Tour Days 27-29: Northern Cheynne Reservation 2009

The last three days have been a blur! First off, on Thursday we toured the science wing of Chief Dull Knife College before heading over to the elementary school with volunteer college students. The protégés of Bob Madsen, science professor extraordinaire, helped us set up before hanging their own shining research posters in the gym for the community to see. They’ve been hard at work developing a cheap water filter made of a mix of zeolite and cement, which filters out virtually all bacteria and viruses, rendering potable water. They were eager to practice explaining their research on us before they take it to the TCUP convention in DC this week!

The next morning we opened to the Lame Deer community, home of the Northern Cheyenne Indians. About 65 children and families came to check out this new and different activity called hands-on science. They loved it! It becomes more and more apparent that isolated rural and tribal communities are eager to enjoy and explore the healthy and stimulating atmosphere of the mobile science center called MosSE, Montana spectrUM Science Experience.

Another day in Lame Deer provided us with the delight of answering and asking interesting questions of our visitors, modeling and playing together with families, witnessing the power and presence of local community volunteer support and engagement, and of squealing with utter delight all over again at the crashing of KEVA planks to the floor.

Oh, and Matt may take a physical sciences teaching position at Chief Dull Knife College this fall, go Matt!

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Tour Day 24-Crow Reservation 2009

Today we set up in Crow Agency, on the Crow Reservation, the Apsaalooke Nation. The two symbols above the pipe are a medicine bag and a sweat lodge.

A few families visited us today, as well as the Bighorn County News, and a class of adult students learning about heavy equipment. Their instructor, Dan, led his students through the exhibits explaining many practical applications of the science involved.

For instance, iron filings are used in identifying cracks in big engine blocks. The area with the possible crack is magnetized and iron filings are dropped on it and instead of filling the crack, they are repelled by the crack and instead line up along the crack, making it visible.

Today we proved that adults just as well as kids can have fun and learn from fun hands-on science! It was also a gift to discover another science enthusiast and impromptu educator. Thanks Dan.

Tour Day 20-Fort Peck Reservation 2009

Had a fantastic day today! During the morning, field trips of 1st through 3rd graders in groups of about 60 kids came up from Southside Elementary, and during the afternoon the 4th, 5th and 6th graders from Northside explored with the exhibits. We also had three groups from the highschool visit, and everyone seemed to have a great time. Some of the teachers mentioned how great it was to have something both fun and educational to capture the kids’ attention on the second-to-last day of school.

We made a great friend, the school district nurse Angie, who helped us out immensely with rounding up volunteers, feeding us dinner, and providing a caravan service for kids who didn’t have rides in to the Family Science Night. Angie also found out that it was possible to make liquid nitrogen ice cream, and decided that she could provide the makings for it. She bought milk, cream, sugar and flavoring, and two helpings of root beer-flavored stick-to-your-tongue ice cream made the night a huge hit! Thanks Angie!

We also learned something new about the uses for liquid nitrogen when a teacher told us that she used it to brand her horses, since it was less painful to the animals and safer. Learn something new every day!

Tour Day 19- Fort Peck Reservation 2009

On the road again, driving from where we spent the night in Malta to Northside Elementary in Wolf Point. The cursed milk bottle was disposed of with great ceremony this morning at the motel, but we won’t be able to determine the effects for a few days at least. Matt took a little time to stop by the two dinosaur museums in Malta on our way out of town, but didn’t get enough time there and is determined to make it back soon.

We set up in the gym at Northside with the assistance of several kids recruited from the highschool, and wandered off to find housing and meet Matt’s parents for dinner.

Tour Day 18- Fort Belknap Reservation 2009

School groups from the Hays-Lodgepole area (from the southern part of the reservation) came up to see us today, with kids ranging in age from kindergartners to 8th graders. Many of the local kids from yesterday came back to see us again, and brought more of their family members with them.


One of the professors at the college thanked us for bringing the exhibits in and for interacting with the kids. He told us of his concerns for science education on the reservation, which is apparently being curtailed by the rules laid down by the No Child Left Behind Act. Time and money are being taken away from teaching science and are being redirected toward other subjects, and he’s worried about the effects that will have on the kids’ overall education.

We closed up in the late afternoon, and a couple of the local kids stuck around to help us clean. While Matt and Emily were loading one of the exhibits, Emily’s finger got mashed pretty badly. Fortunately it doesn’t appear to be broken, but for a while until it heals we are going to have to hope we have volunteers who can help us with the heavy lifting.

Today was also a day of strange happenings, with random mishaps like misbehaving and leaky exhibits. Thanks to a scientific process of elimination, we decided that the fault lay with an empty milk bottle that we’ve been carrying around (we intended to recycle it, then forgot). We think it’s now full of bad luck. Tomorrow we will find away to properly dispose of it, possibly involving ritual sacrifice. We’ll let you know if it works.

Tour Day 17-Fort Belknap Reservation 2009

Happy Memorial Day!

We pulled into Fort Belknap College this morning a little before 8:00 am, and backed the U-Haul up to the Little River Learning Lodge. The town of Fort Belknap is located on the far north-western corner of the Fort Belknap Reservation, home to the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine tribes. We were visited throughout the day by several kids and a few families looking for something to do on this holiday. A few of the kids elected to spend almost the entire day with us, exploring and experimenting with the exhibits, enjoying liquid nitrogen Cheetos, and investigating the physics of superballs.

Aeolian Landscape is drawing some interesting reactions from kids out on this side of the Rocky Mountains: many of them at first take the fine sand inside to be snow, because they have seen snow move like the sand in the exhibit first hand almost every winter.

We also noticed that the kids were really interested in a lot of the pictures and posters up on the walls of the college: Many of the pictures depict members of the local community who have gotten degrees at the college and gone far in the community, while the posters cover current research on everything from human health to local wildlife and resources.

Tour Day 15-Fort Belknap Reservation

Today was a full day of edification on our way to Fort Belknap College, where we’re staying just north in Harlem. Our first appointment was with a Mrs. Anna Brumley, tour manager of the Wahkpa Chu’gn Buffalo Jump, just behind the mall in Havre. The jump is a spot along the Milk River where several generations of tribes drove small herds of bison over the edge of the cliff and into a corralled area to make them easier to hunt. We stopped along the trail at several points to examine archeological digs of layers beneath the jump. We both tried our hand at the atlatl, a device hunters used to increase thrust of a spear between 20-40%, with reported accuracy at 90 meters (not us of course).

On the way to Harlem, we detoured south on 240 from Chinook to the Bears Paw Battleground, Nez Perce National Historic Park. This is the sight where 400 US soldiers ambushed the Nez Perce just 40 miles from the Canadian border, where they sought freedom. The Nez Perce had journeyed over a thousand miles and stopped to rest in late September in a low creek valley with shelter from the wind, water to drink, and buffalo nearby. The initial U.S. attack turned into six days of siege, after which the Nez Perce leader, Chief Joseph, his people frozen and starving, uttered his famous speech, which included these words; “From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.” People have left personal belongings at the grave markers. It was a solemn and reflective walk.

On our way back through Chinook we were dismayed to learn that the new Wildlife Museum was closed so we drove around the corner to photograph a statue of Mr. C.M. Russel, and asked some men working on a sign what to do in Chinook. When we mentioned we were traveling with science exhibits, one of the men offered to take us on a tour of the very museum we had just missed; he does the drywall and framing for the museum and often gives tours. This museum features many wildlife specimens and a most exciting rendition of a buffalo jump!
Tomorrow, Fort Belknap College!

Tour Day 14-Fort Belknap Reservation 2009

Last night at Evergreen Campground was chilly, but the day turned sunny and warm.Today we drove 40 miles to Fort Belknap Communty College to post flyers, check out our set-up spot for Monday and Tuesday, and look for lodging close by. Unfortunately the only hotel in the area is up for sale, but we found that bicycle campers have a special allowance to camp on the lawn of the Harlem Town Hall and we could do the same. Robin, a lovely lady who told us about rescuing a mouse from the swimming pool behind Town Hall, told us also to check about lodging with a lady on the edge of town. She rents out two apartments in her big old farm house. We’ll be staying there Sunday and Monday night so we’re close to the college. In the meantime, we’re headed back to Evergreen and Havre for a couple more nights of camping. Ooh, we found a malt shop in Chinook and enjoyed a cool treat on this warm spring day.

Tour Day 13-Havre 2009

Excitement today as we’re closing in on Havre! We stopped to take pictures of this lovely old school house:

As we approached to peer in the windows we had quite a surprise. Matt heard something hit a piece of wood next to him and looked down and shouted, “snake!” It took a me a second to register his concern, just in time to step away from the rattling snake. She had struck the wood next to Matt’s leg and was recoiling to strike again as he jumped out of reach. She had been happily sunning herself there camouflaged against the old wood and rocks and she was quite perturbed at our appearance. Her rattle became louder as we gawked, trying to get some good pictures, and she rattled herself right down into a crack under the old school-her territory now.


Recovering from the adrenaline rush and working out our story, we drove to a nice campground to set up camp. Evergreen campground is located a few miles southwest of Havre on a nice wooded family farm, an oasis on the dry and windswept plains.

We made it into Havre just in time for the last underground tour of the day. What a fascinating collection of donated and acquired items depicting life in the last centuries in the west! One of my favorite items was a cream separator. Our tour guide said every farm with a cow had one. He remembers they’d separate the milk everyday and save the cream for Saturdays when they’d churn it into butter. Yum!

One of Matt’s favorite areas was the old pharmacy, where you could get a vast variety of drugs and elixirs for almost anything that might ail you, including good ol’ snakeoil! No, he doesn’t harbor any bad feelings toward that snake from the schoolhouse – that’s really what they called the stuff!

Tour Day 11-Shelby 2009

Today we headed off in search of an internet connection so we could update this blog and check our connections with the next several stops.

We found the Sportsclub on Main (try the Wicked Burger and the Barnyard Burger) and ran into Hob, who used to cook for the Union Club, one of Emily’s favorites, in Missoula.