McMichael Science Showcase

McMichael Science Showcase
Posted on 06/04/2018
McMichael Science ShowcaseScience

McMichael Middle School seventh-graders Cody Claude and Maegan Bost-Rocha had a video playing on an iPad with their presentation on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. In the clip, an elderly man – suffering from years of dementia – showed no ability to communicate verbally.

But when a song from his youth played over headphones he was wearing, the man’s eyes noticeably brightened. Before long the man was even singing with the music.

The video showed how musical therapy can coax a return of long-lost memories for those suffering from Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related illnesses.

Cody’s and Maegan’s project was one of the dozens on display Thursday, May 31, at the McMichael Science Showcase.

“It is amazing to see the dedication the students put into these projects,” said McMichael science department chair Charles Zemanek. “You forget they’re 13 years old.”

Science teachers at McMichael – Tressena Jones, Jacob Ford and Elizabeth Eddins – organized the showcase, Zemanek said. The next step, he said, is to expand the showcase by pairing up with Mike Moses Middle School.

On Thursday, professors from Stephen F. Austin State University were on hand to view projects... all were related to serious health issues. Parents of students also squeezed between tables to view the presentations.

“This has been a wonderful experience,” Zemanek said.

The projects also allowed teachers to continue holding students’ attention in the classroom, even though much of the work had already been completed on STAAR exams, the standardized tests administered to public school students in Texas.

“We struggle to engage our kids after they’ve finished the STAAR,” Zemanek said. “Now, here at the end, it’s opportunities like this to show what students learned in the classroom.”

And there was plenty for students to show off.

Maegan and Cody described how dementia first robs sufferers of memories, eventually taking away many functioning skills. But treatments like the ones shown in the video – using musical therapy – can for a moment, at least, bring back some of those old memories from childhood.

“[The man] was unresponsive at first,” Cody said. “Then the music brought back some memories.”

Mia Bentley, Mariah Jenkins, Katie Cook and Giuliana Giudici described how Crohn’s Disease, an autoimmune illness, strikes the digestive system. Along with details about symptoms of Crohn’s – which causes dangerous inflammation in the small intestine – Mia created a display showing how the human digestive system works.

Joanna Torres and Lizabeth Vega displayed their presentation on arthritis, which causes debilitating pain in human joints. “It causes inflammation in the joints,” Joanna said. Arthritis, like Crohn’s, is an autoimmune disease.

And there were dozens of other projects spread around the McMichael cafeteria.

“Science is messy,” says a flyer produced for the showcase by the McMichael science department. “To learn the concepts, students must be hands-on with the material. Our showcase is an excellent opportunity for students to apply the foundational skills taught in class to a project of their passion.”