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It’s a colon blast!

Students tour giant model of human organ

DIXON – Some two dozen eighth-graders crawled on their hands and knees through an oversized model of a colon Tuesday morning at KSB Hospital.

Even the principal and health teacher explored the 40-foot-long, 4-foot-tall model, called Coco the Colossal Colon, on display this week at Commerce Towers, next door to the hospital.

The students took pictures with their cellphones of each other, crawling through the pinkish-reddish tunnel and popping through cutouts in the wall of the model.

The group from Ashton-Franklin Center Middle School in Franklin Grove learned about the colon, colon health and nutrition as part of a health unit on the human body.

They learned that the main function of the colon, which is a muscle, is to extract water and salt from solid waste. They saw examples of healthy colon tissue; diseases of the colon, such as ulcerative colitis and diverticulosis; and various stages of colon cancer. They learned, too, that a healthy diet and exercise are among the best preventive measures against colon problems.

“It’s pretty cool,” said Alanna Thomas, 13. “I didn’t really know that much about it, like all the different things that can go wrong with it.”

Most of the eighth-graders were not squeamish; in fact, many of them were fascinated by the colon.

Colon health is a serious matter, but discussion about that part of the body is taboo – and often nonexistent among young people. Coco the Colossal Colon is so large, so funny-looking and so unusual that people won’t be able to resist talking about it, said Christine Scheffler, community wellness coordinator for KSB Hospital.

“It’s a dynamic way to raise awareness of colon cancer and how easy it is to prevent colon cancer,” she said.

Students likely won’t forget their experience with the oversized model, said Kelly Snyder, the health and physical education teacher at AFC Middle School.

“This will have the biggest impact on them, because they’re interacting with it,” she said. “They’re up, they’re moving, and they’re seeing everything with their own eyes.”

The eighth-graders even took what they learned about colon health and nutrition – like that chocolate milk is a better post-exercise recovery beverage than Gatorade, with its high sodium content – and within minutes applied it: They immediately asked Principal Trina Dillon to put chocolate milk in the vending machines. They promised they would drink it after sports practices and games.

Coco the Colossal Colon, a traveling display, was created by Molly McMaster, who was diagnosed with colon cancer on her 23rd birthday, and built in memory of her friend, Amanda Sherwood Roberts, who died from colon cancer at 27. The women shared a passion for educating young people about colon cancer.

The model will be on display for all to see from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily through Friday, the start of Colon Cancer Awareness Month.

To take tour

School groups and community organizations are invited to see Coco the Colossal Colon while it is on display at Commerce Towers, 215 E. First St., Dixon.

Call Christine Scheffle, 815-285-5932, to arrange a free tour.

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