Inside HMNS Sugar Land: Why the Body Carnival exhibit is a sensory party you must attend

Just like all of our exhibits, there’s plenty to see. But a better question might be, “What is there to DO in Body Carnival?

This special exhibit is packed with lots of fun, interactive stations that give each visitor just a little bit of a challenge!

When you walk through the exhibit’s entrance, your vision, perception and balance come into play as soon as you see the “Wacky Wall.”  It’s easy to find since the entire wall is covered with narrow black and white vertical stripes. With a gentle tug, the wall swings side-to-side, and suddenly, you have to think about staying in balance! 

Lift one foot off the floor and see what happens, then switch and raise the other foot. Is it easy to go from one to the other? Is it hard? I’ve been in the exhibit many times and I hate to say it, but adults really do start to lose their balance as they get older. 

A few days ago I noticed a family in front of the “Wacky Wall.”  The kids were nearly hopping from foot to foot, laughing at how cool the wall looked. Behind them, the father was wobbling just standing in front of the wall while the mother couldn’t balance on her left foot. All of them were laughing like crazy! 

Obviously, each person has a different reaction based on their sense of balance and ability to process visual puzzles. Accept the challenge and see how you do.

Photo credit: ClassicMommy.com

Speaking of balance, there are several tests in this exhibit to check yours. 

A fun one for both kids and adults is “Walk the Plank.” First, you walk across a slightly raised 3-inch-wide bar, then a 1.5-inch-bar and finally a tight rope. Sound easy? If you can walk all three short planks slowly and stay on each one all the way to the end, you’ve got great balance! 

I didn’t have any trouble with this one, but the tight rope can be tricky, depending on your shoes. You can make things a little more interesting by adding a small wrist weight, from the nearby bin, to just one arm. Is it still as easy with one side of your body a bit heavier than the other? You’ll probably have to lean over farther to the opposite side or find another way to even the weight distribution. 

Photo credit: ClassicMommy.com

The “Dizzy Tunnel” and “Goofy Goggles” are two more stations that will keep you on your toes, so to speak, with more balance and visual acuity tests. Come give them all a try and see how well you do!

You can also experience how levers work in our bodies. Wait a minute: The human body has levers?  Aren’t those just for wheelbarrows and pulleys? 

At Body Carnival, you can check out how your elbows and shoulders serve as levers, making it easier to reach, pull and pick up items every day. Wheelbarrows and pulleys only magnify what the levers in your body already do! 

To see this in action, visit the “Hang Time” station and see how long you can hang with your hands about 12 inches apart. Can you make it 10 seconds or longer?  A chart on the station gives you an idea of how good your arm strength is in comparison to others your age. The real lesson comes when you switch your hands to the position 24 inches apart.  That moves the levers — your shoulders — farther apart, making them less efficient and your hang time shorter. 

I used to be the champ on the monkey bars in my much younger days — until I grew up and put on about 100 pounds. I figured I’d do miserably on this one, but I actually made it longer than average for my age group and it even made my creaky neck feel better (although I think that had more to do with me needing a good stretch than the lever effect). 

There are several additional stations in the exhibit about flexibility, arm span, joints and height. You can also explore the concept further with the levers and pulleys found nearby in the Discovery Works Hall.

On Thursdays, healthcare providers from Next Level Urgent Care stay in the exhibit to help explain the concepts in the exhibit to patrons and kids.

These are just a few examples of the fun things to both see and do in Body Carnival! Come explore all 14 stations and check out your physical abilities.  

I’m also looking forward to our Teddy Bear Clinic on August 14. Little ones are encouraged to bring in their favorite stuffed animal, don a lab coat and “assist” while their lovey gets a check-up — just in time for back to school. Check the website for details and come see the exhibit soon!

Na na na na na na na … BATS, man!

For bats being amazing examples of evolutionary resilience and fascinating, intelligent creatures with complex, long lives that perform invaluable ecological roles, we humans don’t seem to appreciate them very much. They’ve had a bad rep in cultures around the world due to their association with the night for millennia, but what’s this based on, really? Fear of the dark? Jealousy? Our imaginations — which can make almost anything out to be our “enemy”?

Like many other things deeply ingrained in our social consciousness, these feelings have been added into our speech patterns. We often use an association with bats to point out odd or unfavorable behavior.

Take for instance:

“Without my glasses, I’m blind as a bat.”

“From his erratic behavior, we were sure he had bats in the belfry.”

“She ran away like a bat out of hell.”

Well, how about this:

“Without my glasses, I’m blind as a bat. No, really I’m fine — I don’t need them. My sense of smell and hearing are better than using sight anyway. Oh, and I’ve been around for 50 million years, so I’m pretty sure I know the lay of the land anyway, so NBD. By the way, I provide an invaluable service to humankind by eating the insects which seem to cause them so much trouble.”

OK, a bit wordy, but you get the idea – bats are freakin’ awesome. They’re the only mammal that legitimately flies – having developed wings out of what used to be hands (look at their skeleton and you’ll see how crazy this is; it would be like having webbed fingers that go the length of your body!).

And they live nearly everywhere on earth, except for some small, isolated islands. Now that’s what I call evolutionarily resilient.

Bats are native to the orange areas on the map. (Which is pretty much everywhere.)

In spite of all this awesomeness, bats in America are under threat from a new disease called White-Nose Syndrome. This disease is caused by a fungus which is taking hold in caves along the entire northeast corridor. It infects bats while they’re hibernating, so their bodies have essentially shut down and can’t fight it. The fungus causes their flesh to deteriorate as the spores take hold and suck the water and nutrients out of the bat. This causes them to wake up and search for food (which they can’t find, because it’s winter), wasting the rest of their fat reserves and leading to starvation.

The fungus appeared in New York in 2007 and has since killed millions of bats who seem to have little to no way to fight it. It came to New York from Europe; however, the bats across the pond don’t seem to mind nearly as much as American bats. This leads some to believe that they’ve evolved to be resistant to it (think Black Plague resistance in European populations — or lack thereof when smallpox came to America).

White Nose Syndrome by found county

But that’s not to say all hope is lost! Scientists across the country are performing research to learn more about the fungus — mapping where it’s been found, how it takes hold, and performing experiments to prevent the onset of the disease.

(You can learn more here, here, here, here, and here.)

But one of the best ways to help save the bats is having a well educated population that’s invested in the little furry flying guys. Lucky for YOU, there’s an exhibit at HMNS Sugar Land opening on Sat., Jan. 18 all about bats! Come to Masters of the Night: The True Story of Bats and learn all about these amazing creatures (and, come spring, you can check them out in Houston under the Waugh St. Bridge).

 

Nota bene: Baby bats are super adorable. I hereby submit that they should become part of the never-ending flood of baby animal pictures shared around on social media as to better their public perception.

Don’t believe me? Just check these out.

A program to give P.A.W.S.: HMNS Sugar Land brings animal audiences to new readers

There are few things more important — or more anxiety inducing — for a child than learning to read. Sounding out and stumbling over worlds can be awkward and a little embarrassing, and adults and authority figures can compound the apprehension for little people learning to love words.

One service animal organization recognized this, and developed a program to introduce therapy animals to young readers.

PAWS Reading Program

The P.A.W.S. Reading Program [Pets Are Worth Sharing] pairs non-judgmental animal audiences with children of all ages and reading abilities as they build confidence and, hopefully, develop a love of books not obstructed by reading anxiety.

PAWS Reading Program

Each Friday and Saturday at 10 a.m., kids are welcome to pair up or read in groups with these sweet therapy dogs. They’re great listeners, though they do have a tendency to cuddle.

PAWS Reading Program

PAWS Reading Program

You’ll flip over the new summer exhibit at HMNS Sugar Land

Spills and thrills, flips and dips. Learn the physics behind the fun at Amusement Park Science, HMNS Sugar Land’s latest summer exhibition.

Amusement Park Science: At HMNS Sugar Land June 14 through Sept. 15Bring your family and interact with a K’Nex activity area, build your own roller coaster and manipulate models like The Rotor, Magnetic Circus and Wacky Waves to learn how amusement park rides stay tight on the tracks.

This exhibition organized by The Discovery Center Museum, Rockford, Illinois. To learn more or purchase tickets online, click here!