Hands on Health in Cascade, MT, Home of the Badgers

Hello MosSE Readers!

This spring outreach tour has reminded me there is something magical in the varsity gymnasium in a rural school. It’s the school spirit on every wall. It’s the gleaming wood floors and bleacher seating that hosts entire communities. When you walk into these gyms, you can feel it; you almost hear the cheers and excitement echoing.  We at spectrUM know all too well, athletics aren’t the only thing that can fill the gym with raucous excitement.  That magic, that excitement- it can be for science, too!

Of course, spectrUM’s Hands on Health exhibit visits the gym equipped with a secret weapon, one capable of turning “science is boring” into “cool!” “wow!” and “awesome!”

“What is this secret weapon?” you ask.

I answer, “Science has the almighty eyeball.”

Our eyeball dissection never fails to draw an enthusiastic response from the crowd. Learning that your eyeball is filled with a crystal clear gelatinous goo called the viterouse humor- COOL! Visualizing your pupil as more than a black circle- as an actual window that lets light into your eye- WOW!  And  what could be more AWESOME than taking a look behind a cow’s retina to see the ultra vibrant tapetum, a crazy concentration of color and reflectivity that explains that deer-in- headlights glow and why many animals can see better at night? Well, take a look at the pictures, and then you tell me!


The back half of our cow eyeball, with tissuey retina intact


Gently pushing the retina aside exposes the magical colors of the mammalian tapetum

We saw almost 200 students in our day at Cascade, often with as many as 48 at a time! At this rate it can be hard to get everyone a good view of that vitreouse humor.  We had no problem in Cascade, however, thanks to a beautifully big gymnasium and some excellent help from the High School Honors Society.   This group of Honors kids jumped right in as science educators, even taking up the scalpel to dissect eyeballs.  Thanks, guys! You were a phenomenal help all day!


The Cascade Honors Society students get hands-on with – well – everything!

Also, thanks to Jennifer, who first found out about the spectrUM outreach program when researching opportunities for Cascade’s after-school program. What a great idea! The after-schoolers were able to visit  our Hands on Health exhibits twice, explore them all in depth, and bring their parents through at the end of their day. An extra thanks to our educator hosts,  Becky and Estelle, who graciously opened their homes to us weary road trippers. The conversation and homey atmosphere was much appreciated.

Our stop in Cascade was powered by the Cascade PTO and spectrUM’s “Science for All” scholarship fund.  For more information on spectrUM’s Science for All scholarships and opportunities for giving, visit : http://spectrum.umt.edu/index.html


Rolls in White Sulfur Springs

Sing with me MossSe readers:

Rollin’ rollin’ rollin,’ keep that U-Haul rolling!

Our MosSE Hands on Health exhibit, neatly packed in the U-Haul, has been rollin’ since we left White Sulfur Springs Wednesday evening, and sometimes, the highway speaks to me. Usually, it’s saying “thirty -two ounce  Dr. Pepper, please – with a straw and ice.”

This soda slurping might  seems a  bit less appealing to students in White Sulfur now.  A one-a-day habit of soda pop, when added to our normal diet and exercise, can add as much as 10-15 lbs. to our bodies!  Hands on Health gave White Sulfur Springs kids a chance to feel this extra weight, monitor their heart rate, and measure how much work it takes to carry 15 lbs. around. Jumping around in a weight vest will make your heart pump and your forehead sweat!  Young adult males ages 12-29 are the biggest  soda consumers, drinking an estimated 64 ounces, or two Big Gulps, a day!   We’re happy to report that soda slurping is under control in the White Sulfur schools.  No soda rolls here!  The vending machine won’t sell it, and  most soda drinkers we asked said they  try to abstain, at least during school hours.


spectrUM educator Lily shows the sugar hidden in your soda pop and its no- so-yummy effects on our health.

We were able to reach 11 of 12 grades in the White Sulfur schools.  The older students enjoyed the science makeover in their gymnasium so much that they kept poking in between preparations for their district’s music festival this weekend. Good luck, guys! We loved the combination of SpectrUM and pep band!

Tell the first graders and kindergartners -the classes of  2024 and 2025!- not to worry.   I’m sure  we’ll  be rollin your way again! Thanks to Janey, our host, who did a great job! This stop is powered by North Central Area Health Education Center. Thank You!


Diagnosing the giant sniffles with Big Nose in White Sulfur Springs

For more information on our Hands on Health exhibit and how to bring MosSE to your school you can visit: http://spectrum.umt.edu/programs/workshops.html

Anaconda or bust

Hello MosSE readers!

The 2013 spring outreach tour is on the road again, though it hardly felt like spring last night in Anaconda.  Today we brought spectrUM’s Hands on Health exhibit to the Anaconda Job Corps, an education and career technical training program run by U.S. Forest Service.  What a place this was! The view of the Pintlers that greets this campus every day is spectacular!


What a view from the Anaconda Job Corps Campus!

This stop was an awesome opportunity for spectrUM to reach a different audience, an opportunity that was a roaring success!  Over the course of the day, we were visited by 184 young adults – ages 17 to 25 years- who hail from at least seven different states, including Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, California, Arizona, even Kansas!

With such a jump from the elementary and middle school students we met in Lolo, we wondered how our program would go over with these folks.  We found was that not only did they enthusiastically help us move our exhibits AND personally cook us lunch, they were also super keen to explore the Hand on Health exhibits.  They whizzed through our surgery station, recognizing and replacing the internal organs with ease.  Our black light glow lotion, which is used in nursing and medical schools as a teaching tool for proper hand washing, proved especially interesting to the culinary arts class. Don’t forget those wrists, guys!


Anaconda Job Corps students practice taking vital signs with spectrUM’s Hands on Health outreach program

In addition to having a great  “all hands on deck”  attitude to exploring eyeballs, organs, and vital signs, many of these students were excited to learn about the career-oriented A.A.S (associate of applies science)  degrees offered at the University of Montana’s Missoula College (formerly the College of Technology.)  Missoula College offers  professional degrees in surgery tech, radiology, pharmacy technologies, respiratory care,  and  several different nursing programs.  The Anaconda Job Corps students left our exhibits with  a new appreciation for the many varied career opportunities in health care!


spectrUM educator Tony exploring the world of x- rays and advanced imaging technologies with Anaconda Job Corps students

What could make this visit more fun?  How about a visit from both the local Fox and ABC news crews and the local newspaper?  You can check out our press coverage at these links:



Thanks, Anaconda Job Corps, for having us, especially Sandra, who stuck by us the who crazy day.  Best of luck to all the new friends of SpectrUM in their future careers!

Now off to White Suflur Springs, home of the Hornets and, rumor has it,  some incredible hot springs!

SpectrUM springs into Lolo

Hello MosSE readers!

Did you know that the human intestines, not the stomach, are responsible for grabbing the nutrients and water out of foods we eat and passing them on to our bodies? How about this one: our two intestines combined, that’s the large and small, reach around 23 ft stretched out?

Almost 760 Lolo students, teachers, and community members- that’s over 16,000 feet of intestines!- had the chance to explore the digestive system and other bodily treats last week with the MosSE Hands on Health traveling exhibit. A few of the visitors’ favorite exhibits included the chance to assemble and disassemble life-like internal organs, pick a giant nose to find out why our body makes mucus, and participate in a live dissection.

Wait, what’s a dissection again? Just ask a Lolo kindergartner! They’ll tell you that dissection means cutting something open to see the different parts and what they do. That kindergartner would probably also tell you about the incredible insides of a cow eyeball. A generation of ophthalmologists is born!

Middle schoolers at Lolo participated in pig heart dissection. This gave them a chance to apply their newly acquired CPR certification as they massaged the different chambers of the heart and traced the path blood takes to the heart, out to the lungs, and back to the heart again. A few cardiologist were in the bunch for certain!

spectrUM educator, Tony, knuckle deep in a pigs heart  dissection

spectrUM educator Tony, knuckle deep in a pig heart dissection

We were thrilled that so many of our Lolo visitors had already had the opportunity to visit spectrUM, and we commend all the Lolo staff- from principals Dale and Dave to our super helpful maintenance staff- for the work they did to make sure that every student in the district had the chance to explore spectrUM’s Hands on Health exhibit. Every K-8 class who visited the exhibit over our four-day stay in the gym walked away with a better understanding of how our body works, what makes us healthy, and what kinds of opportunities lie ahead in the health sciences.

We couldn’t have asked for a better introduction for the spring tour. Thanks for all your enthusiasm, Lolo! This stop was powered by the Jane S. Heman Foundation. Thanks for the generous support!

We can’t wait to bring this exhibit on the road; then again, the sunny weather makes for lots of spring break enjoyment! Just remember as you bare those shoulders and knees: your skin is the largest organ in the body and warrants a bit of protection.

Viva la Sciencia!