MRI Introduction for Elementary School Students

For young students from lower grade classrooms, MRI could be introduced through this simple story by B. M. Damon.

A story about Cheerio T. Chicken and MRI

Once upon a time, in a barnyard in Illinois, there lived a young bird named Cheerio T. Chicken. She lived there with her parents. One day, Cheerio went to go and see her doctor, Dr. Poulet. Mr. and Mrs. Chicken came along, too. Dr. Poulet was a chickiatrician.

Cheerio liked Dr. Poulet very much, because he was very funny. He was always telling jokes. Cheerio's favorite jokes were the ones about chickens crossing the road. Cheerio and Mr. and Mrs. Chicken walked across the barnyard to his office. It was over in the Southwest corner, near where the pigs lived. They walked into his office. "Well, Cheerio, why did the chicken cross the road?" asked Dr. Poulet.

"I don't know, Dr. Poulet," replied Cheerio, already laughing.

"To get away from those smelly old pigs!!!!"

After they all had a good laugh, Dr. Poulet began to examine Cheerio. He tapped on her knees with a small rubber hammer, scratched her feet with the other end of the hammer (which also made her laugh, but this time because it tickled), looked in her ears and eyes, and asked her if she was feeling well.

"Well, Dr. Poulet," said Cheerio, "Now that I'm all over my People Pox, I feel great!"

"That's great, Cheerio. Say, how would you like to take a picture of your insides?" asked Dr. Poulet.

"You mean my brain and my heart and my liver and my guts and stuff?"

"Yes, your brain and heart and liver and guts and stuff," replied Dr. Poulet, laughing.

"How can you do that? Do you use a special camera?" asked Cheerio.

"Yes, we use a very special camera called an MRI. An MRI camera is a great big magnet. Do you know what a magnet is?"

"Yes, I do, Dr. Poulet. We learned about them in school. A magnet is a piece of metal that can attract other pieces of metal."

"That's right. And do you know what else? Inside of you there is a lot of water. There is water in your brain, and in your heart, and in your liver and guts and everywhere else. And this special MRI camera can make pictures of this water."

Cheerio could not believe her ears. A camera that can look inside of things and make pictures of water? Wow, she thought, this is cool. I have to try this out. "OK, Dr. Poulet. I think I want to try it. What will it be like?" she asked.

"Well, Cheerio, you will lie down inside of a tube. The tube is part of the MRI camera. You will lie there while we get the MRI camera ready and then we will start to take a picture of you. You will need to lie very still so that the pictures aren't too blurry."

"What will the picture look like? Will it be in color?" asked Cheerio.

"No, it won't be in color," replied Dr. Poulet. "It will be black and white. It will be a square about 60 mm by 60 mm (about two and a half inches by two and a half inches). We call this the field of view. We can change the field of view to make a big picture or a little picture. We can take pictures from the front, from the side, or from the top. We can make the picture very thick or very thin."

"Well, this sounds very exciting, Dr. Poulet," said Cheerio. When can I come in?"

"How about tomorrow?" suggested the doctor.

The next day, Cheerio and her parents went back over to Dr. Poulet's office. Though she was a little nervous, Cheerio was a very brave young bird and was very calm the entire time. Afterwards, Cheerio was very curious to see what her insides looked like. She studied the pictures very hard, and Dr. Poulet taught her all about brains and hearts and livers and guts. Cheerio thought that it may have been her most exciting day ever.

Eventually, Cheerio and her parents had to leave. As they were getting ready to go, Dr. Poulet asked, "Cheerio, do you know why basketball players are such messy eaters?"

"No, Dr. Poulet," she replied.

"Because they're always dribbling!!"

Cheerio laughed and laughed all the way home, stopping only to think, I wonder what the inside of an egg looks like?

Figure 6. MRI of an egg (Image courtesy of Dr. Andrew Webb.)

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