Students to visit ‘Bodies’ exhibit

Seventh-graders at Islander Middle School are scheduled to take a field trip to see The Bodies exhibit Dec. 19 as part of their science curriculum.

Before scheduling the field trip, teachers and administrators surveyed parents of seventh-graders to see whether they’d allow the students to attend the exhibit, which features skinless cadavers showcasing various bodily systems such as the nervous, reproductive or respiratory.

The seventh-grade science curriculum includes a unit studying human anatomy.

“I had so many parents, an unbelievable amount, saying ‘My son or daughter can only go if I get to go,’ just jokingly, or ‘This is great, this is fantastic,’” said Doug Davis, IMS science teacher. “It just solidified for me how cool it will be for the kids to go see it.”

The exhibit of 21 whole-body specimens, along with more than 250 additional organ and body parts, illustrate in vivid detail the intricacies of the human body has been the subject of some controversy: it is not clear whether the subjects gave permission for the use of their bodies in this manner.

Davis said 101 of the 106 surveys he sent to parents responded affirmatively when asked whether their child would be allowed to attend the exhibit. Parents who voiced concerns were worried their child might be squeamish or might not be mature enough for the exhibit, Davis said.

Plans for the field trip include enough chaperones to allow students to leave the exhibit at any time if they are uncomfortable. Parent volunteers will be outside the exhibit to stay with those students who choose to leave.

At the beginning of this school year, teachers brainstormed how to spend enrichment grants this year. Other ideas they discussed were taking students to the Leonardo da Vinci Exhibit at the Flight Museum, Children’s' Theater, and Seattle Repertory Theater. But the timing and relevance of The Bodies made it the top choice.

“The first and most unique thing was how it was appropriate to the science department and an opportunity to let people see up close what they’re talking about,” said IMS teacher Mace Brady.

Teachers in all subjects are prepared to talk with students about some of the social implications of seeing the exhibit, Davis said. Seeing the damages of unhealthy substances may affect students’ health choices, he said.

“We can’t ignore that, it’s such a powerful part of what’s in there. You see a liver that’s completely firmed and discolored from alcoholism,” Davis said. “ It’ll be a powerful piece. I don’t think it’ll be a scare tactic, but I think it’ll be a powerful piece.”

One of the goals of the exhibit is to help people understand how their choices affect their bodies, according to Roy Glover, medical director for The Bodies.

“I think most young people feel kind of invincible when it comes to their own health,” Glover said. “One of the things we want to encourage people to do is to think about how their body works, how it’s structured, how disease affects it, and specifically how the choices we make, whether drugs or smoking, ... all these things impact our health for better or worse. The sooner we can be aware of these things I think the better off we’re going to be.”

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