Schools and groups can dive into digestion with new super-sized exhibition

A world-premiere exhibition in Manchester is supporting primary to secondary-aged students to fall in love with science through super-sized experiments, playful adventure and hands-on learning.

Operation Ouch! Food, Poo and You is a new exhibition at the Science and Industry Museum – one of the region’s most popular attractions for schools and groups. The rib-tickling adventure is guided by core objectives of the Key Stage 1 & 2 curriculum, and offers young people a unique opportunity to explore the science of the human body from the inside out. 

The exhibition investigates the job of each digestive organ in keeping us healthy, breaking the taboo around poo by proving it’s helpful to understand and discuss how bodies work.  

Driven by curiosity, the exhibition includes plenty of opportunities for play while being underpinned throughout by solid science for students at a variety of stages. It offers early learners the opportunity to experience and observe phenomena of the world around them, provides a foundational knowledge of the body’s inner workings, explores the role of each digestive organ and examines the role of nutrients in supporting digestive health.

Dr Chris, Dr Xand and Dr Ronx, presenters of the hit BBC Children’s show have provided unique inspiration for the exhibition. Renowned for their ability to engage, educate and entertain young viewers by conducting outrageous experiments, the trio appear throughout with displays of science in action and helpful facts to support learning. 

Just like the show, the exhibition embraces silliness in the name of science, encouraging audiences to leave their inhibitions at the door as they’re shrunk, swallowed, squeezed through and spat out of a giant digestive system.

From incisors to intestines, the body is explored through hands-on learning experiences tailored to primary to secondary-age children, with each designed to provide memorable early science interactions that help to build confidence in the subject. They include:

  • A super-sized set of interactive teeth, supporting students to discover the role of each tooth and how the mouth works to grind up food.
  • A collaborative game that sees visitors work together to operate a giant tongue.
  • Multi-user interactive activities that demonstrate how food moves from the oesophagus to the stomach.
  • The opportunity to meet Larry the Vomiting Robot, who was designed to help scientists understand how far sick splatters (and how norovirus particles are distributed) and is on display for the first time as part of an exhibition.
  • Discovering how the body absorbs nutrients by travelling through giant villi.
  • An interactive game to understand how the shape and colour of poo are linked to food and nutrients. 
  • A stink chamber that demonstrates how bacteria create gases when eating undigested waste.  

Students also have the opportunity to hear from young people living with a range of digestive conditions, along with the modern-day medicine helping to treat them.

This is the first time hit BBC Children’s TV show, Operation Ouch!, has been brought to life as an exhibition, and includes a number of world-first and weird experiences, including; The Big Flush – a once-in-a-lifetime experience of travelling like a poo and being flushed down a giant toilet; taking part in the world’s only interactive “pooduction” line to “make” a poo and discover how our bodies absorb nutrients and expel waste; and stepping inside the Drs’ elusive ‘cupboard of everything’ and interactive lab, brought to life from the screen for the first time.

Chris Keady, head of learning at the Science and Industry Museum, said: “We’re smashing taboos with this exhibition, proving that it’s not only fun to talk about everything from burps to belly rumbles and projectile vomit to poo, it’s essential in understanding and maintaining a healthy relationship with our bodies.

“Visiting museums is a really valuable experience for young people, supporting them to increase their knowledge and ignite new curiosities. Specifically, this exhibition builds foundational knowledge of the digestive process and helps young people identify when things are going right and wrong in their own bodies. It’s a truly spectacular show of super-sized science and one that we hope will leave people feeling entertained, empowered, and interested to learn more!”

Doctors Chris and Xand said: “This exhibition is our most epic experiment yet! Find out how your food gets mashed, pulped, squeezed and absorbed, and soak up the sights, sounds and even the smells of your incredible digestive system!

“Our bodies are amazing, and one of the first questions kids often ask is the biology of how we put food in and something else comes out! If we can understand that process, we’ve learned something that’s fundamentally important to life. So, as well as being brilliantly entertaining and of course absolutely disgusting, this exhibition is full of really amazing and essential science.”

Dr Ronx said:“Like everything with the human body, digestion can be tricky to understand or talk about. This exhibition breaks it all down into digestible chunks! From your mouth to your bum and everything in between, it activates all your senses to and doesn’t shy away from anything! It’s an awesome journey that will leave you a mixture of epically entertained, grossed out and fully fascinated by poo!”

The exhibition is supported by principal sponsor, Andrex.  It has been developed by the Science and Industry Museum and produced in collaboration with BBC and 141 Productions, part of All3Media’s Objective Media Group.

Tickets for Operation Ouch! Food, Poo and You can be booked now via the museum’s Group Booking Portal, where education providers can build a full itinerary for a trip to the museum. This includes exclusive offers for schools, such as the Science City Workshop, where pupils can explore some of the most surprising scientific discoveries to come out of Manchester during an interactive, skills-building workshop. For more information, visit the Science and Industry Museum Learning page.

The exhibition comes at an exciting time in the development of the Science and Industry Museum, as it continues to undergo a multi-million-pound regeneration project that will see brand new spaces opened and significant improvements made to some of its best-loved galleries. Although this means some areas will remain temporarily closed, there is still plenty to see, do and discover.

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