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Photo courtesy ©AMNH/R. Mickens

Making Sense of Our Senses

In the highly experiential exhibition, Our Senses, 11 funhouse-like galleries playfully dare visitors to rely on their senses.

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Blue light illuminates a wall crawling with beautifully painted beetles and dragonflies—until the bulbs turn red and reveal an entirely new backdrop. In the “See” room, the physical walls never change, but rotating light alters your perception of what you see.

This See room is located near the entrance of Denver Museum of Nature & Science’s (DMNS) newest exhibit, Our Senses: Creating Your Reality, opening April 12, after a run at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

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Our Senses takes families through a series of funhouse-style galleries designed to put the body’s five senses to the test. Each individual’s senses will dictate how they experience each space. DMNS curator and chair of health sciences, Nicole Garneau, Ph.D., is excited to visit the See room with her daughter, age three.

“Your reality is truly your own,” says Garneau, noting that there’s a good chance a parent and child will see completely different images while staring at the same wall inside the See room. “It’s interesting to realize just how different a child’s sensory world is. It’s a great conversation starter for families.”

Our Senses presents a unique opportunity to slow down and truly see the world through your child’s eyes.

“Sometimes we diminish what our children experience when we’re rushing through this hurried life,” Garneau says. The exhibit also teaches viewers all sorts of interesting, educational facts about a system that’s largely ignored during daily life.

Museumgoers can play with patterns, sound, scents, and touch in a colorful, all-ages display which invites people to explore a larger-than-life garden through the eyes of a butterfly. Compare human, coyote, and dolphin brains in order to see, firsthand, how different animals have different sense-related strengths that help them survive.

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The Touch room is predicted to be a popular space, based on the response to the original exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. What kid doesn’t want an excuse to grab everything in sight? Garneau finds the Smell room even more intriguing. “Unlike taste, smells are made up of a combination of different molecules,” Garneau explains. You’ll learn about this concept while inhaling the scent of chocolate, as a complex aroma is broken down into its most basic parts.

Nearby, in the Focus room, Garneau can’t wait to test her theory about mindfulness: “There’s a video, and I’m interested to see if kids see something adults miss,” Garneau says, noting that parents are more likely than children to be distracted thinking about the future.

After you’ve toured Our Senses, head to Expedition Health on the second floor, where guests age eight and up can participate in a real taste test in the Genetics of Taste lab. Small differences in DNA have a huge impact on the way we taste, and the Genetics of Taste team is trying to figure out why some people think whole wheat tastes bitter. To that end, participants taste wheat wafers before doing a quick and painless cheek swab DNA test. The Lab is open for public participation in taste research through August, and the experience, free with general admission, is a perfect compliment to Our Senses.

Check It Out:
Denver Museum of Nature & Science, 2001 Colorado Blvd., Denver
Need To Know:
The museum is open daily, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cost:
Our Senses: Creating Your Reality is included in general admission, which starts at $14.95 for children ages three to 18, and $19.95 for adults.
Insider Secret:
Save $2 by ordering your tickets online in advance, or consider a family membership if you visit the museum regularly.

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