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Professor Wellbody's Academy of Health and Wellness is a giggling gallery of healthy fun
Ever bristle when someone sneezes next to you or recoiled from a close talker with horrific breath? What about the cringe factor when someone leaves a public restroom without washing his hands? Then there’s the full-day drag of waking too early, or the greasy bloat of too many dips into the Colonel’s bucket of fried chicken.
Germaphobes, health freaks and — even better — people who couldn’t care less, have a new exhibit they won’t forget any time soon: Professor Wellbody's Academy of Health & Wellness at Seattle’s Pacific Science Center.
Opened last December and included with Seattle CityPASS admission to the Pacific Science Center, this hands-on monument to health already has visitors squealing and laughing – proving that lessons in proper exercise, diet, sleep and hygiene don’t have to boring to be memorable.
Consider the Sneeze Wall: walk a gauntlet of large animated images of people sneezing, while getting "sneezed on" by an array of water misters arranged above. Egad! No, the sneezes aren’t real, but they do feel like it. What better way to remind people to sneeze into their inner elbows, for crimminey’s sake?
“What makes this health exhibit different is that it isn’t a physiology or anatomy exhibit, nor is it about checking your heart rate,” said Crystal Clarity, Seattle’s Pacific Science Center’s director of marketing and communications. “It’s about the small choices we make every day — what we eat, how we get exercise, the importance of sleep and hygiene, and building your own social network to help surround yourself with people who will reinforce healthy choices.”
We were flu fightin’
According the Center for Disease Control, the flu outbreak this year has been higher than normal: “Influenza-like-illness is declining in parts of the country and increasing in others while remaining elevated nationally overall,” posted the CDC on its website. That has people paying attention.
“The best way to prevent getting a flu is practicing good hygiene,” Clarity said. “It may seem simple, but really amazing how we just don’t have that down.
The SureWash exhibit displays the technology used to teach hospital workers to properly wash their hands, and it’s the only place in the country where there is a permanent exhibit for the public to use this technology.
Apparently, there’s a right and wrong way to do it. Visitors follow along with an on-screen guide while the camera captures their hand gestures and scores their hand-washing skill. Don’t’ forget to wash the backs of the hands and thumbs — something to think about the next time you’re at a washroom basin. It just might make you dance out of the john trying not to touch any handles, knobs or people like Jack Nicholson in, “As Good as it Gets.”
Whatever age one is, from 5 to 50, making good, small choices will people live longer.
“We want to be a part of building a healthier community,” Clarity said. “It would be wonderful if our guests would pick up a healthy tip here, go back to their school, work and communities, share what they’ve learned, and inspire the people around them. Even if it’s just one thing they can change, such as parking a little further away or getting an extra hour of sleep.”
Speaking of sleep, the Slumbertorium has a Rube Goldberg-like contraption to show how active our bodies are when we’re sleeping, and a Sleeping in Seattle display that drives home how different people require different amounts of sleep — and just how sleep deprived many of us are.
The Cafedium lets guests check the nutritional content of different foods that can be selected from a conveyor belt, which can be scanned to learn about nutritional details. The challenge is to build a day’s worth of healthy, balanced meals. There’s also a somewhat maddening lesson on what a “proper portion” of food entails, something that this barbecue-loving boy would prefer not to hear.
There’s also an entire section on how to stay on a healthy path with your choices, once you make them; identifying barriers, how advertising shapes and sabotages wellness decisions, and how to build a network of friends who will support you.
The exhibit that really separates the adults from the kids is the Odor Decoder, where guests squeeze different bottles to take a sinus-blistering whiff of different types of bad breath, including periodontal disease.
“It’s been really cool to watch the kids squeal and giggle over the bad breath,” Clarity said. “We have morning breath, garlic breath and coffee breath … the adults won’t get near it, but the kids love it.”
If nothing else, it’ll teach them to keep some mints handy.