Saturday, November 5, 2011

D.I.Y. Biological Halloween Costume

As a service to humanity, or at least parents of children with a scientific bent, I present the Common Household home-made scientific Halloween costume: the cell.
A cell lurks in the neighborhood

From my perspective, this costume was great.  Youngest Daughter bubbled with enthusiasm at the possibility of being a cell for Halloween. So I handed her an old sheet and some fabric paint, and said, “Measure twice, cut once. Don’t get paint on the carpet. Go for it.”   That was the full extent of my involvement.  She did all the work herself.

The first task was to cut a hole for her head.  She got out the measuring tape, the stiff metal kind that is useful for measuring rooms and furniture, and measured her head.  She said, “Mommy, do you really think that my head could be 2 feet around?”  Her brother said, “If you want to get an accurate measurement, use a string. Wrap it around your head, and then take the string off and measure its length.”  She bounded off in search of string.  She remembered to figure out where the center of the sheet was before she cut the hole.  Whew!

Then it was just a matter of painting the various parts of the cell.  When I was in school, a cell only had a nucleus.  Nowadays a cell is chock full of all kinds of stuff, including endoplasmic reticulum, which is fun to say but difficult to explain.   My daughter picked the paint colors herself, and outlined everything in glow-in-the-dark clear fabric paint.
Okay, bio majors, what's missing here?   
Answer in the penultimate paragraph.

This costume had a bonus.  The 7th grade science classes are currently learning about cells, so my daughter took her costume into class, and explained it in detail. The teacher gave her not one, but two homework passes which can be turned into extra credit at the end of the quarter.  Halloween candy plus a better grade – there are no losers here.

I have been informed that this cell model is missing something.  When I called my daughter to come downstairs and explain the endoplasmic reticulum to me, she came half-way down the stairs and said, “I can do that from up here.”  To encourage brevity I said, “I’ll bet you can do it standing on one foot” (just like Rabbi Hillel).  So she stood on the stairs on one foot and told me what the endoplasmic reticulum does.  She revealed that her cell does not include the smooth endoplasmic reticulum, because she didn't have room for it.  I didn’t retain much of her explanation, except to note that there is an awful lot that goes on inside a cell.

What is your favorite home-made Halloween costume?  Or do you prefer store-bought?

The benefits of being a cell for Halloween


Angie said...

You've got such fun smart children!

Stephanie Anthony/She Rev said...

Endoplasmic reticulum! The powerhouse of the cell! Ahhhh...this microbiology major LOVES it!

Cassi Renee said...

That is a very cool, creative, costume.

Maybe because I'm not much into Halloween, my daughter's costumes have always been bought. She usually manages to add some touches, but she and her dad do the costume-shopping.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Brilliant! And so darn unique. I wish my boys would go as something other than vampires/zombies/werewolves.