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The Engaging Kids in Science and Health through Anatomy project has been building connections for over 20 years

A room full of third graders sit silently fixated. Eyes wide, mouths gasping with wonder…patiently waiting in anticipation until suddenly there it is: a grayish-pink form covered in twisting caverns and deep ridgelines – a human brain. Murmurs of excitement grow as the presenter holds up the organ and invites the brave to come forward and touch the mysterious anatomy that drives their body, their thoughts, their dreams.

This is not a scene ripped from the pages of every science teacher’s fantasy curriculum, but instead just another day for Department of Biomedical Science’s Engaging Kids in Science and Health through Anatomy project. For the past 20 years, this program has allowed CSU undergraduate honors students to make presentations for K-12 classes that demonstrate the importance of living a healthy lifestyle, while inspiring young students to consider careers in health care or other science-based fields. Every year the program reaches over 2,500 K-12 students in and around Fort Collins, and also provides a platform for CSU students to take a leading role in science communication and education in the community. 

As attendees, budding scientists experience hands-on anatomy demonstrations that illustrate the effects of poor health decisions, such as eschewing sunscreen, smoking cigarettes, abusing alcohol, or taking drugs. The elementary students who attend these presentations are able to view and handle diseased organs while middle and high school students get to explore human cadavers – appreciating first-hand the consequences of our lifestyle choices.

Recognizing the importance of programs like these, the Bohemian Foundation recently awarded the Engaging Kids in Science and Health through Anatomy Project a $3,750 community Pharos grant to keep the project moving forward as university resources shrink.

“This program has incredible value to both CSU students and K-12 students, and we are honored that the Bohemian Foundation recognized the significance of this program in the community,” said Dr. Tod Clapp, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at CSU, and coordinator of the Engaging Kids in Science and Health through Anatomy project. “Through participation, CSU students develop many skills including how to better communicate difficult and complex topics, while speaking to a wide variety of ages and knowledge levels. The K-12 students get a chance to handle delicate human organs and cadavers while gaining information as to why we need take great care of our bodies.”

Moving into next year, Dr. Clapp and the rest of the program team plan to continue looking at ways to innovate the curriculum and reach even more students than previous years, all with a focus on the nexus of science, health, and personal action.

“New collaborations with Rocky Vista University of Osteopathic Medicine and the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery are providing opportunities to reach broader communities and larger groups of kids,” said Dr. Clapp. “Particularly for students from underserved communities – who are typically at higher risk for some of the focal health problems – this hands-on experience may be one of the few instances in which they are challenged to take control of their own health before they develop harmful habits.”


To learn more about the Engaging Kids in Science and Health through Anatomy project or to help support the program, please contact Dr. Tod Clapp at Tod.Clapp@colostate.edu​.​