Justin Barzakay, 4, popped the spiced worm into his mouth and puckered his face as if he’d sucked on a lemon.
“Justin, do you like it?” his mother asked.
Justin clapped his hand over his mouth, shut his eyes tight and shook his head hard.
Behind the desk at the Museum of Discovery and Science’s “Edible Bugs” exhibit, volunteer Jessica Coombs, 17, told Justin and his mother, Alana Barzakay, a bit about what he’d just eaten.
“Wait,” said Barzakay as Justin reached for a BBQ-flavored worm, “you mean they’re REAL?”
The Barzakay family was at the Museum of Discovery and Science’s “Meet the Animals” weekend, where kids can get up close and personal with critters — live, dead and edible.
The worms are perfectly safe for anyone without a shellfish allergy, Coombs assured Barzakay.
“You can actually find these in stores,” she said. “I mean, maybe not Publix.”
Across from the edible bugs table, children ewwed and aaahed at jars of slimy dead creatures floating in preservatives, gaping at the horseshoe crab, the mouse, the chicken embryo and the salamander with its face smushed against the glass.
Nicole Beezely, who works on the educational exhibits and helps with the museum’s summer camp, said the kids like the yucky stuff, especially munching on the worms.
“This week in camp we had ‘grossology,’ and we had the kids eat bugs,” said Beezely, 27. “And they loved it.”
Steve Zuluaga and his wife, Jenise Zuluaga, brought daughter Audrey to the museum to learn about animals.
The Zuluagas tried the worms, then debated their texture as they watched Audrey explore the exhibits.
He called them crunchy; she called them soft.
“I think they taste like flavored popcorn,” Jenise Zuluaga said. “It’s like the outside is a hard shell, and then it’s soft inside.”
Not all of the museum’s “Meet the Animals” exhibits were so icky.
Beezely showed kids how to use found objects to make pet toys, and outside at the “poacher’s tent,” kids ran their fingers over zebra and leopard skins and a taxidermied lion as volunteers told them about the impact of poaching.
At the otter enclosure, children pressed their noses against the glass tank of water where four river otters zipped back and forth, streaming toward the glass, then pressing their webbed hind feet against it to launch themselves away as the kids squealed.
“Meet the Animals Weekend” events will continue on Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. at the Museum of Discovery and Science at 401 SW Second St. in Fort Lauderdale.