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HOW MANY TIMES DID YOU FART TODAY?
Burp man, a larger-than-life yokel who wears a wife beater and sucks on a giant soda straw, taught me that the average adult burps 15 times a day. A surprisingly high number, I thought.
"Yes, but the average adult farts 20 times a day," instructed Kurt Gross (no, uh, relation), Director of Science Programs at the Fresno Metropolitan Museum.
Such is the content of the Met's latest exhibit, which opens January 29th and runs through May 1st, 2005. "Grossology: The (Impolite) Science of the Human Body" is based on the popular children's book of the same name.
Featuring characters like Her Grossness, Nigel Nose-It All, and Burp Man, children of all ages are introduced to the science behind the icky things our bodies do. Animatronic characters explain why our snot turns different colors and how drinking carbonated beverages can make us belch.
The interactive exhibit encourages hands-on learning. Walk into a gigantic nostril to explore the wonders of mucus, nose hairs, conchae: the opening to the front of the sinuses, blood vessels, and more. As you walk to the back of the nostril, a booming "Ah ah CHOO!" sneezes on you and lets out a burst of forceful air (visitors are spared the full snot experience). Think you can tell the difference between halitosis and armpit stench? Y U Stink challenges visitors to "guess that smell." Hint: it's not roses.
A collaboration between Science World, Advanced Exhibits (which packages and creates exhibits), and Grossology author Sylvia Branzei, the experience is targeted science learning.
"This is science in disguise," says Branzei, a teacher, writer, and microbiologist. "If we teach students in their own words, they'll understand better and actually learn something.
Grossology is the latest in the Met's efforts to expand its science education programs.
"The Met values experiential learning and critical thinking. Therefore, our science exhibits and programs engage the senses, require visitors to interact with them, and present everyday scientific phenomena in formats and language that all visitors can understand," explained Gross.
And what young visitor wouldn't understand Urine: The Game? A virtual reality video game challenges the player to help the kidneys remove waste from blood. Too old fashioned for virtual reality? Older visitors can appreciate "Gas Attack!", a custom pinball machine that racks up the points as your ball dings the different foods that create gas. A giant animatronic pig quips at you from his throne of poo as you play.
The exhibit is large-scale, with many moving parts. "It arrived in four semi trucks," explained Gross. Nigel Nose-It All alone is nine feet tall.
While adults may be too big for the GI Tract Slide (enter the mouth, slide into the stomach, and crawl out the large intestine) or the skin wall (like a rock climbing wall, but with zits, scabs, and warts instead of rocks), they can enjoy the equally educational, yet slightly more mature content planned.
On March 9, the Met will sponsor a special screening of "Super Size Me," Morgan Spurlock's award-winning documentary about eating only McDonald's for 30 days. This will be the film's Fresno premier, and will be followed by a panel discussion with doctors, school administrators, dietitians, and restaurant owners (McDonald's has been invited but has not yet responded). Healthy refreshments will be provided.
The Met's After Hours Lecture Series partners with Community Medical Centers during Grossology to offer a series of health-themed discussions on topics ranging from fertility to bariatric surgery to acid reflux.
Finally, the Met is hosting a special one-day family health fair with doctors, nurses, dietitians, and medical students and other health care professionals.
Grossology is already booked a month or more in advance for school field trips; judging from all the fun, interactive modules for children it might even surpass Dinosaurs in popularity. And wouldn't that be great? A big yellow bus filled with 8 year-old talking non-stop about farting?
Oh excuse me, that was nineteen.
The Met is located at 1515 Van Ness. Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 11am to 5pm, plus Art Hop. Admission: $8, $5 students and seniors. Phone: 559-441-1444. Visit http://www.fresnomet.org for more information.