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Published: Saturday, 6/22/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Students learn ‘gross’ science

Imagination Station touts disgusting learning experience

BY ROSA NGUYEN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Michael Parrish, 7, of Toledo plays with ‘snot’ that he made during a program about the gross things the body produces with the author of ‘Grossology,’ Sylvia Branzei at Imagination Station. Michael Parrish, 7, of Toledo plays with ‘snot’ that he made during a program about the gross things the body produces with the author of ‘Grossology,’ Sylvia Branzei at Imagination Station.
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What do you get when you mix applesauce, cookie crumbs, fruit cake, and lemon Jell-O? If you guessed vomit, you’d be correct.

About 100 parents, children and camp counselors gathered Friday at Imagination Station — Toledo’s hands-on science center — to enroll in Grossology 101, one of four, 30-minute courses taught by Sylvia Branzei on Friday and again today. The author of Grossology, a children’s book about human bodily functions, Ms. Branzei made vomit, scabs, and snot while teaching kids about her new-found science.

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“I am the premiere grossologist in the entire universe,” Ms. Branzei announced in a room full of excited children. “I’m tired of being the only grossologist — when we’re done here, you’ll be official grossologists in training.”

Enlisting the help of Dr. Barf, a 10-year-old audience member named Andrew Baker, Ms. Branzei made “vomit” out of household materials, educating children about the “vomit center” in the brain and animals that puke on a regular basis.

“I didn’t know that you could make something look like throw-up,” said Alina Salem, 10. “It smells like burnt applesauce.”

Professor Snot — 6-year-old Samayah Welch — helped Ms. Branzei make “snot” out of glue, water, and Borax, pretending to sneeze into the bowl and dipping her hands in green Oobleck.

Darby Bryan, 10, of San Francisco, who is visiting her grandmother, shows 'fake, edible barf' that she made with Sylvia Branzei, author of 'Grossology,' at Imagination Station. Darby Bryan, 10, of San Francisco, who is visiting her grandmother, shows 'fake, edible barf' that she made with Sylvia Branzei, author of 'Grossology,' at Imagination Station.
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While Alina, dubbed Miss Achoo, held a handkerchief three meters away, Ms. Branzei sprayed “pretend sneeze stuff” at her, telling the audience that germs travel about five meters when people sneeze. Ms. Branzei wrapped up her presentation by talking about platelet cells, applying a red petroleum jelly mixture on the arm of Professor Scab.

Now a “practicing grossologist,” Ms. Branzei was once a microbiology research assistant at the University of Michigan, turning to a teaching career when she realized that “it was too quiet in the lab.”

She got the idea for grossology — the study of “all things disgusting” — while clipping her toenails in 1993.

“There’s so many disgusting things you never really run out of stuff to study. And [grossology] is really health science in disguise,” Ms. Branzei said. “If I used “gross” as a handle, I could get their attention. Once you have a child’s attention, you can teach them anything.”

The brainchild of Ms. Branzei and Robert Lunde, curator of Science World in Vancouver, the first traveling grossology exhibit premiered in Science World in 2001. There are now three grossology exhibits and two animal grossology exhibits touring the world, Ms. Branzei said.

Attractions include an animatronic water faucet that talks about allergies, a play area modeled after the large intestine, and a climbing wall mimicking human skin, complete with fake moles and sweat glands.

Imagination Station — then called COSI Toledo — first hosted the Grossology exhibit in 2003, said Paul Morin, spokesman for Imagination Station. The hands-on science center paid $100,000 in exhibition rental and travel fees for the traveling exhibit to return to Toledo on May 18, Mr. Morin said.

The Grossology exhibit is the fifth health-related program to enter Imagination Station in the past two years.

Imagination Station hosted Bodies Revealed in May, 2011, followed by Sesame Street Presents The Body from September to January.

Audrey Elchert, 10, who is visiting from Minnesota, reacts to being sprayed with germs from a sneeze during a 30-minute program to children about the things the body produces. Audrey Elchert, 10, who is visiting from Minnesota, reacts to being sprayed with germs from a sneeze during a 30-minute program to children about the things the body produces.
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In spring 2012, Imagination Station installed two permanent exhibits devoted to food. The Andersons Inc. sponsored Grow U, demonstrates how food gets from the field to the table. ProMedica, a nonprofit healthcare system, sponsored Eat It Up! to educate visitors about nutrition.

“One of the reasons why we partnered with Andersons and ProMedica is the obesity rate in northwest Ohio,” said Sara Young, spokesman at Imagination Station.

Sticking to the theme of bodily health, Imagination Station will host Grossology until Sept. 2.

Contact Rosa Nguyen at rnguyen@theblade.com or 419-724-6050.



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