HIS students question and hypothesize with Heather Montgomery

Award-winning author Heather Montgomery visited Helena Intermediate School on Nov. 20. (Reporter Photo / Molly Davidson)

Award-winning author Heather Montgomery visited Helena Intermediate School on Nov. 20. (Reporter Photo / Molly Davidson)

By MOLLY DAVIDSON / Staff Writer

HELENA—Helena Intermediate School students learned about the ant-eating antlion, solved the mystery of an algae-hungry snail and acted out roles to recreate a living tree with award-winning author, scientist and naturalist Heather Montgomery.

Montgomery has written numerous non-fiction children’s books about science and nature. She visited the school on Nov. 20 and presented to each grade level, encouraging students to observe, question and research to find solutions to scientific mysteries around them.

“I think it’s neat, she gets them to truly think like a scientist, to go beyond the surface,” HIS media specialist Tami Genry said. “She tells the kids there are things found every day that have never been discovered and encourages them to go out and make those discoveries.”

As Montgomery told stories of real-life scientific experiments and discoveries and passed around artifacts, students excitedly drew sketches and volunteered observations and hypotheses.

“As Albert Einstein said, ‘When an average person sees one thing, a genius sees 10,’” Montgomery said to the third graders. “I think we have some geniuses in here!”

Montgomery taught the students about the inner-workings of a tree through an experiment using a cross-section slice of wood, a little water and dish soap to demonstrate the porous nature of wood. She then encouraged students to think about why a tree is built this way. The lesson concluded with students constructing their own tree through acting out the role of xylem, phloem, leaves and bark.

“You could be the next person who writes an amazing book, or the scientist who makes an amazing discovery,” Montgomery encouraged the third graders.

Not only were the presentations fun, Montgomery also reinforced the writing, research and science skills they learn in the classroom. She discussed the scientific process and her own writing and editing process, suggesting ways students can make their writing stronger.

“Their focus this nine weeks is on expository non-fiction writing,” Genry said of the third graders. “(The presentation) fits right in… (Montgomery) shows them how the whole process can be fun.”

Montgomery added the observation, research and questioning the children learned are skills that will carry far beyond the classroom and intermediate school.

“I hope they’ll take it and become discoverers themselves,” Montgomery said. “If they’re asking questions at this age… they’ll be amazing as adults.”