Sneak “Peak” – Expedition Health
The first new permanent exhibit in six years opens at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science on Saturday, April 4th. Expedition Health is all about discovering the amazing, incredible YOU. “Hands-on” and “interactive” are too often used to describe any exhibit where one pushes a button. In Expedition Health these terms truly apply as visitors put their own body to work through the learning stations. The exhibit is based around the real Colorado experience of climbing 14,258′ Mount Evans.
Upon entering the exhibit each person receives a Peak Pass, a plastic card activated with a few personal statistics. The computer may ask for age but it doesn’t get into the “w” word – weight. As one moves through the 20 activity stations you insert the card so that your information is added as it measures and compares. At “Your Heart’s Electricity” we grip a bar which generates an electrocardiogram and learn how the ups and downs on the EKG graph represent the activity and electricity of different chambers of the heart. “BioRide” takes us on a virtual bicycle ride through the Rocky Mountains with personal target heart rates and pulse measurements. “Blood Flow” illuminates the blood vessels in our hand and forearm and what happens when we press on a vessel and relieve the pressure.
Place a hand in the “cold box” to experience the effects of wind chill. As we move through the stations we learn about altitude adjustment, the “Fate of a Granola Bar” and how food is fuel for daily life and our “trek” up Mount Evans.
“Full Body Viewer” is sure to be constantly busy. As you approach the projection screen a skeleton appears, It mirrors your movements as you squat, wave, reach and turn. With touch controls other body systems replace the skeleton: the nervous and endocrine systems, the circulatory and respiratory system and the musculature.
We “Measure Up” by standing tall and stretching our arms straight to the side, then compare our proportions to other people of the same age. While walking down a runway at “Size Up Your Stride” a silhouette of our stride is captured on video and displayed on a projection screen along with stride length, speed measurements and how much energy was used. Data is recorded on our Peak Pass and printed out on our Personal Profile before we exit. The learning continues at home, with the number on our printout we can enter a website and access our personal information and additional activities.
Thinking we’re taking a break we enter the “BodyTrek Theater,” however, this is participatory as well. The 12-minute program gives us an “inside” view of how the body reacts during a trek up Mount Evans. Pulse-oximeters are located in front of every seat and the audience gets a look at itself via an infrared camera. Special effects include wind, dropping temperatures and falling snow. We learn and are entertained.
At the “Summit Science Stage” we joined the captain through “Pirates of the Human Being: Meet Your Microbial Mates” – an interactive show mixing cartoon characters on monitors, live performance and audience participation. This expedition took us into the amazing microbes that live in and on the human body – good and bad. Yes, I did earn my skull and cross bones tattoo (sticker) and did not have to “walk the plank.”
“Tykes Peak” provides a mix of full body activity, dramatic play and multisensory experiences for the one- to five-year-old set. We acted like we were five with the giant pin-screen, kids are going to love it.
Lab coats, gloves and safety goggles gets us prepared for “Biology Base Camp,” an authentic laboratory. Using research equipment visitors test different antibacterial products on live bacteria, extract DNA and determine the sugar content of various breakfast cereals. Staff tells us that youngsters as young as five succeed with their experiments with some parental guidance. Yet, we as adults found the experiments of interest. This promises to be a popular stop along the Expedition Health journey.
Since this was a sneak peak ten days before opening some of the stations were not yet complete or were being tweaked by technicians. By all appearances everything will be up and running on opening day, April 4th. We went expecting only a walk-through but thoroughly enjoyed our expedition.
When You Go: General admission to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science includes entrance into Expedition Health. In order to assure a quality experience at Expedition Health advance reservations are required and are available online. The museum is located at 2001 Colorado Blvd., Denver, CO. Check the website for hours and fees.
Expedition Health cost $8.7 million to develop, design and build. Kaiser Permanente is the presenting sponsor. Numerous foundations and donors made major contributions to the exhibit.