grossologyAs a mom I’ve seen a lot of pretty gross and disgusting things.  So as a traveling mom, why would I come up with a travel idea for kids that involves fun of the grossest kind?

Last week my kids and I were looking for something to do and found an advertisement for “Grossology: The (Impolite) Science of the Human Body,” an exhibit currently on view at the Springfield Science Museum through September 6, 2009. The exhibit is based on the popular children’s book series by scientist Sylvia Branzei.  According to the museum’s website, Grossology offered an “interactive, larger-than-life biology lesson that harnesses children’s natural curiosity about themselves and explains how the human body functions. Grossology engages young children by appealing to their fascination with the stinky, slimy, noisy functions of their bodies.”

That description provides a terrific summary.  Grossology serves double duty as wildly entertaining and exceptionally educational. For example, have you ever wondered if it’s possible to run out of snot? Could you name the order that your stomach, esophagus, brain, and mouth work so that you can barf?  Why is it that some farts announce themselves with high pitched sound and others are low pitched or silent?

We spent about 40 minutes in the exhibit. The scope of the presentation is kid-friendly. You can stay 30 minutes or an hour. The interactive games and displays spewed (pardon the pun) all the types of facts about the human body that make great small talk, whether in the sandbox or a family picnic.

The rest of the museum was a delight. The Dinosaur Room served up the usual giant bones and we got to learn about the animals and cultures of Africa and Native Americans. A big hit was the planetarium show, Stars Around the Campfire, that explained how different cultures have explained the constellations in the seasonal night skies. This particularly excited my 8-year-old son. We will never forget that one legend has the hunter traveling through the night sky in pursuit of the big bear from spring until fall. In fall, when the hunter finally kills his prey, the bear bleeds from the sky, causing the leaves on New England trees to turn red. You don’t always learn these things from textbooks!

What was the even bigger surprise was our discovery of the Springfield Museums. Although I’ve been in and out of Springfield numerous times during my life, I never realized this quadrangle of several institutions existed just about an hour’s drive from my home. In addition to the Springfield Science Museum, the other buildings include the Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, which houses the country’s only permanent collection of Currier and Ives prints; The Connecticut Valley Historical Museum, which currently has a special exhibit on toy soldiers; the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum with its ancient treasures; the Museum of Springfield History; and finally, the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden.

As a writer who counts children’s writing among her genres, the Dr. Seuss Memorial was a particularly delightful experience. Five bronzed statues, featuring Horton, the Whos, the Lorax. But the one that took my breath away was the statue of Dr. Seuss himself, Theadore Geisel, at work at his desk, with the Cat in the Hat by his side. A special tribute to this man who has brought delight through words to children of all ages through all time.

My only disappointment in our museum experience was navigating through the old buildings for things like bathrooms and planetariums. More visible signage would have been helpful. My advice to visitors would be to allow enough time for these necessities and for finding where you’re going.  Not a big deal but we cut it short a few times. The old buildings are very cool but it not user friendly for what we’re used to today.

If you’re visiting Springfield, MA you could combine a visit to the museums with a day at nearby Six Flags New England or a visit to the Basketball Hall of Fame, sure to be a slam dunk activity for families that love hoops!