Wheels are moving again with MosSE’s Spring tour, this time with a stop in Potomac, MT, home of the Potomac Pioneers. We set up our neuroscience exhibit in the Pioneers’ gym for school groups and Family Science Night, fittingly during Brain Awareness Week (http://www.sfn.org/BAW). Living just 30 minutes up the road from spectrUM’s home base in Missoula, many of the kids have been to our museums before, so it was a real treat for us to talk about the brain with some budding experts.
During the day, we explored a variety of neuroscience topics with 68 students in grades K-8. It’s neat that so much of what we know about the brain comes from studying experiences common to all humans, no matter the age. For example, have you ever had a memory pop up after smelling some aroma, or shaken a box you got in the mail to figure out what’s inside before excitedly opening it? Our Senses Station explores fascinating experiences such as these.
What great big brains! Do you know how big your brain is?
One of our favorite parts of the MosSE program is Family Science Night, because it gives students a chance to bring their friends and family to their museum-for-a-day and share what they’ve learned, or spend more time exploring topics that have been on their mind since earlier in the day. It’s also great getting to meet folks from the community who were not around during the school day. Family Science Night at Potomac was a blast, and we were stoked to see 43 people show up, mostly for the full 2 hour event!
Family Science Night!
In addition to learning about how our sense work, we also explore how the brain communicates chemically and electrically with the rest of the body. Using special glow-in-the-dark fruit flies, we can learn lots about genetics and the nervous system. The special fruit flies have a trait engineered into them called “bioluminescence,” which is a big word meaning “life that glows.” What bioluminescent animals can you think of, and what are some uses for engineering bioluminescence into plants and animals? There are tons of awesome applications in medicine, industry, sports, and the arts.
Two of the most popular stations are our Mind Flex game and our iPad electroencephalogram (EEG). These devices use brain electricity to power a variety of tasks and games. In addition to being a blast to play with, these devices help us understand how neurologists can measure and study brain and body functions.
Our brain and eyeball dissections are always a hit. Comparing the anatomy of the sheep brains we use for the dissections to human and other animal brains is a great way to really wrap our minds around the amazingness of the animal kingdom. We just ask that students please refrain from saying “ew!” if they are squeamish, though “ewe!” is perfectly acceptable.
We also did a special liquid nitrogen demonstration. No direct relationship to the neuroscience theme of the night, but any night that includes altering the states of our world’s more abundant gas is a good night.
…But it’s an amazing floor cleaner.
Colder than Montana in Winter!
Well, that’s it for now, but we would like to express our appreciation for the help, enthusiasm, and curiosity of the the Pioneers students, parents, faculty, and staff. We look forward to seeing you all again soon!
Jessie, Sarah, and Matt