Remember going to the Franklin Institute as a child, on a school field trip, or with parents, and walking through a giant heart exhibit called The Heart of Philadelphia? This exhibit originally opened in 1954 and was called “The Engine of Life.” Now there is a new generation of children able to experience this heart, but not the one from years past. After six months of intensive renovations, this giant heart reopened on Oct. 1, now called “The Giant Heart, A Healthy Interactive Experience.”
Renovations were possible through funds from the Institute’s $61 million campaign, Opening Young Minds, which includes eight exhibits opening through 2006, including “Sports Challenge,” “KidScience,” “Train Factory,” “Space Command” and “The Franklin Air Show.”
The heart, now 50 years old, originally built with four tons of plaster and paper mache over metal lath, is at the center of a 5,000 square-foot exhibit, which is double the size of the original exhibit. Thirty-five million people have walked through this Philadelphia icon, which would be the accurate size for a 220 ft. tall person, and now with new sound and lighting effects, many more, young and old alike will have this great opportunity.
The exhibit is amazing. Walking into it is like walking into an amusement park of science, and not just for children.
There are four interactive areas to explore: Anatomy and Physiology, Diagnosis and Treatment, Health and Wellness and Blood.
The Anatomy and Physiology area is of course the walk-through heart that allows the visitor to be the blood flowing through its chambers. It now has a 3D monitor that recreates the walk-through experience for those who are unable to do so. Kids have fun running through it, going up the two-story heart and listening to the eerie beating, some kids even come out crying. This area also includes “A Heart Spiral,” a slowly rotating spiral of animal hearts that compares the sizes of hearts from a mouse to a whale.
There are many ways to learn about how to take care of the body and mind in the Health and Wellness area. A new talking vending machine gives the nutritional value of each food item. There are eight-foot crawl through arteries for children. Have fun riding with The Exercise Opera, riding on exercise bikes to make cartoon opera singers sing faster or slower depending how fast the bike is moving.
The attention-grabbing Blood exhibit, with tubes that reach the ceiling containing plasma, red cells, white cells and platelets floating around inside, is like some kind of blood space- station. The somewhat disgusting Bucket of Blood measures blood mass based on weight. Stand on the platform, push the button, and out pours liquid, resembling blood, into a tube.
Diagnosis and Treatment is the more mature part of the exhibit showing imaging tools, such as X-Rays, MRI’s, CT Scans and Gammas. The Surgical Theater is an authentic hospital surgical area showing a “patient” having open-heart surgery.
The Franklin Institute really outdid itself with this exhibit. It is wonderful to feel like a kid and learn about the inner workings of the heart. The exhibit entertains, but also informs people about the importance of taking care of the heart. So go have fun, learn something and visit a giant heart that has been ticking for over 50 years.
Find out more about The Franklin Institute, 222 N. 20th St., by visiting www.fi.edu.
Laura Johnston can be reached at email@example.com.