For people who have never picked a nose other than their own, two new exhibitions at the Peabody Museum will teach the curious visitor how properly to swab a nostril.
“Disease Detectives” and “Solving the Puzzle: Lyme Disease, West Nile Virus and You,” which opened to the public on Oct. 10, are intended to engage visitors through a combination of interactive exhibits and informative displays. Peabody educators said they hope that if people learn about diseases in a hands-on way, they will take away more from the exhibitions than if they had looked at panel displays.
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“It is important for everyone in the community to know that while microbes are all around us, there are not that many that are pathogenic, and the community can play a role in controlling most infectious diseases,” said Terri Stern, one of the three people responsible for bringing the exhibitions to Yale.
Both exhibitions were funded through a Science Educator Partnership Award grant from the National Center for Research Resources, said Stern, an educator with the Peabody Fellows program, which aims to promote science literacy among elementary school-aged children. The School of Medicine’s Center for Clinical Investigation was also involved in the planning process, Stern said.
At “Disease Detectives,” a traveling exhibition from the Science Museum of Minnesota, visitors are introduced to three sick mannequins: Marcus, who has the flu; Adam, who has food poisoning; and Yolanda, who has malaria. Visitors can take the mannequins’ temperatures and pulse rate, as well as examine their stool and analyze blood samples.
The exhibition also provides visitors with hygiene tips. A red light flashes if people have not washed their hands for at least 20 seconds in an interactive sink. If visitors score high enough on a disease trivia game, they can hop around on the “Microbe Dance,” a Dance Dance Revolution-inspired game.
The second exhibition, “Solving the Puzzle,” was created by the Peabody’s entomology department with support from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. It intends to educate visitors about Lyme disease and West Nile virus, two common diseases in Connecticut. Grossly enlarged ticks and mosquitoes — which transmit Lyme disease and West Nile virus, respectively — sit on a display of fake skin. Visitors can also see live mosquito larvae squirm inside a tank.
People can also learn more about story of LYMErix, a Lyme disease vaccine created by Yale researchers in the late 1990s. Even though the Food and Drug Administration approved the vaccine in December 1998, its manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, pulled it from the market in 2002, citing low sales.
Visitors said they were impressed by the exhibitions. Seth Craigo-Snell, who brought his two children and two of their friends to the exhibitions, said while he was not sure if they were picking up specific information about the diseases, they were having fun playing with the exhibits.
His 9-year-old son, Jacob, said he was having a great time learning about Lyme disease and West Nile virus.
“It teaches people a lot of about the kind of illnesses they can get,” he said.
“Disease Detectives” runs through Jan. 31, 2010, and “Solving the Puzzle” will be at the Peabody until April 18.