Brains Thrive in Glendive!

To wrap up our fall MosSE tour we traveled east to the far reaches of our great state in the Montana badlands. In the town of Glendive, we encountered stunning geologic formations and dinosaur remains, as well as a thriving population of young neuroscientists.

Some of Glendive's up and coming neuroscientists getting "in touch" with brains!

Glendive’s budding neuroscientists get “in touch” with a brain.

We spent three days in Glendive helping students explore the many wonders of the most complex organ in our body.  “This was awesome!,” “Please come back next year,” and “Can we come back?” were frequently heard in the gym as students filed out after their field trips. Over 500 kids explored the exhibit during school and another 100 students and their family members dropped in for Family Science Night.

Focus can be fun! A Glendive student models one of our most popular activities in the Brain exhibit.

A Glendive student models one of the most popular Brain activities.

We enjoyed explaining how our genetics influence our lives, including our brain formation and our perception of the world around us. Students learned how similar the “recipe” for humans is to the “recipe” for fruit flies, despite the many apparent differences between our two species. Because we humans have so much in common with fruit flies, neuroscientists can experiment on fruit flies to learn more about the human brain…without all the sticky ethical problems of experimenting on humans.

A family explores our model organisms: glowing fruit flies! These fruit flies have glowing neurons, or brain cells, which allow us to see the internal structure of our nervous system.

A family explores our model organisms: glowing fruit flies. These fruit flies have glowing neurons, or brain cells, which allow us to see the internal structure of our nervous system.

As always, our exhibit on brain plasticity was a huge hit, as students and families challenged themselves to our visual rebound game to see how quickly their brains could adapt to new information.

Our brain continues to change and adapt even when our bodies finish growing! These community members test their brain plasticity at family science night.

Our brain continues to change and adapt even when our bodies finish growing. These community members test their brain plasticity at family science night.

Glendive students model our altered reality and upside-down goggles!

Glendive students model our altered reality and upside-down goggles.

We had a great time sharing our exhibits with the student-scientists of Glendive.

And that wraps up our fall tour! Stay tuned for our travels this spring!

See you on the other side!

See you on the other side!

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A Terr-ific Time in Terry

From Culbertson, we packed our giant brain into the U-Haul and moseyed 125 miles southwest to Terry, home of the Terriers. As we tell you about our time in Terry, we thought we’d also walk you through just a few of the exhibits and activities that students experienced in their school gym-turned-science museum.

Our entry (and exit) into the exhibit. I don't think the kids wanted to leave, but leaving through the massive Big Sky Brain Project brain makes it a little bit better.

Terry students entered the exhibit through…a giant brain, of course

  •  Can you trace a star while looking in a mirror? What can we learn about the relationship between sight and hand coordination from that experiment?  Can you identify a smell when you can’t see what you’re smelling? Do you know if you are a supertaster?  Do you know how hearing works? Five basic senses allow humans to perceive the world.  MosSE’s Senses Station helps us understand how they work.

    All sorts of cool things on this table.

    Families learning and exploring the senses at Family Science Night

  • Did you know that our brains use electricity to send signals around the body?  Have you ever heard someone say, “a light went on in my head” when they’ve had an idea?  Well, that expression is fitting when talking about brain waves and electroencephalograms (EEGs, for short).  A MosSE activity called Mind Games illustrates how electricity functions in our brains by letting us use our brain waves to make a ball float in the air.

    Intense concentration!

    Intense concentration!

  • Some plants and animals glow in the dark on their own.  It’s called bioluminescence, and sometimes scientists and doctors can make otherwise non-glowing things glow in order to learn about certain parts of anatomy.  During our stay in Terry, we saw many curious minds checking out MosSE’s special glowing fruit flies’ bioluminescent muscle cells and neurons.

    That is soooo cool!

    A young scientist explores bioluminescent fruit fly cells

In all, 143 Terry students experienced “Brain.” Family science night was also a huge success, with 90 children and their family members showing up to play and learn about neuroscience on an eventful Thursday night of Homecoming Week.

This tour stop was powered by the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation. Thanks also to the excellent students, faculty, and staff at Terry Public School. We are especially grateful to superintendent, Casey Klasna, for his enormous amount of help during our stay.  Also, Michelle and Thadius Wolff were the best hosts a couple MosSE educators could have. Mrs. Wolff’s culinary skills and knowledge of the town’s history were very impressive.

We had a great time in your community and can’t wait to see you next time!

"And as you can see here, a colossal brain."

A MosSE educator in training

Kickin’ Up Our Heels with the Cowboys and Cowgirls of Culbertson

Our recent MosSE tour stop brought us 540 miles from Missoula along the Hi-Line to Culbertson, MT, at the very eastern border with North Dakota. To put that distance in perspective, a 540-mile drive would take you from Washington, DC to Portland, ME!

Culbertson is a small Montana farming and ranching town, and now an oil boom town, with a population of a little under 1,000. The town’s centennial marker outside the library reads: “1887-1997 And Still Growing,” words that ring particularly true with the recent influx of people streaming into the Bakken region for jobs on the oil patch.

Culbertson may be a small town, but it has a big spirit. The Culbertson Cowgirls and Cowboys are involved in pretty much any activity you can think of, from Future Farmers of America to forensics. Of particular interest to us, the school also has a thriving Science Olympiad team.

Starting off our Culbertson field trips with the colossal brain!

A Culbertson student explores the Colossal Brain

During our visit we saw the entire school, 255 students in all, from the exuberant kindergarteners to the bright high school seniors. We knew we were doing something right when we walked down the hallway and the students all excitedly waved and told us how they were coming to Family Science Night.

Our entry (and exit) into the exhibit. I don't think the kids wanted to leave, but leaving through the massive Big Sky Brain Project brain makes it a little bit better.

Students entered and exited the exhibit through the massive Big Sky Brain Project brain.

The community turned out in full force for Family Science Night, which included a Science Olympiad Team bake sale, 143 kids and parents, and even live music from some talented high school pianists. The bake sale raised money for the team to buy t-shirts for their club and help to cover the costs to compete in the upcoming Bozeman tournament.

High school students providing some tunes for Family Science Night!

High school students provided some tunes for Family Science Night

What do fruit flies have to do with the brain? These kids already know, I guess you will have to ask them (or us) to find out!

What do fruit flies have to do with the brain? These kids are finding out.

Some of the Science Olympiad Team members modeling their tasty baked goods. It was too hard to walk past the delicious smells all night, so Matt caved and bought some cookies - what a great cause!

Some of the Science Olympiad Team members displaying their tasty baked goods.

PTC paper at the senses station proved to be a big hit as kids roped their parents into a genetic taste test to see if they had the genes to detect a bitter flavor. As always, visual rebound attracted the crowds as waves of kids sent basketballs flying into the air while experimenting with brain plasticity. Live brain dissections every half hour also drew large crowds. We had the opportunity to lead hands-on brain dissections, and every kid and parent who wanted a chance to try their hand at being a brain surgeon had an opportunity to make a few cuts of their own.

Future scientists of America engulfed in the giant brain! If they don't eat their brain food it looks like the brain might eat them . . .

Future scientists of America engulfed in the giant brain

Hopefully the Culbertson Cowboys and Cowgirls continue to stay passionate and engaged in science, because the kids from this award-winning Future Farmers of America school are going to make great future scientists in America!

This tour stop was powered by the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation.

Box Elder in Motion

MosSE is back on the road! This fall our truck wheels were turning as we traveled to Rocky Boy Reservation, the home of the Chippewa Cree Tribe, to explore the physics of motion. The Box Elder Bears’ gym transformed into a science wonderland as discs spun on the turntable and the Bernoulli blower floated wiffle balls into the air.

The Science Circus Arrives at Box Elder!

MosSE arrives at Box Elder

North Central Montana Talent Search helped bring this fun and interactive exhibit to the students of Rocky Boy. NCMTS works to encourages all students to consider higher education. The day went by so quickly as kids rushed in and out of the gym spinning, turning, and flying with the exhibits.

Box Elder students got to fly a plane over the Missoula Valley! Most of them tried not to crash . . .

Box Elder students got to fly a plane over the Missoula Valley with the flight simulator.

After a long day of field trips with over 550 students, we geared up for a Family Science Night, an opportunity for all of the students to come back and explore science and play with the exhibits even more. They also were able to show their parents what they had learned about physics that day, and the night was filled with laughter as parents watched their children learn about inertia while spinning around on a lazy Susan. 85 students and their family members celebrated science, community, and learning at our Family Science Night.

Students took a spin to learn about inertia!

Students took a spin to learn about inertia

We had such a great time meeting the Box Elder community and it seemed like the teachers and students had a great time too. Some kids asked us to come back next year and even continued exploring the exhibit right up until we had packed it away. We can’t wait to see some of these future scientists again someday at the University of Montana!

Box Elder's Mini-Scientist

Box Elder’s youngest scientist

Rocky Boy Students Explore Motion with MosSE

The school year is young, and the young scientists at Rocky Boy School were fantastic in putting some new knowledge into motion: the science of motion, to be specific.  Last week, MosSE was thrilled to bring an exhibit about flight, spin, gravity, and magnets to Rocky Boy, where we were greeted not only with amazing hospitality, but also some very excellent enthusiasm and curiosity from the students.

Ellen talking about the motion of spin with junior high science students.

456 Rocky Boy students experimented and played with a giant turntable, a flight simulator, a machine that makes a ball float, a variety of spinning tops, and much more.  We learned about Isaac Newton.  We learned about Johannes Kepler.  We learned about Daniel Bernoulli.  We even learned about everyone’s favorite frizzy haired, tongue-sticking-out physicist, Albert Einstein. Students of all ages at Rocky Boy left the museum (their school gym) with lots of new knowledge about physics.  What a great group of kids and welcoming faculty and staff.

Magnets!

Exploring magnetism

Turntable fun in high school science class

Enjoying the turntable exhibit

Scaling down some big concepts is often the first step in learning about scientific laws and ideas.  Since seeing solar systems and black holes first hand can be quite difficult, check out the Gravity Well.  Watching the coins spin never gets old:

Well, well, well... If it isn't the Gravity Well.

Well, well, well… If it isn’t the Gravity Well.

Students also flocked to our ever-popular flight simulator.

The sky's the limit when one has a curious mind!

The sky’s the limit when one has a curious mind

On behalf of spectrUM, the University of Montana, and science educators everywhere, thank you Rocky Boy School for welcoming us into your school and community and sharing in the experience of scientific discovery with us. Warm regards, Ellen and Matt