by Mary Helen Darah

The Savvy Sylvanian checks out the flight simulator with Chief Scientist Carl Nelson.
Actual human specimens are used in the temporary exhibit Body Worlds RX.

Russ Axon, marketing coordinator at Imagination Station, met this Savvy Sylvanian at the front door of the Imagination Station. It was an odd feeling going to the science museum without kids in tow. It took me a few moments to stop trying to do a head count and locate the nearest bathrooms. I must say, the place still looks the same after years of taking my Girl Scout troop, my children and other assorted youngsters around the hundreds (literally) of hands-on exhibits and demonstrations that bring science to life. Axon has been working at Imagination Station for the past three years. “I worked all of the attractions and the extreme science shows,” he recalled. “I now serve as the marketing coordinator. I enjoy working here. Our goal at the Science Center is to bring learning to the community in a fun, hands-on way. For example, if kids are learning about physics, they can go on the high wire or see a science show to see how combustion or energy works. It is far more impactful than reading a textbook.”

Blinded by science … at any age
Axon assured me that my visit would be engaging on some level, even as a woman “of a certain age.” He said, “No matter how old you are, you will be wowed. The older you get, the deeper you can dive into theories and take away some practical knowledge.” Speaking of taking away knowledge, guests will want to visit Body Worlds RX, a temporary exhibit presented by ProMedica and sponsored by the University of Toledo, that is here until Labor Day. “We always make sure to inform everyone going through the exhibit that these are actually human specimens of people that donated their body to science. They have been through a process called plastination that allows them to be preserved through hardened plastics. You may be surprised to learn that there is a plastination laboratory at the University of Toledo. The human specimens in the exhibit are anatomically correct. The goal of the exhibit is to educate about how the body reacts to poor health choices and disease. For example, you can see a healthy heart compared to a heart that has suffered from a cardiac incident or a smoker’s lung versus a healthy lung. To see it in a visceral way is more powerful than just talking about living a healthy lifestyle. When we do have kids in there, we occasionally get the kid that is “grossed” out but most children are truly fascinated and takeaway insights on ways to live your life in a healthful way.”

So much science so little time
I was surprised to learn that the museum offers more than hands-on science fun. The Imagination Station offers summers camps, programs for Scouts, and ‘Think Tank’ workshops, which offer a deeper dive into a specific topic. “Right now, for example, we are doing squid dissections,” stated Axon. “Soon, we will be having kids make their own guitar. We also have birthday parties which are held on Sundays. The party gets a whole room off to themselves and they have two science team members do personalized activities, including liquid nitrogen ice cream. Also, we have volunteer opportunities available. Many of our volunteers remember coming here as kids and now they get to pass that fun and learning on to the next generation.”

The future is conducive to FUN
“We have the BASH party coming up on Sept. 22,” stated Axon. “We are also partnering with the Arts Commission to host the Toledo Mini Maker Faire. It is part of a larger movement to bring in local people that can teach or demonstrate creations you wouldn’t normally see. We have events exclusive to members, such as our Monster Bash, to be held Oct. 25. We also have a new flight simulator that we got from Toledo Jet. They retrofitted the cockpit to make you feel like you are taking off from local airports and flying through northwest Ohio. Of course, we also have the H2O Cafe where you can go to for a quick lunch or a beverage without having to come through the science center. You can walk up directly from the river and grab some food and fun. We are working hard to become not just a science resource but an event resource, and a fun destination. We want everyone in Sylvania to come explore.”

I’m glad I went and after seeing the Body Worlds RX exhibit I’m going to stop procrastinating and make a better effort to exercise and lay off the baked goods … starting tomorrow.