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MUSEUM : Doll Teaches Kids About Operations of Human Body : Stuffee, whose organs are made of cloth and fiberfill, will take the stage beginning this month at Oxnard facility.

September 16, 1993|JANE HULSE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Just where does that banana go after you moosh it up in your mouth and swallow it? And what the heck is a gall bladder?

The inquiring minds of children want to know. At least that's what the Gull Wings Children's Museum is banking on. The Oxnard museum is bringing in a giant doll named Stuffee to provide the answers.

The portly, blue-haired 5-foot doll has a zipper down his front, and hidden inside are 10 anatomically correct organs--all made of cloth and stuffed with fiberfill.

The doll, on loan indefinitely from FHP Health Care, will take the stage at the museum beginning this month, said Gig Wishon, director of the museum.

Museum volunteers are being trained to make presentations with Stuffee to show in simple, vivid form how the human body works. Nai Kang, an FHP health education intern, recently gave a preview of Stuffee's innards to three dozen children and parents at the museum.

Kang unzipped Stuffee, reached in and pulled out a heart. Then she pulled out the lungs, which looked like two attached pillows.

"See how clean and white they are," Kang said. "Stuffee doesn't smoke, that's why."

Then she crammed a fake banana into the doll's mouth and took the children on a trip through Stuffee's anatomy. As she pulled out body parts--the esophagus, pancreas, gall bladder, liver and kidneys--she handed the stuffed organs to children who formed a sort-of human food chain.

Of course, the best moment was when she pulled out 20-foot-long sections of the small and large intestines and explained their circuitous shape. The food chain, with the pieces clipping onto one another, extended around the stage.

When it was over, Kang said: "They like the fact that they can touch the organs."

The Orange County-based FHP has Stuffees on loan at several California locations, including the Los Angeles and Long Beach Children's Museums, said Diana Mann, spokeswoman for FHP. The doll was originally designed for the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh.

FHP circulates the dolls through schools, and the Stuffee on loan at the Oxnard museum is likely to make field trips to some local schools, she said. Travel is no easy feat for the larger-than-life doll. He has to be loaded onto a truck.

Stuffee's actual arrival date and schedule of appearances at Gull Wings hasn't been worked out yet, according to Wishon.

If you haven't visited Gull Wings lately, Friday is a good day to do so because the museum is offering a special free evening. The open house is part of a collaborative cultural offering, "Rediscover Downtown's Treasures," that includes open houses at several Oxnard locations.

The museum has added some new touches--new gadgets and gizmos for kids to touch and play with. This is a hands-on place, where it's also OK to make a little noise.

The newest addition is a bicycle-like contraption. When it is pedaled, it sends power to colored lights that blink on. Top speed is 30 m.p.h. though. Beyond that, the thing blows a fuse, a sign informs pedalers.

Kids can see how local artist Kim Loucks found a use for trash, like junk mail. She built two totem pole-like sculptures for the museum entirely from trash.

The medical room, where kids can try out wheelchairs and crutches, now has an X-ray viewer in which teeth and bones are brightly displayed.

Open since 1989, the museum operates on a shoestring budget, depending heavily upon donations and volunteer help. Supporters helped remodel the old USO building where the museum is located, and they have built the exhibits over the last four years.

The museum now attracts 20,000 people a year. The exhibits are designed for kids ages 2 through 14 who can do everything from operating the bubble makers to playing in the pretend-campground to putting on a puppet show.

*

Illusionist Andre Kole, who has been a creative consultant for David Copperfield, will be working his own magic in two shows this weekend at the Oxnard Civic Auditorium, 800 Hobson Way. The shows are Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 5 and 8 p.m. Tickets are $8, $10, and $12 at the door. For advance tickets at half price, call 445-3612.

*

Children's entertainer Jimmy D has a gig at the Newbury Park branch of the Thousand Oaks Library Tuesday. Show times are 5 and 7 p.m. This is a freebie, but kids must be 3 and older.

* WHERE AND WHEN

FYI: Gull Wings Children's Museum, 418 W. Fourth St., Oxnard, is open Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Admission is $3 for adults, $2 for children 2 to 12; children under 2 are free. For information, call 483-3005.

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