Arthur Myron of Jessup, Md., sits at an iMac computer with his 4-year-old daughter, Maya, on his lap. Together they try to create a breakfast menu that has no more than 10 grams of fat, at least 6 grams of fiber and 50 milligrams of vitamin C.
One by one, Maya clicks on various breakfast items and drags them onto a plate in the middle of the screen. When she is done, they drag the food into a “squisher” to find out the results.
“Boo,” says the machine. Time to try again and again.
Afterward, even Mr. Myron had to admit he learned quite a bit from Port Discovery’s “Body Odyssey” traveling exhibit, which is being held in the Harvey M. Meyerhoff Gallery through Jan. 15.
“It’s been great for her, because she likes interactive games,” Mr. Myron says. “She is pretty computer-literate, even though she is 4. I’d say we both learned a lot today.”
Janine Lockwood, Port Discovery’s director of exhibits and programs, says many children and adults seem to have learned a good deal from the exhibit since it opened in September. Port Discovery is on Market Place in Baltimore’s old Fishmarket, near the Inner Harbor.
“We haven’t done any formal evaluations yet, but everything I’ve seen has been a real positive,” Ms. Lockwood says. “We’ve had a lot of school groups come through here, and the feedback from them has been very encouraging.”
“Body Odyssey” helps visitors better understand how their bodies work, focusing mostly on the digestive, respiratory and circulatory systems. Parents will find a wealth of the latest information on fitness, nutrition and health to read while their children are playing computer games and other multimedia attractions.
And yes, there is a considerable “yuck” factor involved, which is to be expected for a museum exhibit on the human body, especially one that is aimed at children. So parents might want to be on guard to expect a display of a giant human tongue and see just what a cheeseburger looks like after it has been broken down and processed by stomach acids (warning it isn’t Rembrandt).
Along the way, children learn how cuts stop bleeding, using small red pillows as blood platelets. They can take their own instant pulse by gripping a metal bar and checking the liquid crystal display readout.
“We’ve known about the exhibit here for a while,” Mr. Myron says. “But this is the first time we’ve come. Maya enjoys climbing and computers, so she has gotten plenty of that here.”
Staff from Johns Hopkins University will be on hand on Saturdays during the exhibit’s duration to run complementary activities. Some of them include “Exercise and Our Health,” featuring exercise classes; “Seeing is Believing,” where children use special diagnostic equipment to learn what vision problems are like; “Leeches and Lancing,” where children learn about outdated medical treatments; and “Glow-Germs,” where children learn how well they washed their hands with a special “glow-germ product.”
Other museum activities also tie into the “Body Odyssey” exhibit. The Studio Workshop provides opportunities for children to make their own eyewear. In the R&D Dreamlab, children make their own string marionettes to learn about motion.