Yesterday, faced with a cold and rainy day, we decided to take a trip to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science where I had seen that the Body Worlds exhibit was showing. The museum used to be an old standby for us on days like this one but since moving back to Boulder we had not gone. If you haven't been to the museum, make time, it's a great place for kids and something you should see as an adult. A couple of tips if you go: 1) If it's busy and the parking lot is full, park across the baseball fields in the small lot. The kids loved running around in the grass as we headed into and left the museum. 2) The membership + tickets to Body Worlds is only $5 more than a day pass and tickets to Body Worlds, get the membership, go back.
[caption id="attachment_500" align="aligncenter" width="491" caption="Limer Gymnast with Organs Copyright: Gunther von Hagens, Institute for Plastination, Heidelberg, Germany, www.bodyworlds.com"][/caption]
So after a walk through the museum we headed into the Body Works exhibit. Body Works is an exhibition of real human bodies and body parts that are posed and then preserved through the process of plastination. The results can be displayed in the open air and viewed without the distorting effects of other preservation methods. The bodies are posed doing all types of activities including hurdles, archery, figure skating, and gymnastics so that you can see how the body changes as we move. In addition to that various layers are removed or separated to allow you to see into the body. The experience is very cool and allows for laymen to see parts of the body that you would normally only see if you were learning to be a doctor.
[caption id="attachment_502" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Heart, opened longitudinally Copyright: Gunther von Hagens, Institute for Plastination, Heidelberg, Germany, www.bodyworlds.com"][/caption]
As much as I wanted to see this exhibit for myself, it was important to me to bring the kids and involve them in what we were seeing. Before we went I explained to them that these were real human bodies that were displayed as a result of their choice to donate their bodies to science after death. If they had been uncomfortable with this we wouldn't have gone but neither one seemed to be bothered by it. Once we entered it became pretty apparent that R, our 5 year old, was not very interested in what was being shown. I'm not sure if he was having a hard time connecting what he was seeing to other human bodies or if he was just tired but every time I tried to explain what we were looking at his eyes kind of glazed over. However, the 8 year old, K, was connecting with everything that I was explaining and was very interested. Being able to point to the exhibits and then touch on K's body the corresponding bone or muscle really seemed to set what she was seeing in reality and excited her. The displays of the blood vessels of various body parts and animals not only peaked her interest but, for me, really set in reality just how extensive our vascular system is. Overall Heather, K and I really enjoyed the Body Works exhibit. Unfortunately R just wasn't into it although as I write this he remembers what is in these pictures and seems interested.
[caption id="attachment_505" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Blood Vessel Configuration of the Head and Brain Copyright: Gunther von Hagens, Institute for Plastination, Heidelberg, Germany, www.bodyworlds.com"][/caption]
Out of the 200+ people that were in the exhibit our children were the youngest. As such, I feel the need to give a few warnings to other parents who may be planning on going. My first warning is to gauge the interest of your children in this. It will take you 1.5 to 2 hours to go through the exhibit. If you are able to pay attention, it's amazing. If your kid is bored or freaks out, you will get to pay for a quick walk through a dark hall glancing at the things you wish you could examine. My second warning is that every body part is on display. If you are not comfortable talking with your kids about every part of the body, including genitalia, you may not want to take your kids. We have always tried to be very open and honest with our kids in this area but I understand that some parents choose to wait to have these sorts of discussions. My last warning is that the display is the result of people and animals dying. Your kids may have questions that result in unpleasant conversations afterwards. K was curious and concerned about the baby skull that was on display showing the skull in it's pre-fused state. We explained that not all babies survive and that some mommies and daddies choose to donate the body to science to help doctors better understand the body. This seemed to help her understand.
All warnings aside, this is a great exhibit and I am considering going back to take more time. For me it solidified in reality many of the things we are taught about human physiology through drawings and concepts. If you go I suggest calling the museum to find out when there is a less busy time to go. It was very crowded when we went on a Saturday at 5:45pm.