Once more to the Flathead Reservation!

Recently, MosSE returned to St. Ignatius, a small community of about 850 residents on the Flathead Indian Reservation. This was our second consecutive year participating in the annual Kids’ Health Fair, sponsored by Salish and Kootenai Tribal Health and Human Services and held at the Mission Community Center.  This year’s theme was….the brain!!!  Good thing we brought along one of our top educators from this past fall outreach tour to lead us through a hands-on brain dissection.

What does that look like? Check it out in this picture!


Hands-on exploration builds an understanding of what’s going on between your ears for a young scientist at the annual Kids Health Fair in St. Ignatius, MT

Can you think of any things a person can do that a sheep can’t? Do you think your brain would look different than this one? How?

Public school was out for the day, but we enjoyed visiting with over 80 students and community members at the Nk’usm Salish Language Institute.  From the honoring and welcome song dedicating the event to the inspiring guest of honor – Magene Asay – to the free body composition scan and analysis from Tribal Health nurses, it was our pleasure celebrate and learn with this community.

“We just want all the kids aware of their health,” said  Asay, a longtime THHS health educator. Bernie Azure of Char-Koosta News recognized spectrUM’s efforts towards this goal in a previous article as well as a more recent article.


The Mission community opened the event with traditional drumming and song

This is not the first time MoSE has visited the Flathead Indian Reservation. The 2009 spring MosSE tour visited Salish Kootenai College, giving 435 kids from eight local schools the opportunity to explore our activities and exhibits.  Our most recent experience reminds us to keep nurturing our valuable connections with our neighbors.   We’re sure MosSE will be back again soon!


Circus of Science in Lincoln, MT: The Fall Wrap-Up

Hi, MosSe Readers!

The brain made its final school visit for the fall tour. This time we traveled to Lincoln, MT, where we saw 221 people, including all of the K-12 Lincoln School and Helmville School students. Many families came out for the Circus of Science family science night where, in addition to our regular fun exhibits, we had more brain wave games and a listening corner where students could enjoy treats while sharing with us and with Montana magazine journalists what they learned during our visit.

SpectrUM’s Lincoln school visit will be featured in Montana Magazine in January 2014 and was also covered by the Blackfoot Valley Dispatch. We thank the Montana Community Foundation for funding this trip.


Overall, for the Fall MosSE tour, we visited four schools and saw 1,424 people. Since the launch of our mobile outreach program in 2006, spectrUM has driven over 22,100 miles to bring educators, exhibitions, and programs to 60 different schools in 23 Montana counties, including all 7 Montana Indian Reservations. All together, our mobile science programs have served over 34,080 people, of whom over 30% are Native American and 75% from rural communities.


The Brain goes to Stevensville!

Stevensville opened its doors and welcomed us and our Brain exhibit into its halls. Around 500 students visited us in total, and about 60 people participated in Family Science Night. This time we had mostly younger kiddos (grades K-7) in our audience.

These young Stevensville students were a lot of fun to teach! Coming in to the presentations, the kindergarteners were ready to raise theirs hands and point to where their brains are (in their heads, thankfully). They already knew that their brains help them think, play, grow, and pick out Halloween costumes, but they were all  surprised to learn that they had electricity in their brains (in the form of synapses and brain waves).

First graders loved the Visual Rebound exhibit. Many of them showed super adaptable brains, making more baskets with the brain boggling goggles on than off!


Visual rebound challenges students to get their brains to adapt to changes in vision brought on by wearing our Brain Boggling Goggles

After visiting us, the second graders decorated the school halls with smart and colorful hand-drawn pictures of the lobes of the brain. Several of the third graders also made us smile when they offered us high-fives and called out “Science rules!” whenever we saw them in the halls and the schoolyard. The Stevensville students asked us lots of great questions, such as: where do headaches come from? And, why do we dream?


The sheep brain dissection station

Family Science Night was packed, with the brain dissection and the Mind Flex game drawing eager audiences. A pair of twins performed an intense neck-and-neck stand-off in Mind Flex, as did many pairs of best friends, parents, and siblings.

One teacher told us that our exhibit fit in really well with their curriculum, which made the trip to Stevensville that much more rewarding!

Thanks for having us, Stevensville!

This stop was powered by the Jane S. Heman Foundation


Stevensville students battle with brainwaves in the Mind Flex game.

The Brain Hits the Road: Our Fall Tour Kicks Off in Corvallis!

Hello again, MosSe Readers!

At last! We’ve kicked off spectrUM’s new fall tour, taking our neuroscience exhibit, “The Brain: A World Inside Your Head,” to Corvallis High School, where we saw about 600 middle and high school students during the school day, plus numerous students brought their parents and siblings back for a night of neuroscience exploration at our Family Science Night.

Our exhibit began with our colorful Colossal Brain, which shows the different lobes of the brain in large scale. The Corvallis students were ready and enthusiastic and already knew some great brain facts! Together, we solved some puzzling medical mysteries: these astute detectives diagnosed head injuries and helped our “patients” understand why they were experiencing weird sensations like loss of smell or blurry vision.

Our 3 hands-on and up-close brain stations let students interact with the world inside their own heads. The Visual Rebound station had students AND teachers eager to line up and test the plasticity of their occipital lobes (the lobe that processes vision) by shooting hoops while wearing brain boggling goggles. It’s difficult to say which was Corvallis’s favorite exhibit, but this one kept people coming back.

Students were certainly wide-eyed and inquisitive during the sheep brain dissection and made a lot of great observations about the brain like, “It looks like it has a bone in the middle; what is that?!”; “It’s all folded and wrinkled and it’s all one color!” and “It’s flatter than a human brain and the stem goes back instead of down!” Groups were eager to put on gloves and pick up the brain for a closer look.Image

Our Making Waves exhibit, which tests the intensity of students’ highest level of consciousness, was also a big hit. By concentrating to produce beta-brainwaves, students used their cerebral sensors to communicate with a game board and make a ball perform feats. With this extraordinary mind-body experiment, students experienced the brain’s power in live action. Everyone seemed to have a different trick for getting the ball to hover: some thought about math, or playing music, while others concentrated on football plays or just commanding the ball to move with their minds.

At Family Science Night, kids challenged their parents to contests of beta-brainwave brawn and, less competitively, also got a chance to teach them about what they had learned.

With their challenging questions,  great participation, and astute observations, the Corvallis group is sure to produce some promising scientists and doctors!

This stop was powered by the Jane S. Heman Foundation


A Whirlwind of Science!

spectrUM’s spring outreach tour was a whirlwind combination of spinning U-Haul tires, eye dissections, school gymnasiums, and hands-on science exploration!

The spring 2013 MosSE tour in numbers:

  • spectrUM drove over 800 miles to bring our Hands on Health exhibit to five communities throughout rural Montana
  • spectrUM’s Hands on Health exhibit visited a total of five counties (Missoula, Ravalli, Meagher, Deer Lodge, and Cascade), two of which spectrUM had never visited before
  • In total, 2056 people explored spectrUM’s hands-on exhibition this spring


Since the launch of our mobile outreach program in 2006, spectrUM has driven over 21,300 miles to bring educators, exhibitions, and programs to 58 different schools in 23 Montana counties, including all 7 Montana Indian Reservations. All together, our mobile science programs have served over 32,656 people, of whom over 30%  are Native American and 75% from rural communities.

All Systems GO in Florence

Hello MosSE readers!

What does “All Systems GO!” mean to our  Hands on Health program? For our good friend Ana Body, an anatomically correct model of the body’s internal organs, it means that after three heart-tugging, gut-wrenching days, the students in Florence, MT, have successfully navigated the circulatory, respiratory, and digestive systems and put her back together!

Her heart connects to veins and arteries, ready to circulate blood. The trachea- or windpipe- branches to both lungs, which sit properly  perched on her muscular diaphragm. Ana’s respiratory system is ready to pull in fresh oxygen.  The little surgeons have traced the  path of food through her esophagus, stomach, and intestines.  All are firmly connected and ready to function as our favorite gurgling food processor- the digestive system.

Ana Body having one of those ‘ stomach in your throat’ moments at Florence family science night

Together, these three major systems in our body  utilize around a dozen organs. Most of these organs, at least their names, are part of first grader’s vocabulary,  yet,  without the help of models like Ana, they remain elusive and difficult to conceptualize. We can’t see inside our own skin, after all! With the help of Ana, Florence students gained new appreciation for all they carry with them or, more specifically, inside them, that makes them GO! Exploring the circulatory, respiratory, and digestive systems hands-on helps young minds grasp how every organ,  each with its own specific job, is intimately connected and contained inside their own skin.

Florence elementary students explore ‘their’ insides with the our many hands-on models

Sadly for Ana Body, the only place she’s going is back into storage. Hands on Health is wrapping up its spring tour after Florence. SpectrUm would like to thank the Florence Elementary Principal Chrissy for hosting this last stop. We also enjoyed the chance to add around 60 high school students to our schedule, thanks to Nancy and Lisa, two health and P.E. teachers who thought Hands on Health was so great that they rounded up several study hall classes to visit.

Family science night in Florence was a real cherry on top for this spring. What a joy it is to see kids return to the exhibits with their families! Parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles, and especially little brothers and sisters, are always so impressed by the knowledge the  little scientists demonstrate.

All systems go_family science

Teaching dad the working parts of the eyeball? Priceless !

So how does it feel to wrap up a whirlwind four-week MosSE tour? Big Nose is ready to stop being picked on, but me, I’m a little sorry to pull the storage unit doors shut on this awesome experience. But, where one storage door closes, another one opens! MosSE’s neuroscience exhibit is being loaded up to hit the road soon!  Keep and eye out for  MosSE coming to a gym near you. This stop was made possible with support from the Jane. S. Herman Foundation. A special thanks to them for powering so many hours of  engaged learning and inspiring science this spring.

Viva la Scienca!

All system Go_nose

I need a vacation!
-Big Nose

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!