Scientific field trip visits Bremerton STEM academy

Dr. Amanda Jones, director of the Science Adventure Lab, shows seventh-grade students how to use an EpiPen. The lab is a mobile unit from Seattle Children’s Hospital that travels around the state to educate students.  - Seraine Page
Dr. Amanda Jones, director of the Science Adventure Lab, shows seventh-grade students how to use an EpiPen. The lab is a mobile unit from Seattle Children’s Hospital that travels around the state to educate students.
— image credit: Seraine Page

How is the human body organized?

On Monday morning, a field trip on wheels showed up at West Hills STEM Academy to help students answer that question with hands-on science experiences.

The Science Adventure Lab — a custom-built lab inside a 45-foot-long bus brought real-life application science right to the front doors of the school. While students usually take field excursions off campus, the opportunity was too good for seventh-grade teacher Hannah Meucci to pass up.

“I really hope that it ignites enthusiasm for possible careers and excitement about the medical field,” she said. “They’re becoming experts today.”

The mobile unit is part of Seattle Children’s Hospital mission for improving child health through education.

Prior to getting on the bus, students were greeted by doctors and assistants in white coats who gave instructions, including using hand sanitizer before entering. The first class of the day was given a review of what the 90-minute session would entail, including taking their own vital signs with cutting-edge equipment.

“We want to expose you guys to how medical tools are used,” said Dr. Amanda Jones, director of the Science Adventure Lab. At the end of testing their own blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate and temperature, Jones told the students there would be a quiz. Jones stood in the middle of the bus at an examining table where an assistant showed students how to use each medical instrument.

Between taking blood pressure and heart rate information down on their own patient charts, the students looked to screens for trivia questions about the human body. With clickers, the students chose the multiple choice or true and false answers — the class totals were then shown on a graph with the correct answer highlighted.

True or False: Blood carries waste products to the organs that get rid of them.

True, most of the class agreed.

Jones went on to give explanations for some of the tools students would use, including a spirometer, which is used to measure air flow to determine respiratory rates. When Jones asked how many students were interested in math, most grumbled.

“Math is the language of science,” she told the students.

Students were required to do some simple math after breathing in and out of the spirometer and recording their answers. The spirometer — hooked up to a computer screen — showed students how many breaths are taken within 15 seconds. The computer screen showed spikes and drops on a graph indicating by the peaks how many were taken during the time span. Children tend to breathe quicker than adults, and breathing rates vary with activity levels, Jones told the students.

Learning on real human bodies — especially their own — was a highlight for the first class of the day, including seventh-grader Kara James.

The 13-year-old enjoyed discovering the medical technology and terms, she said.

“My dad’s a nurse, so it’s cool getting to know stuff he knows,” she said. “If I was a doctor, I would take the job with the least amount of responsibility because I don’t want to hurt anybody.”

James and her classmates had the chance to see how quickly doctors must act when a patient is in distress. The final exercise in the event was watching a patient simulator in emergency response training in the center of the mobile unit. Students circled the examination table as a 10-year-old boy called “Sim Jim” — short for patient simulator Jim — was put in place for examination. Assistants hooked up the simulator to a screen to show students his vitals in real time as his chest rose and fell to mimic breathing as a human would do.

A student assistant helped with checking blood pressure, which students recorded. A patient history was given to students regarding why Jim came to the hospital: he had forgotten his lunch and ate a granola bar his friend had given him. While on the table, the simulator began showing signs of what looked to be an allergic reaction — he started coughing and his tongue started swelling. Students were encouraged to stick their finger in his mouth to feel the swelling.

Jones pulled out an Epi-Pen and stabbed it into Jim’s outer leg to show students how it could save a person’s life during an allergic reaction. Students were then handed their own needle-less Epi-Pen — which stands for epinephrine — and demonstrated to Jones and staff how they would administer it into their own legs. The director then showed students the newest form of Epi-Pens that walk a person through — with automated directions upon being opened — on how to inject the medicine.

Student Mason Greene, 12, said learning how to use an Epi-Pen to save someone’s life was his favorite part of the day. His dad is also a nurse, and Greene said he remembers learning about various medical tools from his dad.

“I thought it was fun. (I liked)  all the tests we got to do on ourselves,” he said of the science lab. “I think being a surgeon would be pretty cool.”

Mobile Lab Scientist Billy Roden said spreading excitement for learning about real-life science and math is the main goal of the rolling lab. Roden’s been traveling around Washington State for the last year visiting schools and helping students better understand his field.

“I like seeing the kinda creative spark when they get it,” he said. “Anybody can do it. It’s an outreach thing to make it accessible.”


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