We have a rule in our house: We don’t talk about bodily functions at the dinner table. I made an exception one recent night, because that very day we toured the fun and scientific “Scoop on Poop” exhibit at Fernbank Museum of Natural History. The kids were thrilled to tell their dad what they learned about excrement in the animal world.
Based on wildlife specialist Michael Payne’s best-selling book by the same name, “The Scoop on Poop” banks on kids’ affinity for disgusting stuff. Parents may recoil from the factoids – elephants poop enough every day to fill the trunk of a car – but kids get so caught up in the “ick” factor that they don’t even realize they are learning.
While we flush away poop without a second thought, many animals use it for communication, nutrition and just plain survival. In this exhibit, kids will discover that some wild animals eat their dung, others use it to send messages or mark their territory, and some even squirt it on themselves to cool off!
The exhibit helps kids to become “nature detectives” by examining pictures and models of different kinds of animal droppings – even fossilized poop – for clues about the animals that left them. Inferring what happened from the clues is fun. Games, such as the dung beetle race, will entertain them. And the facts are so gross, they are truly memorable: Rabbits eat their own scat to maximize nutrition by digesting their food twice; bull hippos use their tails to scatter smelly dung in all directions; and termites use their own poop to help build nests as tall as a house. Great topics for the next family reunion!
When you’ve seen all the poop you can handle, you can take in an IMAX film or visit Fernbank’s “Nature Quest,” a new, immersive experience that enables kids to discover the many wonders of the natural world through hundreds of hands-on activities, live animal displays and engaging encounters.
– Beth Balga
Fernbank Museum of Natural History
767 Clifton Rd. NE, Atlanta
Hours: Through Sept. 3. Mon.-Sat.,
10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sun., noon-5 p.m.
Admission: Adults, $17.50;
children 3-12, $15.50; 2 and younger, free