order of events:
Probably had bad toothache before it died, as a molar is missing on one side. The gum would be rubbed by the opposite sharp teeth.
How did it die? Maybe got it’s foot stuck in a boulder, or broke it’s leg. Maybe it got an bacterial infection from the damaged gum. Maybe it caught a disease from another deer. Maybe attacked by a predator.
Missing lower half of a leg. Likely that another carnivorous animal took the leg after the deer had died.
Tooth marks on the skull. Small rodents scraped the last of the flesh away.
The bones were white when I found them. Beetles, worms, bacteria and fungi ate as much as they could.

Comic strip art: the story of how this deer died and what happened to its body

Draw as a comic strip a part of the story of how the deer died and what happened to its body as it is recycled into other living things.
Some events will take a long time (e.g. the years of toothache, the slow decompostion of the body by bacteria and fungi) and some will happen fast (e.g. a predator killing the deer, the small rodents eating the meat from the bones).
Use tricks of graphic artists to show how fast events are happening.
Quote from Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud: “Each panel shows a frozen moment in time. Between the panels, our mind fill in, to create the illusion of time and motion.”
From experience we know about how much time has passed between panels (show two pairs of images in the centre of p.100). But the graphic artist can emphasize and lengthen or shorten the time between panels using some tricks:
1. Shape of the panel: Lengthen/shorten a panel to make more/less time pass. p.101. Bone p.73, 18. (Bone: Out from Boneville by Jeff Smith)
2. Use visual complexity in a panel or add dialog, so that it takes time for the reader to move through the panel, and there is a sequence of events. p.95. Bone p.49. With less visual complexity and no dialog, the reader will move faster through the panel, and time will seem to go faster. Bone p.98
3. Number of panels: draw two or more panels the same to show time passing. “Pause panels”. p.100. Bone p.41, 52.
4. Closure between the panels: widen/narrow the space between the panels for time passing slowly/fast. p.101. Bone p.93.
5. Border of panel: borderless panel gives a timeless quality. Leave border off top or run panel off side of page. p. 102, 103. Bone p.26.

Grades taught: 
Gr 4
Gr 5
Gr 6
Romy Cooper
Site tested: 
General Gordon Elementary