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Published: Monday, 5/20/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Imagination Station burps up icky fun for children

‘Grossology’ of human body opens at downtown science museum

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Jorge Aguilar, 6, left, his grandmother Nedra Pike, and parents Ryan Pike and Whitney Mekus react to Sniff Sniff U Stink, an interactive exhibit at Grossology. Each member of the Defiance family took a whiff of something from the human body at the Imagination Station in downtown Toledo on Sunday. Jorge Aguilar, 6, left, his grandmother Nedra Pike, and parents Ryan Pike and Whitney Mekus react to Sniff Sniff U Stink, an interactive exhibit at Grossology. Each member of the Defiance family took a whiff of something from the human body at the Imagination Station in downtown Toledo on Sunday.
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Nine-year-old Cameron Knott of Swanton laughed uncontrollably as he worked the “Toot Toot” station with two hands Sunday.

With competing sounds and volumes of flatulence, Cameron clearly enjoyed the new exhibit, Grossology: The (Impolite) Science of the Human Body, at the Imagination Station.

“We’ve heard some wonderful sounds that should only be heard in the bathroom,” said Mitch Crawford of Sylvania, as he helped coach his 9-year-old daughter, Addie, in Urine: The Game. The Wii-style video game requires the player to send “the good stuff,” as Addie put it — the white and red blood cells — into the bloodstream and “the bad stuff”— sodium and potassium and the like — to the urethra.

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Asked what Grossology tidbits she’d learned so far, Addie thought a moment, then said, “You burp 15 times a day.”

Lori Hauser, chief executive officer of the Imagination Station, rattled off more as she strolled through the exhibit.

Addie Crawford, 9, of Sylvania moves her arms to separate those things the body can use from those that need to be removed from a person via urine. Addie Crawford, 9, of Sylvania moves her arms to separate those things the body can use from those that need to be removed from a person via urine.
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Standing inside a considerably larger-than-life nose, she said the air we breathe moves at 4 mph to 5 mph, and the air we sneeze moves at 20 mph.

Looking over at the walk-in gastrointestinal tract, she pointed out that the large intestine is more than 5 feet long.

Next to the human skin wall that young visitors can climb using moles, ingrown hairs, and pimples as hand-and-foot-holds, Ms. Hauser said that skin is the body’s largest organ. Humans shed skin constantly and get a whole new top layer every 28 days.

The exhibit is filled with trivia like that, and some that’s quite a bit more gross.

“We wanted it to be disgusting enough to laugh at, but not disgusting enough that you really are grossed out,” said Sylvia Branzei, author of the book Grossology, which inspired the exhibit. “It’s a fine line.”

The former science teacher, who greets visitors as “Her Grossness” in mechanized caricature form at the entrance to the exhibit, said in a phone interview that she created Grossology one day while clipping her toenails.

“I was clipping my toenails and started thinking about that gunk underneath the toenails,” she said. “I thought, ‘I want to teach kids about science. They like gross stuff. I’ll invent a new science and call it Grossology.’ My entire life changed after that.”

Siblings Max Bigioni, 3, left and rear, and Samantha Bigioni, 8, shoot pollen up a nose to create a sneeze.  "Grossology: The (Impolite) Science of the Human Body" runs until Labor Day. Siblings Max Bigioni, 3, left and rear, and Samantha Bigioni, 8, shoot pollen up a nose to create a sneeze. "Grossology: The (Impolite) Science of the Human Body" runs until Labor Day.
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The exhibit, she said, is a three-dimensional view of the book that works on various learning modalities: sight, sound, touch, and hearing. It is geared toward middle schoolers but has activities and information for all ages.

“Our ultimate lesson is that our body is taking care of us, that everything it does that we consider gross is there for a reason,” Ms. Branzei said. “One of the take-home lessons is, you want to take care of your body because it’s taking care of you.”

Ms. Hauser said “Grossology” is the third in a series of health-related exhibits at the downtown Toledo science museum, following Bodies Revealed and Sesame Street Presents: The Body.

“We want people to be aware of what they put into their bodies because we’re all the same on the inside. We all work the same,” she said.

The exhibit was at the museum — then known as COSI — in 2003. It is largely the same, but, as Ms. Branzei knows, the audience has changed.

“They go through their ‘I-love-gross-stuff’ stage, then they grow up, and I get a whole new audience,” she said.

The exhibit, supported by the Ohio Lottery and media sponsor The Blade runs through Sept. 2 and is included in the admission fee. Ms. Branzei will be at Imagination Station on June 21 and 22 for Grossology 101 demonstrations.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.



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