Joseph Page seemed to be taking it all in. Stopping at a display on the colon (coyly titled "End of the Line") in the "Body Wonder-full" exhibit, the 8-year-old Corona boy listened carefully as his dad, Gerry, read the display card. He confidently squeezed the glob of Play-Doh-ish goop through the length of rubber tubing to simulate the intestine's actions. He bounded willingly into the "crawl-through" colon, but seconds later stopped dead in his tracks and quickly backed out.
"Nah," he said with a sheepish grin, "maybe I won't do this one."
"Body Wonder-full," at the La Habra Children's Museum through April 20, is a series of hands-on stations offering a lively lesson in biology. Children can identify 10 different scents at the "smell lab," get the inside picture by trying on a see-through "body bib" and, if they're so inclined, take a jaunt through the 3-foot-wide "crawl-through" colon.
Watching a group of youngsters scoot, squeeze and shift their way through the exhibit on a recent morning, gallery assistant Carrie Wictor said she considers the show important because it "demonstrates the similarities we all have, while emphasizing what's unique about each one of us . . . like different skin color or hair color or height."
Pat McVicar, administrative director of the Sacramento Science Center--which sponsored the exhibit--said that "Body Wonder-full" was created with the elementary school-age child in mind. It is the first of the 40-year-old center's exhibits to go on the road.
"Before we designed the show, we polled local teachers and found that there was a tremendous need for something that would supplement health education at the elementary school level," McVicar said. "In Alabama, for example, we were told that every fourth-grade class in the area booked tours" of the exhibit.
Younger children and parents will also enjoy the show, McVicar said. "The parents can read and interpret many of the stops for the little ones, while the older students can read and interpret (the displays) for themselves. The result is a multilevel learning experience that simulates interaction between all ages," she added.
A garden cart overflowing with plastic fruits and vegetables provided an easy-to-swallow lesson on nutrition for 6-year-old Faith Batarseh. Aided by gallery assistant Wictor, the child ticked off the names of the various goodies while Wictor read from accompanying pullout cards that explained their nutritional content and value. When asked if she would now eat more produce, Faith was receptive, but no pushover.
"I'd eat most of these things anyway," she said. Then, eyeing a faux eggplant and bell pepper, she added, "Well, all except these. They're gross."
So much for taste. To explore the other senses, children can belly up to a yardlong plastic nose for an explanation of its purpose, learning, for example, that as we go about our business, breathing in "about a roomful of air" each day, our hard-working nose hairs are acting as our personal air-conditioning systems, trapping dirt and pollen. Steps away, children can check their sniffing skills at a "smell lab," where small squeeze bottles contain scents ranging from peppermint to garlic. At the neighboring "touch lab," children read that their sense of touch can provide pleasure and serve as a warning sign of potential pain, then test their tactile abilities on nine "touch cubes" ranging from bristly scrub brushes to delicate lace.
Elsewhere in the show, children can explore the function of the heart by squeezing "blood" into a glass box, try on plexiglass "body bibs" that outline the position of their heart, lungs and stomach and capture their silhouettes on a "shadow wall" covered with photo-sensitive paint. To supplement the exhibit, the museum is sponsoring free children's health workshops and performances each Saturday through the run of the show. This weekend, it's mime Ruben Gerard in "Anatomime," a silent introduction to the parts of the body geared to kindergartners on up.
What: "Body Wonder-full."
When: Continuing through April 20.
Where: La Habra Children's Museum, 301 S. Euclid St., La Habra.
Whereabouts: Orange Freeway to Lambert Road, drive west to Euclid Street and turn right.
Wherewithal: $1.50 to $2.
Where to Call: (213) 905-9793.
MORE FUN STUFF:
Tap-tap-tap away your troubles as the Fullerton Children's Repertory Theater presents Cole Porter's "Anything Goes." The 44-member cast, ages 10 to 13, performs through Feb. 9 at the Fullerton High School Little Theater (Lemon Street and Chapman Avenue). Shows are Fridays at 7:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. Reservations are suggested. Tickets: $5. (714) 870-6911.
On Saturday, Feb. 2, children of all ages can do their bit for Mother Nature in "Help Revegetate Upper Newport Bay," a free event sponsored by the Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve. Volunteers are needed to dig out unwanted plants. Bring gloves and a shovel and meet at 8:30 a.m. at the Big Canyon parking lot on Back Bay Drive. (714) 640-6746.
Slide shows, gallery talks and hands-on art activities focusing on the works of American realist painter Edward Hopper highlight the next "Art After School" program at the Newport Harbor Art Museum, 850 San Clemente Drive, Newport Beach. Open to ages 6 to 12, the four-week sessions begin Tuesday and Wednesday, Feb. 5 and 6. Fee: $40; advance registration required. (714) 644-3151.