Introduction: X-ray: Bones of the Hand

About: Science City At Home content is sponsored by MRIGlobal. Internationally awarded for “Great Visitor Experience” by ASTC and regionally voted “Favorite Family Friendly Attraction” by Visit KC, Science City one o…

An X-ray is a type of electromagnetic radiation known for its ability to see through our skin and show us images of the bones beneath it.

X-rays were discovered in 1895 by Wilhelm Conrad Röentgen. According to a “History of Radiology,” Röentgen observed crystals near a high-voltage cathode-ray tube exhibiting a fluorescent glow, even when he shielded them with dark paper.

Some form of energy was being made by the tube that was shielded by the paper and making the crystals glow. This unknown energy was called X-radiation

Experiments showed that this radiation could pass through soft tissues but not bone and would make shadow images on photographic plates. What we know as the X-Ray today.

For this activity we are exploring the bones of the hand as an X-ray.

When you look at your body, how many bones do you think make up one of your hands?

One of our hands is made up of 27 individual bones! Can you imagine?


Dark paper (or cardboard)
Q-Tips (or strips of white paper)
White crayon or color pencil

Step 1: Trace Your Hand

Using your white crayon or colored pencil trace your hand onto your dark paper. Put to the side.

The paper will be our photographic plate as used in X-Rays!

A photographic plate is what X-rays images are produced on. Soft tissues allow the X-rays to pass through them and when the X-ray hits the photographic plate it turns it black. Dense tissues like bone absorb X-rays so these show as white on the photographic plate.

Step 2: Cut the Q-tips (or Paper)

Using your scissors cut your Q-tips to different sizes, both short and long.

Remember, our hand is made up of 27 bones: 8 carpal bones, 5 metacarpal bones and 14 phalanges. About one quarter or ¼ of all our body's bones are found in our hands.

Step 3: Arrange Your Bones

Take your paper where your hand is traced and using the image of the “bones of the hand” above, arrange your Q-tips to make your X-Ray.

Remember to put your phalanges, metacarpal, and carpel in the correct areas.

Step 4: Glue Your Bones

After you have arranged your bones, you are ready to glue them carefully to your X-Ray. Try doing only one bone or finger at a time as to not scatter your arrangement.

Think of the glue as the tendons or muscles (soft tissue) that x-rays travel through!

Step 5: (optional) Label Your X-Ray

Your X-Ray is complete! Make sure to label your X-ray with the patient's name and identify any broken bones within your X-ray!

For more information about Science City, visit or follow us on Facebook @ScienceCityKC. Remember, to tag us or hashtag #ScienceCityKC.