If October is the month for getting the heebie-jeebies, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum couldn't have chosen a better time to introduce its new temporary exhibit, "EWW! What's Eating You?"
After all, the aptly named exhibit highlights a topic that makes most grown-ups' skin crawl: parasites.
But with lice outbreaks being announced in take-home folders across Chicagoland and mosquito bites being scratched until they bleed, the creepy creatures that live off humans clearly can't be escaped.
Fortunately, the exhibit is as interesting and educational as it is icky, giving kids the opportunity to get up-close and personal with the organisms that are our closest companions.
"There's the eww factor, but there's going to be the hmm factor," says Marc Miller, vice president of external affairs for Notebaert. "We want to change the way visitors think about parasites (and give them) a greater appreciation of these amazing creatures."
That sense of amazement will be conveyed through the "carnival-like" atmosphere of the exhibit, where kids can journey through an oversized scalp to learn about head lice, jump on top of a bell to pretend they're a flea and inflate a balloon to mimic a tick drinking blood.
Oversized images of parasites that may not even be visible to the human eye will be prominently displayed to look like funhouse mirrors.
"We try to connect people with the science that unfolds right in their own bodies," Miller says. "This is a fun way that lets us take a look at that."
If the subject matter of the exhibit really makes you squirm while your kids scream with delight, Miller says the rest of the museum will be open, including the ever-so-relaxing Butterfly Haven.
But, Miller believes, "parents will be fascinated by it, too"-even those with weak stomachs.
Elizabeth Diffin is the associate editor at Chicago Parent. She lives in Wheaton.
See more of Elizabeth's stories here.