Kids get les­son in well­ness at Seat­tle mu­seum ex­hibit

Austin American-Statesman - - LIFE & ARTS - By­jack Broom Seat­tle Times

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.

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