They Had Me at Sneeze Wall: Professor Wellbody’s Academy at Pacific Science Center

Published on: December 30, 2013

preview_7We can obsess over, or choose to ignore, the depressing statistics on childhood obesity. We can fret over our own kids’ health. We can worry about the latest super-bug.

Or we can take a small but powerful step: Get off our butts, grab our kids and head down to the Pacific Science Center’s new permanent exhibit, Professor Wellbody’s Academy of Health and Wellness.

Opening Saturday, December 1, Professor Wellbody is a 7,000-square-foot exploration of nutrition, fitness, sleep and hygiene that promises to be hands-on, playful, and in a few places, awesomely gross.

The vibe is Hogwarts goes quasi-steampunk, with plenty of interactive displays — odd-looking contraptions, gadgets and gizmos, buttons to push, gears to crank.

But while the exhibit provides abundant exploration, its mission is very serious: To spark a sense of responsibility in children (and their parents), fostering the concept that even small changes in behavior can affect overall health.

Professow Wellbody space

The whole exhibit is fantastic, but there are some definite kid favorites:

- Burger Planet is a mock drive-thru in which kids can place (or take) an order based on the food’s caloric “price tag.” Beside the fact that kids love to talk into the microphone, the activity reinforces the idea that daily decisions compound for better or worse in our overall health.

- The Sneeze Wall (see image above) projects a captivating image, in slow motion, of people sneezing. But watch where you stand, because this is an interactive experience. It may just be water mist, but it gets the point across.

- Little ones will happily spend the whole visit stomping and jumping on the Exergames — one of those floor projection systems that responds to motion.

- The Food Analyzer allows visitors to grab one of the many “food pucks” off the conveyer belt and place it on a scanner. The scanner pops up with the nutritional information and older kids can challenge themselves to create a day’s worth of balanced nutrition.

Girl at Professor Wellbody exhibitThe exhibit is designed to feel like a functioning school, divided in seven sections, each focusing on a specific area. Wellbody Hall features the core educational message — behavior changes, goal setting and getting support from family and community. The Playdium gets your body moving and the Cafedium is a game of food choices. The Slumberatorium promotes the right kind of shut-eye, the Germnasium is all about hygiene, and the Loft looks at changes throughout a lifetime.

The Studio is the only part of the exhibit that will change regularly — every six months it will be refreshed with a new topic from cutting-edge science, displaying the work and theories of today’s scientists. The current topic is Next Generation Genetics, to be followed by Neuroscience next June.

Made possible by an early grant from Group Health in 2006, the Professor Wellbody Academy is a substantial and well-timed addition to Pacific Science Center, representing its first new permanent exhibit in ten years.

The newest generation, the babies of today, may be the first ever to live a shorter life than their parents. What to do? One baby step at a time. Take that first step to the Pacific Science Center and get sneezed upon.

Photo credit: Shelly Oberman

If you go ...

Where: Professor Wellbody’s Academy opens at Pacific Science Center, Seattle Center, on Saturday, Dec. 1.

Hours: Monday–Friday 9:45 a.m.–5 p.m.; Saturday–Sunday, and holidays 9:45 a.m.–6 p.m.

Admission: Included in Pacific Science Center admission: $11–$16; free for ages 2 and under

Explore: The exhibit also includes a helpful interactive website.

emily-smith-croppedAbout the author: Emily Metcalfe Smith lives and writes in Edmonds, WA. She is the mother of two boys, ages 9 and 11, washes her hands regularly and always sneezes into her elbow pit.

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