Sixth annual "PhUn" Day provides engaging physiology activities and experiments

  • Nov 17, 2017
  • Students, Faculty, Outreach, physiology, event
  • Homepage News, Faculty & Staff, Research, Students, College of Natural Science, Physiology
This image contains several pictures from MSU's annual PhUn Day
This year's PhUn Day included 17 stations, designed to teach a wide variety of physiological principles. Photo courtesy of the MSU Department of Physiology.

Area school children have the opportunity each year to have “PhUn” while learning about the science of the human body at Impression 5 (I5) Science Center in Lansing, Mich., with the help of the Michigan State University (MSU) Department of Physiology. The event—the 6th annual Physiology Understanding (PhUn) Day—held last month, attracted an estimated 850 visitors to I5 this year to participate in engaging activities and experiments.

This outreach event coincides with the American Physiological Society’s (APS) PhUn Week, a nationwide outreach program that promotes building connections between scientists and their local schools to increase student interest in, and knowledge of, physiology.

The co-organizers were Erica Wehrwein, assistant professor of physiology, and Valerie VanRyn, instructional technologist/assistant instructor. A planning committee comprised of a faculty member, post-docs, graduate students and undergraduate students assisted them.

“It is heartwarming to see our MSU student volunteers interact with the community is such positive ways,” Wehrwein said. “They are able to use their coursework knowledge to teach about the human body to children and adults.  It is an essential skill to be able to communicate science to a broad and diverse audience.”

The 17 stations at the event this year were designed to teach a wide variety of physiological principles, including hearing, cardiac function, muscle strength and digestion.

An image of a PhUn Day participant diluting solutions in test tubes
At PhUn Day, children performed their own experiments, including serial dilutions in test tubes. Photo courtesy of MSU Department of Physiology.

A new station this year was “You’re the Scientist,” which served as a complement to one of the most popular regular stations—“You’re the Doctor.” It encouraged children to explore their own future as a scientist. With the use of scientific equipment, children performed their own experiments- such as serial dilutions in test tubes, mixing oil and water, and a ‘color symphony’ experiment about digestion using food coloring in petri dishes – during which these future scientists were encouraged to wear gloves, goggles and lab coats.  

Also new this year, supplementary activities were added so that children could create something and be able to take it home with them to show and teach their siblings, classmates and family. An example of one of these activities was at the bone station. First, children were able to look at real X-rays and then afterward, trace their hand with white chalk on a black piece of paper and glue white Q-Tips to the paper inside of the tracing as bones, making their own “X-ray.”

Some 150 MSU undergraduate students, graduate students, post-docs, staff and faculty members across a variety of MSU departments and majors served as volunteers, and numerous staff members from I5 were involved with PhUn Day this year. The Physiology Society Club, Pre-Physician Assistant Club, Neuroscience Club, Division of Histology, College of Human Medicine students, and more were represented.

Financial support was provided by the Department of Physiology and the APS, and the Center for Service-Learning and Civic Engagement provided bus tokens to volunteers.  A special thank you goes to . Lee Cox, MSU Department of Physiology chair, for his support, as well as to the many physiology staff members who helped behind the scenes to make this event a success.

The total numbers for the national 2017 PhUn Week Initiative through the APS have not yet been tallied, but, last year, more than 16,000 K-12 students from across the country participated in PhUn Week. activities.

MSU’s 7th PhUn Day will be held on a Saturday in early November 2018 at the Impression 5 Science Center.

Banner image: The 17 stations at the event this year were designed to teach a wide variety of physiological principles, including hearing, cardiac function, muscle strength and digestion. Image courtesy the MSU Department of Physiology.