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Learn How to Escape a Worst-Case Scenario at the Franklin Institute

The interactive exhibit lets you put the survival lessons you learn to the test.



The ball pit at The Worst Case Scenario: Survival Experience at the Franklin Institute.

Photos courtesy of The Franklin Institute / Darryl Moran

Visitors to the Franklin Institute can find something to get their hearts racing at The Worst Case Scenario: Survival Experience, a new exhibit that celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Philadelphia-born, best-selling book, The Worst Case Survival Handbook.

“Survival, survival instincts and understanding that is in the people’s interest,” says Franklin Institute CEO Larry Dubinski. “There is something for everyone, young and old, to take away. To take away and think about challenges they could face but also have a good time and enjoy.”

Tales of real-life survivors

When you first enter the exhibit, panels describe real-life accounts from survivors as well as experts who handle life-threatening situations on a day-to-day basis, such as first responders and wildlife rescue workers. 

The space then opens up to a Survival Gymnasium with 13 challenges where you can test your survival skills.

“What happens when you are gradually hung upside down or stuck in a car,” asks co-author David Borgenicht, a Philadelphia native like his co-author Joshua Piven.

Worst Case Survival at Franklin Institute, train jumping

Gymnasium challenges

Challenges in the gym include upside-down tic-tac-toe to test your powers of concentration should you, for example, be trapped wrong-way-up in a car, and jumping from one vibrating platform to another to simulate what it takes to move between trains, if you ever find yourself on top of a SEPTA car. You can also test your wall-climbing ability to escape floodwaters and use your dexterity to avoid contact with germs that threaten to attack your body from the inside.

Each life-or-death situation has a bilingual panel to explain the science or animal behavior that might get you in, and out, of your predicament. 

“There is a lot of science and research that goes into these books and they really come true in the exhibit,” says Piven. “So each activity gives people the confidence to know what to do in these given situations.”

While some of the activities are very gymnastic, there is a “lifeguard” for each activity who directs people with step-by-step instructions.

The largest display is a giant ball pit where you can put into practice what you learn about how to jump from a height, extract yourself from quicksand or make it out of an avalanche.

Though its unlikely you will ever find yourself in any of these action-adventure scenarios, the experience of learning how to think on your feet in a high-pressure situation might come in handy someday for a less threatening encounter, like Black Friday shopping or a coffee shop that runs out of lids.

The exhibit is her until April 19, 2020

Hayley Banks is a MetroKids intern and student at Drexel University

Worst Case Survivor at Franklin Institute, wall climbing

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