Kids get lesson in wellness at Seattle museum exhibit
SEATTLE — Getting sneezed on isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time.
But it didn’t bother 8year-old Jonas Pierle at the Pacific Science Center last week.
“It’s actually pretty disgusting — but fun,” Jonas said.
Jonas and two dozen other B.F. Day Elementary School students got a preview of the science center’s first major exhibit in more than a decade, the $7.5 million “Professor Wellbody’s Academy of Health & Wellness.”
The 7,000-square-foot exhibit, six years in the making, is now opened to the public. If it succeeds, it may not only pave the way for more imaginative hands-on learning projects at the center, but — backers say — could help create a healthier citizenry.
The “sneeze” that hit Jonas? It was a blast of mist that appeared to come from a giant face on a projection screen. And with it came a blast of science, noting that a typical sneeze can consist of “40,000 particles of contagious gunk” traveling at 100 miles an hour.
If that knowledge prompts Jonas, or other visitors, to block their sneezes with tissues or even their sleeves, the exhibit will have taken a step in the right direction, backers say.
At the Wellbody Academy, visitors are regarded as students in a school created by fictional health-education visionary Eleanor Wellbody and developed by her nephew, Prof. Arden Wellbody.
In a half-dozen exhibit stations, students learn how decisions they make every day affect their health, and can have farreaching effects.
That doesn’t mean sound choices have to be heroic. For example, one display says someone ordering a drive-in sandwich of chicken, bacon and cheese could cut the calories in half by skipping the bacon and cheese, and having the chicken grilled, rather than fried.
While Jonas was at the Sneeze Wall, another B.F. Day student, Mahdi Drake El, in a different part of the exhibit, pedaled vigorously on a recumbent bicycle. The lighted display in front of him said he’d have to pedal like that for 20 minutes to burn off a single, 12-ounce sugary soft drink.
Mahdi said the exhibit reinforces what he’s been learning about nutrition at school, and he’s making a point of eating more salads.
Other students, in a cafeterialike display, selected disks representing various types of food gliding by on a conveyor belt, and placing them into an “analyzer” that displayed their calorie count and nutritional value.
Pacific Science Center President Bryce Seidl said the exhibit embodies a transformation at the center, which is “trying to become a more vital connection” between scientific research and people’s everyday lives.