A completely redesigned and renewed Waterplay exhibit opens at Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh on April 27. It includes nearly 20 new hands-on components that present water through sights, sounds and concepts that variously pump, circulate, channel, rain, spray and freeze water.
The new version of Waterplay occupies the same 3,100 square foot space on the third floor of the Museum’s Lantern building, a LEED Silver Certified facility with an open floor plan and southern natural light. Museum Executive Director Jane Werner says, “The new Waterplay is full of fresh artistic ideas that enhance our core education values. It’s an exciting, innovative and great reason to visit the Children’s Museum.”
The new design brings significant technical improvements to its circulation and display of water through hands-on experiences where children can manipulate and investigate water in ways that embody the Museum‘s philosophy of Play with Real Stuff – creating activities that are concrete, real and relevant to children’s lives. The exhibit also mirrors the Museum’s ongoing commitment to sustainable design - building with green materials such as recycled and organic products, energy-efficient lighting and low-VOC paint, while recognizing water as a precious and clean natural resource.
EQT Corporation provided a grant to the Children’s Museum that helped make the new Waterplay exhibit possible. “We are particularly delighted that EQT Corporation has supported our vision and are grateful for their partnership in bringing the new exhibit to life,” Werner says.
“At EQT, we place a high value on protecting precious resources, like water, and supporting initiatives that help to educate the public about environmental stewardship,” said Charlene Petrelli, President of the EQT Foundation. “Additionally, we are committed to supporting educational programs for children, such as the Waterplay exhibit, which is a powerful educational tool for young and old alike.”
The redesigned Waterplay captures this breadth with an array of new features. A seven-foot diameter water mover - with wave-shaped scoops - enables visitors to turn the “mover” and pour water into a system of nearby channels. Visitors can alter the flow of water by sending objects – made of various materials - through the channels. At the snow/ice table, shaved and cubed ice awaits experiments and observations. In other Waterplay areas, children can experiment with buoyancy and hydraulics - submerging objects or creating motion with water under pressure. A wall of adjustable magnets and spinning aluminum discs allows visitors to manipulate the texture and flow of water.
Waterplay also includes an original artwork, Rain Meander, by Stacy Levy, a Pennsylvania artist whose work focuses on turning environmental phenomena into instructive and beautiful experiences. “It’s basically a river in the sky that rains water,” Levy describes. She developed the concept from the desire to combine a salute to Pittsburgh’s rivers with an appreciation of rain, one of our fundamental experiences of water. In keeping with Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh’s practice, the Waterplay exhibit area will frequently display works by other artists such as Joan Danzinger, whose playful and intricate wire, celluclay, paint and fused glass insect sculptures will be on display in Waterplay through November.
Director of Museum Experiences Penny Lodge explains, "We don't simply make experiences for our visitors, we make environments where our visitors can create their own experiences. And they learn while they do it."
To reinforce the Museum’s philosophy of Real Stuff while underscoring the importance of water as a natural resource, most of the components within the exhibit require children to pump water by hand or foot. Often kids must carry water to an exhibit component to perform a task. “Our perceptions of water often deal with abundance, but worldwide, water is scarce,” explains Associate Director of Museum Experiences Anne Fullenkamp. “We want people to think about how much water they are using.”
The new exhibit is designed in-house by the Children’s Museum’s exhibition staff, which is made up of specialists in various fields of exhibition design, education and visual arts. “We have a group of designers and developers that have have a nice history with us,” says Penny Lodge. “We have a philosophy. We have a look and a feel.”
The in-house method also allows for a prototyping process in which designers build their ideas and put test versions in use. The team gathers feedback from visitors in real-world experiences and makes changes accordingly. All components reach final design through this testing process. In-house staff is complemented by key outside team members. The contractor for Waterplay is Mascaro Corporation, with the water mover fabricated by Chartiers Manufacturing and the snow/ice Table fabricated by XYZ Custom, Inc.
The Waterplay renovation was made possible with major support from EQT Corporation and additional support from the Snee-Reinhardt Charitable Foundation and PPG Industries Foundation.
Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh is open Monday–Sunday from 10:00 am– 5:00 pm. Admission is $13 for adults, $12 for children 2-18 and senior citizens. Children under two are free. The museum is located on the North Side at 10 Children’s Way, Allegheny Square, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.
For more information, please call (412) 322-5058 or visit the museum website www.pittsburghkids.org.