Exploring belches and boogers

Walk-in nose, gastrointestinal tract featured in exhibit on the science of `Grossology'

February 12, 2007|By Chris Emery | Chris Emery,sun reporter

Mia Kobylski issued a ladylike greeting upon entering the cavernous plastic nostril.

"Hello, Mr. Nose," said the 5-year-old. In response, the nose sneezed - Achoo! - and a puff of air blasted the girl's hair back.

Mia might be a well-mannered little girl, but yesterday she found herself immersed in Grossology: The (Impolite) Science of the Human Body, a decidedly uncouth exhibit at the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Grossology, which opened locally in late January and is slated to run until April 29, lets children explore the science behind the oozy, stinky and crusty functions of the human body.

The hands-on exhibit, based on the best-selling children's book Grossology by Sylvia Branzei and Jack Keely, includes a tour of a giant gastrointestinal tract complete with a slide - the GI Slide - from esophagus to stomach. A 7-foot-long version of the doctor game Operation teaches anatomy and a sound game called Toot Toot explores the ins and outs of the digestive system's sometimes noisy method of dealing with built-up air pressure.

Mia, who had traveled to the museum with her father, Kevin Kobylski, from York County, Pa., took a tour of the insides of an 8-foot-tall nose complete with blood vessels, sinus openings and sneezes. "This is a hot place and there's disgusting mucus," she said, exiting from a nostril. Undeterred, she went back in the other nostril for a second look.

Earlier she'd scaled a pink wall intended to mimic a giant patch of skin - complete with warts, pimples and moles for use as hand and foot holds for climbing.

Wendy and Andy Lipshultz drove to the museum from Sterling, Va., with their three children. Their eldest son, Zack, 6, saw an advertisement for Grossology and urged the family to visit.

"It's a 6-year-old boy's dream," said Wendy Lipshultz. "For kids, bodily functions are entertaining so it's kind of like permission for them to enjoy."

Andy Lipshultz seemed to be enjoying himself as well. "Zach have you seen the burp machine?" he said, calling his son over. "It's hilarious, especially for someone who likes to burp all the time."

Joining his father, Zack pumped a lever on the burp machine that filled a large plastic man's stomach with soda pop. When the stomach filled and the machine's "Burp-o-Meter" reached "Gas Attack," the plastic man released a mighty belch - drawing a laugh from Zach and his father.

"Excuse me," the plastic man said, "I wonder where that came from?"

Nearby, Brenden and Arjun Sutherland, 9 and 7, respectively, were entranced by another animated plastic character, Professor Nigel Nose-It-All. The boys, from Ellicott City, listened intently as the professor, who had a sink faucet for a nose, expounded on the makeup of mucus.

"Snot is 99 percent water with a pinch of protein to thicken it," the professor explained. "You won't run out of snot unless you run out of blood, and if you run out of blood you'll have bigger problems."

Then, as the professor explained that he was allergic to cats and also catches colds occasionally, a large green drop of faux mucus emerged ever so slowly from his single nostril. The snot drop hung there as if it might fall at any moment.

"Ewwwwww!" said Brenden, his face screwing up in disgust.

Soon the two boys were off to play with an air gun from which they would try shooting boogers - large ping pong balls - into a plastic nose.

chris.emery@baltsun.com

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