On January 20, The Kentucky Science Center (formerly Louisville Science Center) launched a new special exhibit that will run until May 19, 2013: BODY WORLDS Vital, an in-depth exploration of the human body and how our dietary and health choices affect our intricate physiological system.
The highlights of the exhibit, created by Dr. Gunther von Hagens, are the lifelike human forms frozen in various positions—the swordsman, the lassoing cowboy, the singer. These are not boring, plain skeletons left over from a high school science class; instead, they are real human specimens that have been preserved for display through a process called Plastination.
These human forms, complete with muscles, veins, bones, and organs, left a lasting impression on my young children who visited the exhibit last weekend. Even in 2013, when our children's education is routinely bombarded with high-definition graphics and 4D imaging and 360 degree viewing screens, there is something significant about taking a quiet moment to simply look at something real and trying to understand it. My almost-six year old grasped this concept, especially as she viewed a blackened smoker's lung next to a healthy pink one. (She was also quick to point out the difference between the male and female body forms, often adding in a hushed voice, "Do you know how I know that’s a boy?" Well, yes, I do know. And I'm glad you also have been enlightened by this anatomy lesson.) I will admit that the exhibit was over my three year-old's head, as the bulging eyeballs in a halved cranium elicited more giggles than educational understanding. But then again, she didn't dislike the exhibit either. She just had more fun in the tot-filled Kidzone.
But for school age children, I think BODY WORLDS Vital will be a terrific educational outing. Whether or not your child is interested in science or anatomy, the exhibit encourages children to make the connections between healthy living and a healthy body. It's easier to understand the old adage, "You are what you eat" when you examine a spread-out intestine or the difference between the legs of an obese person and someone with a healthy BMI index. The human forms in the exhibit highlight the body in optimum health, distress, and disease, and even children can perceive the difference and choose which body they'd rather call their own.
The exhibit also features large photographs of several families from around the world and the contents of what they consume in one week spread out on a kitchen table. What an incredibly interesting display! My children really studied the difference between the Indian family's bounty of fruits and vegetables compared with the amount of meat consumed in Australia or the number of packaged foods in the American family's picture. It was a simple exhibit, but again, it really drove home the themes we try to teach our children about eating well-rounded, healthy foods in moderation.
If you are visiting BODY WORLDS Vital with a child, the Kentucky Science Center provides some useful integration materials online. Here you'll find some helpful questions and discussion points and you can download an educator's guide here.
You can get tickets for BODY WORLDS Vital at the museum or online. Members get access to the exhibit plus permanent exhibits for $10/adult and $5/child; non-members will pay $20/adult and $15/child. IMAX films The Human Body or Flight of the Butterflies can also be added to admission prices.
For more information, visit www.kysciencecenter.org.