Learning often takes blood, sweat and tears. Or, in the case of the new Animal Grossology exhibit, at the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts in Harrisburg, PA, it takes blood, stink and slime.
Running through April 27, the exhibit is a treat for anyone — unless you’re bashful about gas, vomit or anything else that’s probably not discussed while at the dinner table.
There is lots to learn at the exhibit, and the best part is that nearly everything is hands-on (and most of the stations have multiple positions, so kids won’t get stuck behind one child who’s taking too long on the drag-the-hairball-through-the-kitty game.) Some of the activities are video-based, such as when kids control an animated dung beetle — with his, um, cargo — to be the first to reach his lair. But there are lower-tech games and activities, too, such as the “Poop Matching Game” in the Room of Poop or step up to four squeeze bottles lined up in a row. You give one a squeeze and a sniff, then try to guess the stench’s purpose. The lucky among us who get a big whiff of a skunk’s spray kind of get a freebie on that one.
The exhibit should appeal to a wide age range; younger kids will enjoy pushing buttons and the audioanamatronic characters that pop up from time to time, while older kids will get a kick out of the subject matter. There’s a wide variety of animals included — while most kids will have heard of, say, a cow (one of the gassiest animals on Earth), they might be unfamiliar with a hagfish, which takes the title of slimiest. When grabbed, they produce enough mucus that the water around them gets cloudy and holding on to them nearly impossible.
The best part of the activities is that they emphasize that animals’ bodily fluids and functions have a reason and a purpose (other than making Mom roll her eyes). The final game sums up all that kids have learned about all the grossness in the animal world.
The exhibit has over a dozen learning stations, but probably won’t take more than an hour or so of your time (depending on how into vomit your particular child is.) The Whitaker Center itself is a solid children’s science museum, with nearly everything appealing to the hands-on learner. They can hoist themselves with pulleys, take quizzes and hand-crank enough electricity to light a light bulb. We saw two young boys very much enjoying Newton’s third law by slamming into one another using chairs on a track (a perfectly acceptable activity here.) Some of the museum is undergoing renovations; while everything is there, some of the aesthetics might be a bit lacking. There is an IMAX theater, although you’ll have to pay extra to see a movie.
The museum is almost exactly two hours from Annapolis, but is a scenic drive, and there’s other things to do in the area (it’s close to Hershey; even in winter, you can take a tour of Hershey’s Chocolate World.) And just think of how illuminating the conversation will be in the car on the way home.
The Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts
222 Market St., Harrisburg
$12.75 for adults, $10.75 children 3-12