A couple of weekends ago, we found ourselves with a holiday Monday (Martin Luther King Jr’s Birthday) and no plans. So, like any suburban DC family does on these occasions, we headed for “the city”. In particular, we headed to the National Geographic museum to see the Grossology exhibit and to see the big cat photo exhibits (because Finian loves tigers more than anything else in the world).

I have a little bit of a history with Ye Olde Nat Geo. You see, my grandfather actually used to be an Editor-At-Large for the Magazine back in the late 80s and, previous to that, was a freelance writer there as well. My uncle, too, has written for the magazine. Back when I was growing up, National Geographic Magazine was always around. I practically learned to read just so I could use it to find out about animals and dinosaurs (regardless of what Robert James Waller tells you, National Geographic does stories of people and animals, and not on bridges). To this day, my parents still have giant longboxes filled with back issues.

The museum is inside the actual headquarters of National Geographic Magazine. You can stand on a giant brass Nat Geo emblem!

Finian seems to think we live in the Canadian Rockies.

After touring the outdoor “Big Cat” exhibit and paying our entrance (in DC we have a lot of free museums through the Smithsonian, so it’s always a little strange to pay for museums; still, at $20 for all of us, we found it reasonable), we headed to the awesome Grossology exhibit.

When you are born, you have absolutely no concept of disgust. Once kids start realizing that adults don’t want to hear about certain topics, it becomes transgressive and cool to bring up poop at the most unfortunate times. Well, what if instead of quieting down their fascination with gross stuff, we indulged them and tried to teach them something about biology instead?

Farting, vomiting and pooping! A child’s favorite topics!

The Grossology exhibit is full of cool informative and interactive games and exhibits about the most disgusting but cool things you can imagine. We loved learning about why cows are [literally] made to eat grass. Or why coyotes and cougars don’t get canned food and kibble so their poo may contain fur and bones. Talk about exploring the topic of intended diet and how bodies are affected by changes!

The boys enjoyed really putting their thinking caps on for the poop exhibit, where they were asked to match the poop to the animal with a cool laser pointer and got to find out why it looked like that. The two older boys were learning about gut health at a level most adults don’t seem to understand!

Who says learning isn’t fun?

The boys also loved pulling on the “tapeworm” rope to measure how long a tapeworm could possibly be in your intestines. It was funny to them because we sometimes joke and ask if they’re “feeding a worm” when they go for their 4th serving of dinner!

The favorite part for our guys was the egg-spitting frogs that tried to spit their eggs into the stream and not the predators’ mouths.

The boys learned a bunch that day, and we all had a blast!

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  • Shirley @ gfe

    What a great exhibit and great trip for you guys! If we were all a little more in tune with the grossology aspects of our body, we might start treating our bodies as temples long before they started “crumbling” as abandoned, uncared for temples do. Thanks so much for sharing! Oh, and the tapeworm immediately made me think of a true story I read years ago about a fellow’s experience after eating sushi. You can figure that one out. It really does matter where the ingredients in sushi come from.


    • Thanks – totally agree! And holy cow, that “true story” sounds like no joking matter! Scary stuff…

  • Tanya

    Ha! Sounds like a great trip and a cool exhibit. My kids have the luck of growing up on a cattle ranch and myself being a veterinary technologist – so the usual things that gross most kids out … the dogs bringing in nasty cow placentas during calving season, same dogs eating all forms of poo, dead muskrats on the doorstep – courtesy of same dogs, dead cow struck by lightning, calves being born (out of “the pink thing” hahaha, should have seen my husbands face when i told the kids it is a vagina…. lol well it is) – they don’t blink an eye at (well i guess the dead cow made their eyes water – we were upwind) You know, farm life and all its joys.

    • How cool! We’ve visited many farms, some of which (Polyface) have kids living on them. I’ve longed for that type of awesome outdoor life for them, but we’re definitely “in the burbs” kind of family 🙂

      • Tanya

         Yeah! I read about your trip – I really enjoyed that post, how excited you sounded about all the animals. I was glad to see you teaching your kids where food comes from and to respect it. I was refreshed by your enthusiasm because sometimes I take it for granted that my food – well my beef anyway lives happily on my farm and I know that they have been treated kindly. My husband actually wintered our heifers in a paddock 200 feet away from my kitchen window- it’s been nice to watch them go about their daily business lol.

        • Our kids are pretty funny about it. Because we’ve made visiting farms such a frequent thing, the mental separation between meat and animals is not so strong for them compared to other suburban kids. Cole has been known to wave goodbye to sheep and tell them “Eat ya later!” and Finian like to tell me that he likes the pigs’ bellies because that’s where the bacon comes from. They also always ask what part of the animal meat we are eating comes from.

          Strangely, it’s now the complete casualness that strikes me as odd. But I’ve had 30-some years of social training that makes me feel like animals, which I don’t even enjoy the company of, ought to be anthropomorphized in my mind and that we should not openly talk about the cow becoming the hamburger. But that is the fact and we shouldn’t shy away from that and pretend it doesn’t exist.

          Personally, I’ve no interest in working on a farm, but living on a farm sounds awesome!