I Spy the Missouri


spectrUM educator Lily demonstrates neuron communication with a little help from a volunteer

Fort Benton, a friendly town located on the Missouri River, was established by Auguste Chouteau and Pierre Chouteau, Jr. of St. Louis in 1847. Who would have guessed that over 165 years later, this fur trading post would become a destination for MosSE? Last year, we brought Hands on Health, and the students were great. This year, we brought Brain, and the students exceeded all expectations! With two full days in one of the oldest settlements in the American West, the fun never stopped. We served a total of 370 people, including K-8 of Fort Benton, Geraldine, and Highwood. On top of that, a lively Family Science Night brought in many families and a special guest. In the words of one teacher at Fort Benton, “The kids had a wonderful time! Thank you for being so enthusiastic and showing them how much fun we can have in science!” We would go on telling you how great of a time it was, but a picture is worth a thousand words, and if these pictures had frontal lobes, then they would have a lot to say. The River Press of Fort Benton also came on by and put together a lovely article. Be sure to check it out at:  http://www.riverpressnews.com/More_Articles/Entries/2014/4/16_Entry_1.html

Though we only were only in Fort Benton for two days, we felt like it was a home away from home. The students and residents treated us like one of their own. We received many hellos and “hey, you’re those science dudes!” while walking around the town. We look forward to returning once more to this lovely town on the Missouri River.

Our thanks go out to Chouteau County PEAK for powering this event, Anna Arganbright for helping organize the details, the teachers, staff, and students of Fort Benton, Geraldine, and Highwood, and all the residents of Fort Benton. Go Longhorns!

Here is a smattering of photos from our wonderful visit to Fort Benton:



Local role model Ryan Rominger poses next to the Colossal Brain.


Getting up close and personal with fruit flies


Geraldine came to visit our exhibit


Can you make the ball float using only your brain waves?


Exploring the eye-brain connection at the senses station


Brain waves in motion



Chicks in Science



MSU Billings 2014 Chicks in Science was an amazing event that gave girls from grades 4-8 a chance to participate in hands-on-science and learn about career opportunities in the sciences. As you can see from the picture directly below, it was a packed event.


MSU Billings Chicks in Science 2014

After a great day of Hands of Health with the students of Orchard Elementary School, we were ecstatic to present again on a larger scale and the girls were ready to get hands on:

Giant Nose?… No Problem! They reached inside, grabbed a sample of mucus, and identified the germ infecting it.


A case of mixed up organs for Anabody?… Ailment solved! A little teamwork and they had her back in working order.


And what about the case of the unidentified cow eye parts? Case Closed! Parts identified.


In all, it was an unforgettable experience. We look forward to seeing these Chicks in Science grow into successful careers in science!

Our thanks go out to MSU-Billings for putting on such an outstanding event. We hope to be back next year!

Blooming Minds at Orchard School


A wonderful overview of Orchard School in Billings

For those of you who are less familiar with Montana, let’s put the Treasure State in perspective. A big city for Montana has a population of over 50,000. Billings, the largest city in the state, has a population just over 100,000! It was time for MosSE to show the big city what it was made of. We drove across half the state and reached Billings well before sundown. Entering the city, we were greeted by the largest building in all Montana, the First Interstate Tower, at 272 ft. Afraid we might get caught up in the big city commotion, we headed straight to our first destination, Orchard School, and unloaded the Hands on Health exhibits. Next, we took off to the MSU Billings Alumni House, where we were graciously invited to stay the night. Early next morning, it was back over to the school and to prepare for a full day of science fun with the elementary school. We spent the whole day learning and performing interactive science with our Hands on Health exhibits. These exhibits included:

-Anabody: the human model that lets others remove and insert the various organs of her body image-3







-Giant Nose: a nose so large, no one can resist picking it and identifying the germs in its mucus








-X-Ray Station: a chance to compare different bones of the body, both intact and broken

-Nutrition Station: teaches us about what is in our food and how it affects our bodies

-Health Station: checks blood pressure, blood-oxygen saturation, heart rate, and body temperature before and after physical activity to see how they change

-Germ Station: apply a blacklight detected lotion on the hands, and with a high-five here and a high-five there, watch those germs spread, then wash the hands and check back under the blacklights to see if you washed well enough

-Cow Eye Dissection: the intricate parts of the eye are revealed







By the end of the day we had served 296 kids! Luckily, we had plenty of cow eyes and giant nose simulated mucus to go around for all of them, and Anabody was patient and understanding enough to have her organs removed and inserted over and over again without complaining (a doctor could not ask for a more perfect patient). Not a bad start for our first full day in the big city. Our next destination in Billings: Chicks in Science. We would like to extend a special thanks to Orchard School and the Washington Foundation for powering this event, all the students, staff, and families of Orchard School for participating, and MSU Billings Alumni Relations for housing us in their lovely alumni house.

Brain Spotted in Anaconda!


Welcome to Anaconda, Montana!

Fun fact for all you budding engineers, physicists, mathematicians, and architects out there:  at 178m (science is all about the metric system), Anaconda’s iconic smelter stack is the largest free-standing masonry structure in the world! But there is another wonder of Anaconda, tucked away on Foster Creek: The Job Corps. We could not have asked for a friendlier welcome or a more breathtaking view when we pulled in to greet the staff and unloaded the Brain Exhibit.


An overview of Anaconda’s Job Corps center

After weeks of bringing hands-on-science to grades K-8, we were ready for a new challenge. Here at the Job Corps, we had the chance to test out the exhibits on older students and employees from their teens all the way up their mid 20’s. One thing was for sure: all the people at Job Corps rock! Their thirst for knowledge could not be quenched. They focused their brains on learning more about the brain, or more simply put, knowing about knowing, or more technically put, metacognition. On top of that, they had their own wonderful and adventurous insights and experiences to share with us. Whether they were chefs, heavy machinery operators, brick layers, mechanics, or managers, they brought it to us, super-brain style, and asked some in-depth questions that made our own brains sweat just thinking about the answer. In total we served 108 people, all of them fantastic, and all of them dedicated in what they are learning and doing. We even got some great press coverage in the Anaconda Leader: http://spectrum.umt.edu/press/APR%2011%20P2.pdf  Thank you Anaconda Job Corps for powering this event, and thanks to all the students and workers for your participation and inquisitiveness in science!


Job Corps workers posing in front of their welcoming sign

MosSE strolls into Bozeman


Sheep brain dissection exploration

Sheep brain dissection exploration

Our next stop took us to Whittier Elementary School in Bozeman, Montana. There the Colossal Brain and all the neuroscience exhibits made their next appearance. And what an appearance it was!


Learning about how our brain works with the rest of our body at the Senses Station


Can your brain adjust to the upside down goggles?







A total of 333 students participated and and took part in hands-on-science.   On top of an excellent full day of neuroscience with all the students, we had an outstanding Family Science Night. We could not have asked for a better turnout. We would like to personally thank Principal Darren Schlepp for help organizing, all the Whittier Staff for their support and participation, the families and students of Whittier, and Bozeman Education Initiative for powering this event. There is nothing more satisfying then seeing Griz and Bobcat fans share science together!!!

Lolo on My Brain


Learning about the world inside our heads

If you are reading this, then be sure to thank your brain. With around 100 billion neurons (brain cells) communicating with each other, it should come as no surprise that your brain can do amazing things. We smell, taste, hear, see, and touch. We make lots of decisions every day, chat with our family and friends, learn new information at school, home, or work, and perform a variety of physical tasks, some of which we do not even think about, like breathing and digesting food. All of these seemingly simple things require having a brain that could out-perform any supercomputer on the planet. That’s amazing! And for four days, MosSE had the wonderful opportunity to bring hands-on science exhibits about the brain to Lolo and show all the K-8 students just how special that organ in their head is!

The exhibits included:

Colossal Brain– a large colored brain detailing the different lobes and parts of the brain

Visual Rebound– a basketball shooting game where people take shots with vision-impairing goggles to demonstrate the brain’s plasticity (the ability to adjust and change to new information)

Brain Waves– a headset that lets us see our own brain waves or use these same brain waves to play Mind Flex (a favorite of all the students)

Microscopes– which let us see glowing bug brains and understand how scientists study the brains of other animals

Senses Station– a chance to test out your five senses and see how accurate they are

Brain Dissection– yep, that’s right! a brain dissection. Hands on touching and seeing of an actual sheep’s brain (definitely a crowd pleaser!)

Exploring sheep brains

Checking out the glowing fruit flies

Between viewing glowing bug brain neurons under the microscope and holding a sheep’s brain, there is fun for the whole family!

In total, we had 572 students come through and experience the exhibits. That’s 572 people in the world who made some more connections between the neurons in their brain (that’s what we call “learning”!). The experience was so outstanding that even the local news station ABCFox came on by. Here’s a link to the news clip:   http://www.abcfoxmontana.com/story/25072732/traveling-exhibit-teaches-rural-students-about-the-brain    

Thanks, Lolo K-8 students and staff for the wonderful opportunity to explore science with you! A special thanks to Principal Dale Olinger for coordinating our visit and to the Jane S. Heman Foundation for powering our visit.