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Kids learn while getting grossed out

Children scale to new heights of curiosity inside

Children scale to new heights of curiosity inside the interactive exhibit, "Grossology: The (Impolite) Science of the Human Body," at the Long Island Children's Museum in Garden City. (June 2, 2011) Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

What elementary school kid wouldn't love considering this question: "Why do we throw up?"

Answers come flying from third-graders during a recent visit to the Long Island Children's Museum's new interactive exhibit, "Grossology: The (Impolite) Science of the Human Body."

"You eat too much." "You're sick." "You need to clean out your stomach."

All correct, confirms Long Island Children's Museum educator Elizabeth Erdmann. When students enter "Grossology" -- walking through a human mouth with big, red lips and kooky white teeth -- they'll visit the "Vomit Center" to learn more, as well as "Burps and Belches," "Professor Nigel Nose-It-All" and more. The Dave & Buster-style exhibit will teach them why they get runny noses, what causes blisters and what's behind bad breath.

The museum had been waiting to host the traveling exhibit for several years, says Maureen Mangan, director of communications. "The fact that it's here in the summertime is fantastic," she says. Next week, the museum will host a "Gross Me Out Gala," during which the building will be open in the evening. Instead of traditional face paint designs, kids can have scabs and bruises painted on. They can design their own barf bag for vacation. They'll eat "bad skin" cupcakes decorated with whiteheads, blackheads and pimples. The exhibit continues during regular museum hours through Sept. 4.

Here's a sampling of the stations at "Grossology":


The professor is a larger-than-life talking character whose nose is a giant faucet. As he shares his fun facts about mucus, a glob of slimy green drops out of his nostril, to the delight of viewers. One fact kids learn: "Don't stick your fingers up your nose or rub your eyes. These are the two best places for cold viruses to live in your body." A microscope lets children look at things that get stuck in the nose -- hair, air pollution, pollen.


Participants lean over and grasp a tube; when they squeeze it and sniff, they have to guess which smell it is from among such choices as bad breath, armpit and foot. "We see a lot of families gathered around here having these moments of roaring laughter and disgust," says Aimee Terzulli, director of programs at the museum. One fact kids learn: "During sleep ... bacteria feast on food particles, reproduce and make waste." That's what causes morning breath.


Five people compete to win this multiple-choice trivia game led by Her Grossness, based on the character from the "Grossology" book series by Sylvia Banzei. Sample question: "Scabs: 1. Protect damaged skin until it heals; 2. Are meant to be picked; 3. Are the same as blisters; 4. Help you clean your room." Allan Dalindo, 8, a third-grader from Westbury in the Drexel Avenue School's Dual Language program, emits a frustrated, "Oh!" when he blows a question asking for the scientific word for the swallowing tube. "I thought it was mouth," Allan says. The correct answer is esophagus.


Kids burn some energy climbing a small rock wall; they step onto different kinds of skin blemishes, including blisters, pimples and warts. "Did you guys know that the dermis is under the epidermis?" says Allan's classmate Samanth Melgar, 9. "It's kind of cool." One fact kids learn: "Blisters form when skin is damaged by rubbing, heat or a virus."


"You got it, Elie," says Sean Bryan, 10, a fifth-grader at Drexel Avenue, urging on his classmate Elie Desrosiers, 11, as he pumps a handle sending "soda" down the throat of a cartoon character until it builds up in the stomach and makes the character burp. One fact kids learn: "Most people burp about five times a day."


"Urine: The Game" is a video game about how the bloodstream produces urine; "Look Inside" shows how food moves through the digestive system; "Patients Please" lets participants use tongs to place organs in the correct compartments in a life-size game of Operation.



"Gross Me Out Gala" for families with kids ages 3 to 12; also the "Grossology" exhibit


Gala: 6 to 9 p.m. June 29 at the Long Island Children's Museum, 11 Davis Ave., Garden City; "Grossology" exhibit runs 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Sept. 4


Gala: $8, includes museum admission; exhibit: free with museum admission of $11 for children and adults, $10 for ages 65 and older (museum closed Mondays in June); 516-224-5800;

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