Bugsey Kendall took on a new persona Saturday for Paxson Elementary School’s Science Olympiad day.
He was Mr. Gastrointestinal Man.
“Basically I’m just supposed to stand here and let them see where things are,” said a shirtless Kendall, 11, who had everything from an esophagus to a colon drawn on appropriate spots around his torso. On his back was the respiratory system.
The systems and all the organs were drawn on Kendall and friend Will Gray, by Dr. Janice Givler, Gray’s mom and an obstetrician and gynecologist who was volunteering at the event.
“I want kids to be able to understand this,” Givler said, gesturing toward a table full of anatomy diagrams and posters. “It’s a flat drawing, but it’s all got to fit. This is how we did it in med school – we sat there and drew on each other. It was a nice way to see how it all fits into your body.”
Gray’s torso and back were covered with the cardiovascular, respiratory and renal systems.
After Givler drew the systems on the boys – she used the same type of pen she’d use on patients before surgery – kids came to her Anatomy Quiz station to learn about the body’s systems, then take a quiz using Gray and Kendall as three-dimensional models.
Givler’s Anatomy Quiz station was one of 10 stations set up in the gym that Paxson students could use to explore science through hands-on learning and exploration projects.
Usually reserved for high school students, the Paxson Academic Support Team parent members organized the K-5 Science Olympiad day to encourage younger students to take an interest in science.
“We think Missoula does a fabulous job with sports and offering arts opportunities. I personally didn’t feel like they offered as many science opportunities,” said Rebecca Jasmine, a Paxson parent of fifth-grade twin boys and the head of the Paxson Academic Support Team.
More than 70 kids signed up to participate in Paxson’s first Science Olympiad day, almost 18 percent of the school’s students, Jasmine said.
The Academic Support team has also organized a science fair class, which will take students to an elementary school science fair in Simms next week, as well as a K-3 science club.
At the Straw Egg Drop station, Luke O’Connell, a fourth grader, and Nash Sauter, a fifth grader, were attempting to figure out how to use 20 straws, a long strip of masking tape and scissors to cushion an egg wrapped in tin foil from a drop off the bleachers.
They chose to cut the straws into pieces, wrapping a string of them around the egg – which they’d earlier named Winston – attached by tape.
“Once we get it all around we could do another (layer) and it could be double,” Sauter said. That’s exactly what they did.
When it came time to drop Winston, the egg-holding contraption fell to the floor with a thud.
“That didn’t sound good,” one bystander said, but pointed out “there isn’t any goo.”
The Egg Drop engineering exercise proved difficult. All four teams’ eggs broke. Still, O’Connell and Sauter won for getting their egg closest to the drop target.
Jesse Johnson, a Paxson parent and a computer science professor at the University of Montana, helped organize the event.
Getting kids excited about science at an early age can help inspire them to pursue rewarding careers in many fields, and help grow a strong workforce in Montana, Johnson said.
If nothing else, the day offered a good alternative to learning through homework, he said.
“As you can see, it’s appealing,” Johnson said. “(Kids) don’t have to do a lot of preparation, you can just come and be creative.”