No Kleenex needed: Science of snot, burps on display

Unmentionables such as barf, burps and flatulence might be cause for shame, but they’re fair game for study and even celebrated for tweaking children’s interest in science.

“Grossology,” the study of the icky, opens this weekend at the Lied Discovery Children’s Museum with enough exhibits on bodily secretions, noises and odors to make any third-grader giggle.

Many local schools on year-round schedules have already made arrangements for field trips and are basing lesson plans around “Grossology,” said Tifferney White, the museum’s director of education and programs.

The exhibit is based on the popular children’s books with the same name, which are normally not used in classrooms but are available in public school libraries, said Mary Pike, the director of science and foreign language education for the Clark County School District.

Pike said teachers appreciate how the gross can be engrossing.

“Then you hit them with the facts,” she said.

A runny nose, for example, is part of a lesson plan that teaches children how the nose works as an air filter and mucus producer.

But not all bodily functions are explained. Human reproduction is not part of the “Grossology” exhibit or books.

By not covering sex, “Grossology” author Sylvia Branzei-Velasquez said she could be more irreverent and whimsical in her approach.

“There is nothing very controversial about barf or poo or scabs,” she said.

Based on the popularity of “Grossology,” parents encouraged Branzei-Velasquez, a former teacher, to write a similar book on puberty. But publishers have rejected proposals titled “Puberty Stinks” and “The Puberty Book.”

Branzei-Velasquez suspects publishers think the books aren’t serious enough or too frank.

“It is too bad since I think an honest and fun — dare I use the word — book about puberty that kids would actually read is desperately needed,” Branzei-Velasquez said.

Children can see the human body in full detail at “Bodies … The Exhibition” at Luxor.

Typically older students in middle and high school tour “Bodies,” a morgue-like display of preserved organs and skeletons. Students must get parental permission slips signed before they go, school officials said.

Some school groups skip the section on early child development because it is too graphic, but Cheryl Mure, the director of education for Premiere Exhibits, said she has been impressed with the maturity of young children who view the fetuses.

Children don’t giggle much at exposed body parts, either, she said.

Kids are “very matter of fact,” Mure said. “They have seen it all before.”

Contact reporter James Haug at or 702-374-7917.


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