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Science on Display from the Inside Out in Body Worlds

Science on Display from the Inside Out in Body Worlds

Guest post by Michelle Carchrae

With the return of the cool, rainy weather, my daughter and I have been looking for more indoor activities and decided that we were due for a trip to Science World. Some friends reminded us that several of our favourite exhibit spaces were going to be closed, including Kidspace and Search: The Sara Stern Gallery, to make space for the temporary Body Worlds exhibit and gallery renovations. We decided to check out Body Worlds instead.

Body Worlds and Plastination

The Body Worlds exhibit was created by anatomist Dr. Gunther von Hagens, the inventor of plastination. Plastination is a process of preserving body tissues that replaces the water and fat with certain plastics, which harden and prevent the tissues from decaying. The Body Worlds exhibit contains plastinated body parts and whole bodies that have been partially dissected to show various body systems.

Real Bodies?

The Body Worlds exhibit really does have real bodies in it. I had seen it once before, and both times I felt simultaneously neutral and just a little creeped out by the idea that the bodies I was looking at were once walking, talking and living in the world just as I am now. However, the displays are very tastefully presented and it is an excellent opportunity to learn about how the human body works and what our bodies look like on the inside.

Is Body Worlds Suitable for Young Children?

Whether or not you and your children will feel comfortable going to the Body Worlds exhibit will depend a lot on your own sensitivities. Genitals, eyes and nipples remain on the plastinated bodies. In the very first showcase inside the entrance there is a newborn’s skull, with a description of how the bones are not yet fused, which allows them to compress during birth. My four year old took a look, asked me if it was real, then asked, “Did someone kill a newborn baby?” I explained that sometimes babies don’t survive past birth because their bodies weren’t healthy enough, and this skull came from one of those babies. If you or your child would be uncomfortable with this kind of conversation, Body Worlds might contain too many difficult moments to be enjoyable. There is also a section of the exhibit that contains plastinates of a pregnant mother, embryos and fetuses, so if you’re especially sensitive to these aspects of the human experience it might be easier to skip over to another section of the exhibit or give Body Worlds a miss entirely.

Our Body Worlds Experience

Overall, we had a good time at Body Worlds. We compared the lungs of a healthy person, a cigarette smoker and a coal mine worker. We looked at just how long our intestines are, where the kidneys are located, how big a 4 week old embryo is and how the esophagus and larynx fit together. We went early on the opening day, so it was fairly empty with no waiting time to enter the exhibit. Like our experience at the Art Gallery, my daughter was ready to be done before I was, but it was an interesting way to spend an hour or so and we learned a lot about the human body.

Body Worlds at Science World started on September 16 and runs until January. Tickets can be purchased in advance at the Science World website, or at the kiosk outside the entrance to Science World. The Body Worlds exhibit has a no re-entrance policy, and there are no washrooms inside the exhibit, so if you’re going with kids be especially sure to visit the bathroom first! For more information on the process of plastination and Dr. Gunther von Hagens, check out the Body Worlds website.

Michelle Carchrae is a freelance writer and mama to two little girls.  Michelle writes about attachment parenting, parenting resources and life with kids at her blog The Parent Vortex.

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