Two-year-old Ethan Nunez steps on cement-molded footprints on the second floor of the Museum of Discovery and Science in Fort Lauderdale, only these imprints are a little fuzzy.
He lifts a cover that says, “Elmo’s feet are…” and finds the word, “wide,” with his father Jeovany Nunez reading it aloud to him. Ethan repeats the word, and moves to the right, stepping in Bert’s long but slender footprints. “Narrow,” his father tells him, as Ethan looks back and forth, studying his own feet and the differences between wide and narrow.
A few weeks remain for the museum’s summer exhibit, Sesame Street Presents: The Body, where kids learn how the human body works and how to keep it healthy through a variety of interactive exhibits led by Sesame Street’s Muppet characters.
The Body, which runs through Sept. 7, features three zones: “your insides,” “your outsides” and “staying healthy” — the latter of which showcases a hygiene-focused “Rub-A-Dub Tub” video game and a pint-sized grocery store where kids can fill shopping baskets with plastic fruits and veggies and scan barcodes to learn more about the nutritional content in their foods.
“I like how it’s been redone,” Monica Alba-Nunez, Ethan’s mother, says of the museum, which recently underwent a 34,000-square-foot expansion. “I also like how this exhibit is so interactive and age-appropriate. It’s with the times, with what children need,” she says as her son and other children play on an educational video game called “Your Amazing Body,” where Ernie asks players questions like, “What part of the body does Bert use to pick up things? Ears, nose, legs or fingers?”
The exhibits’ installations are geared for kids from 2 to 8 years old, but parents and older relatives were just as engrossed with the hands-on activities as their little ones. “Digestion with Oscar,” named for the green grouch who lives in a trash can, demonstrates what happens inside your body when you eat and digest food.
Alana Rocha, a mom, pulled a lever that made giant teeth chew small green balls that symbolized pieces of food; she then pushed a button that showed stomach acids breaking down the chewed particles before it went to the last chamber: poo.
“It’s a great visual,” Rocha said as her 4-year-old son Jacob gave the digestion chambers a whirl. “To see food as it’s chewed, digested and, finally, eliminated.”
“We’ve found that this exhibit appeals to children of all ages and their parents,” says Marlene Janetos, vice president of visitor services and marketing at the museum. “It’s been great watching entire family groups engaged in the exhibits.” Janetos and the museum’s CEO and vice president of exhibitions helped to bring this national traveling exhibit to the museum in late May.
Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, and Thinkwell Design & Production of Burbank, California, made all the components of the exhibit, which is locally sponsored by PNC Bank.
Broadway World, a museum and theatre resource website, detailed the background of the exhibit, explaining how a national crisis helped shape its mission. “The concept is a result of Sesame Workshop’s initiative, Healthy Habits for Life, created in response to the current childhood obesity crisis in the United States.”
The online article says the initiative was launched in 2004, “on Capitol Hill, to harness the power of Sesame Street to guide children and their caregivers through lessons related to healthy eating, the importance of physical activity, and other healthy habits such as hygiene and rest.” The multimedia exhibit’s advisory board consists of health, nutrition, fitness and education experts.
The museum also features an first-floor Eco Discovery Center, where kids get up-close encounters with animals like baby alligators and arm-sized horseshoe crabs. In “Everglades Airboat Adventure,” up to 20 riders at a time are taken on a virtual tour through the Everglades via a “full range motion simulator.” A sand-pit alongside a life-size prehistoric Megalodon shark lets kids dig for dinosaur fossils. Four North American river otters, who twirl and play underwater in a dizzying spectacle, are a favorite among attendees.
Kim Ayala, from Saint Thomas, brought her children to the museum on a recent Thursday. Her son Gianni Ayala, 9, experienced 91-mile-per-hour hurricane force winds as he stood in a hurricane simulator capsule as part of the “Storm Center” exhibit.
“This is great when you have kids ranging from 18 months to 9 years old,” as Ayala said she does. “Even I’m excited.”
Upstairs, kids filled grocery baskets with plastic avocados, apples and other fruits and weighed them on scales. Others scanned items, like boxes of whole-grain cereal. Cameron Moore, the museum’s communications coordinator, says, “It forms good habits for when they go out in life.”
If you go
What: ‘Sesame Street Presents: The Body’ at The Museum of Discovery and Science
When: Through Sept. 7. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Where: 401 SW Second St., Fort Lauderdale.
Cost: General admission prices are $19 for adults; $18 seniors; $15 children 2 to 12. Children under 2 are free. A general admission ticket includes entry to all the museum exhibits and one classic 45-minute IMAX movie.
Contact: Call 954-467-MODS (6637) or visit www.mods.org.