Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Atticus' Science Fair Project

This was Atticus' first year he could participate in his elementary school's science fair. He enthusiastically signed up and had a topic all picked out: Egyptian Mummies. He has been interested in this subject since he studied it in art class earlier in the year. At first, I wasn't too sure this could be a SCIENCE project since it seems to be more suited to a history report. But the more I thought it over, I realized that the process of decay and, in the case of mummies, the process of slowing decay definitely involve scientific principles. So we went ahead with it. I was so proud of Atticus for all of his planning -- outlines and reading/research and diagrams/drawings -- and for following through on all of it with so much enthusiasm and care. I am also thankful for Brad and my mother-in-law Nancy for the work they did with him on his presentation and making sure that he understood what he had read and wrote. The fair was impressive -- probably 60 or more different topics and displays -- amazing participation and effort for something that was purely voluntary with no awards or prizes. Each kid (or team of kids) gave a small presentation to volunteer judges and then "manned" his display for the evening to answer any questions from parents or other kids. Yay, Atticus! Yay, Hale School Families!

If you can see some hieroglyphics on the bottom of the sarcophagus, it reads "King Atticus". The funeral mask on the wrapped body is a self-portrait. The weird-looking white and green thingy on the mummies chest/side is a magic amulet of the particular Egyptian god that was to help the disembodied soul make it to the afterlife.


We visited a funeral home to talk to a director about differences in the way they preserve bodies now and what kind of schooling and experience you need to have to "embalm" bodies in our culture. (Atticus had this photo and the ones you see below up on one of the sides of his display.)
Brad took Atticus to the Minnesota Science Museum to see the Egyptian Artifact collection and a real Egyptian Mummy.

A jar that was used to keep the organs of the mummy. Each organ had a separate jar with a specific god as the "cap".


 Below is the typed report Atticus did for the project and had included in his display. He was very excited (and spent quite a bit of time looking) to find the exact typeface he used for his report. 

He also displayed the book You Wouldn’t Want to Be an Egyptian Mummy: Disgusting Things You’d Rather Not Know by David Stewart (seen in his bibliography below) which was the most helpful and kid-friendly (and funny) of the books Atticus read for his research. Brad bought him an interesting photo-heavy book about Ancient Egyptian culture which he also had on the table along with a silly book of Ancient Egyptian Jokes which he had found at the public library. Very Atticus. 

Atticus Johannsen
                                                                                                Science Fair, 2014

 I did my science project because I studied pyramids in art, because mummies are in pyramids, and mummies are cool.
 I learned what you need for embalming, what you do to the body, and the modern differences-what they did to the body before and today.

Needed for the Embalming Ceremony:
#1. Dead body
#2. Linen
#3. Oils and Perfumes
#4. A Priest

What you do to the body:
#1. Scrub body
#2. Remove body’s organs with special tools (brain removed from skull with a hook up the nose)
#3. Use natron salt to dry out body
#4. Use the ceremonial knife (the “slicer”) to cut the body open
#5. Store the organs in the jars (lungs,liver,stomach,intestines)
#6. After 40 days stuff the body with sawdust,soil,rags,and chaff
#7. Rub the body with palm wine and juniper oil; frankincense
#8. Molten resin covers entire body after it’s stuffed
#9. On the fingers and the toes put finger caps on the fingers and put the toe caps (with the golden shoes)  on the toes
#10. Wrap in linen (tuck “amulets” and “good-luck charms” in the layers) 
#11. Make portrait mask
#12. Put portrait mask on head of mummy
#13. Make 4 or 3 coffins the nest inside each other
#14. Put the mummy in the smallest coffin.

Modern differences in embalming:
#1.Today we use machines instead of hands and hooks to remove a body’s organs.
#2.We take out the body’s blood and then put in formaldehyde which is a preservative (helps keeps the body from decomposing).
#3.We take out pacemakers (a device that keeps a person’s heart beating), but we leave in all organs.                                         

·        You can donate your body to research/science
·        You can donate your organs to living persons
·        Be cremated -- burned to ashes.

·        If you want to embalm bodies today you can go to college to be a funeral director/embalmer.

Decomposition is the breakdown of the body’s tissues.
Embalming is the practice of delaying decomposition of human and animal remains.  

You Wouldn’t Want to Be an Egyptian Mummy: Disgusting Things You’d Rather Not Know by David Stewart
Action Files: Egypt by Rupert Matthews
Mummies of the Pharaohs by Melvin Berger and Gilda Berger
Mummies, Pyramids, and Pharaohs: A Book About Ancient Egypt by Gail Gibbons
Egyptian Mummies: People From the Past by Delia Pemberton, The British Museum
The Tomb of the Boy King by John Frank
The Royal Mummies : Remains from Ancient Egypt by Eric Kudalis
The Mystery of the Egyptian Mummy by Joyce Filer

Excerpts from the Wikipedia articles on “Embalming in Ancient Egypt” and “Animal Decomposition” (read with explanation by my mom)

The Science Museum of Minnesota in St.Paul, MN
The Washburn-McReavy Funeral Home, Uptown Location

Summertime...Quiet Backstoop Bubbles...

Preschool Graduation!



Someone is not in a good mood...

Thea Belle got him out of it...

Dietrich's Kindergarten Spring Music Program!

Dietrich's Narration Part

All having a treat...best photo I could get!