Science Centre Singapore (SCS), a popular place for school excursion trips and family outings among Singaporeans, is launching a new exhibition to offer visitors a glimpse of how the body functions. The exhibition, called the Human Body Experience (HBX), is a 3D interactive journey through the human anatomy, and allows people to enter through the mouth of a six meter tall human face, walk through the body, and really get to grips with the inner workings of the brain, lungs, digestive system and circulatory system.
Associate Professor Lim Tit Meng, the Chief Executive of Science Centre Singapore gave the welcome address at the unveiling, and was joined on the panel by Mr Clarence Sirisena, the Deputy Chief Executive of SCS; and Marc and Paul Newman, respectively the Creative Director and Technical Director of Newman Entertainment International, with whom SCS partnered on this project. The exhibition, which cost about SGD 1 million to create, is the first international project for Newman Entertainment International. It was specially created for SCS to provide an outlet for families to bond together. Human Body Experience is also being fashioned as “edutainment” – a fusion of entertainment and education – and part of its aim is to inspire children to develop an interest in science and biology through a fun-filled experience.
Professor Lim, as well as other panelists, mentioned the “tactile” quality of the exhibition several times. Human Body Experience is not a classroom-style science lesson where one is fed large chunks of information in a straightforward way. Instead, much of the learning comes from hands-on work; the exhibition allows visitors to experience science for themselves. The exhibits are sculpted representations of body parts and the exhibition features special effects like strobe lighting, mist sprays, holograms, audio, 3D video and touch pads, among others, which help provide a sensory experience that supposedly resembles the inside of a human body. This kind of interactive learning can be very useful in helping young children to see the wonder of science and encouraging them to study it further in school – vital if we are going to face the many challenges of the 21st century head-on.
Marc Newman also stated that the exhibition has been “conceptualised like a theme park”, and it sure felt that way when I was brought on a guided tour of the HBX. At the beginning, I had to climb in through a mouth to enter, slide down the throat, and crawl through veins and arteries. There were more challenging parts of the exhibition such as squeezing through the intestinal linings which are actually huge airbags. I had an exciting time not least because parts of the exhibition brought me back to my own childhood. Besides experiencing a few thrills, I also took home a better understanding of how the human body works. It kind of made me wish I’d had something similar to play with when I was in school, as this kind of fun, tactile experience is exactly the kind of thing we need to be using to educate children from the start of their lives – too often we expect children to grow up quickly and give up their playthings, not realizing that in many ways they learn more from experimentation and play than from any number of books.
That could also be an important thing for the youngsters who visit HBX to take in – while many of us complain about feeling ill or lacking in energy, very few of us have any real understanding of how the human body works and what we can do to feel better or to avoid such situations in the first place. Crawling through a human body and seeing what is inside in such detail could be a catalyst for teaching children about issues of health that are too often neglected or glossed over in the modern educational system, despite their obvious importance. By including this kind of experience in the curriculum, we can hopefully help the future generation to avoid the continuation of health issues including obesity and the spread of contagious diseases.
Science is one of the most important elements of education, and something which we need to get children interested in at as early an age as possible. The kids who visit HBX are going to be our future neurosurgeons, dieticians, biologists, and pharmaceutical engineers, and HBX is an excellent way of preparing them for those futures and encouraging them to see the wonders of the natural world and the human body. If you’re in Singapore sometime soon, drop by and see for yourself. The exhibition is located at Hall B of SCS and will run for two years starting May 31, 2014.
Report prepared by Raymond Tan