Monday, October 20, 2014

Water Ways: Going with the Flow

The process of reinventing Water Ways continues!

Water exhibit specialist Tom Lindsay arrived from the West Coast to help install the interactive water components that he designed and fabricated – which meant working with water engineers to drill through the floor to the basement, which houses the new water filtration and mechanical systems.

Tom and Chris (exhibit designer & fabricator) work on the vortex tank in the toddler area.

Robin (exhibits director) and Chris (exhibit designer & fabricator) survey the tanks and components.

A core from the floor – check out all of the layers, which meant some serious drilling!

Crew member Robin installed the “wind wall” – a panel of silvery objects that shift and shimmer like the surface of water in response to currents of air. They’re fishing lures, actually – nearly 2,000 of them!


The team created some walls to subdivide the environment into its various components…

Chris created the frame for a divider that will
contain one of the activities in the toddler play area.
Crew member Zach worked on the wall that will
separate the ice play table from the tank area.

After welding together an intricate ice table and stools, Chris smoothed them out before sending them off to be powder coated – they'll be a lovely purplish blue next time we see them.


Robin and Valerie (graphic designer) made some final decisions about images of water play that will occupy two walls of the exhibit, then hung paper prototypes in the space to determine size and layout of the images and artful lines of water poetry.


Much more to come, including a peek at the process of creating a stunning ceramic mural!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Water Ways: New Tanks!

Some recent scenes from the Water Ways process…

The environment got new flooring in September – a multi-phased and smelly (!) process that required the Museum to be closed for a week. The finished product:


Our new tanks have been fabricated offsite by subcontractors over the past few months. Based on designs provided by the Museum, they created patterns for the tanks from Styrofoam and then used the patterns to fabricate tanks in fiberglass.


Once the new floor was complete, staff used paper templates to map out final tank placement.


And then our four new tanks were delivered and assembled.


Stay tuned for installation of new water activities!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Water Ways Transformation Begins

Work on Water Ways is well underway! It has been for quite a while, actually – the exhibits team has been fabricating new components and furniture in the Museum’s workshop and partners have been working with us to create new tanks and water activities offsite. (More on that later.)

The big changes to the environment itself began this month, with demolition of the tanks, wave cave, cabinets and more, then prepping the space – cleaning, building new walls and painting the entire room.

Some scenes of the process so far:

Taking apart the wave cave.
Staff survey the demolition.
The last tank is removed.
A nearly empty room!
New walls, fresh paint.

Up next: new flooring and new water filtration and mechanical systems before the installation of Water Ways tanks and components can begin – stay tuned!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Water Ways Farewell

Last week, Museum staff and visitors bid a very fond farewell to Water Ways (version 1.0).

The last kids to play in Water Ways gave it a fitting sending off – lots of pumping, splashing and laughter as water shot high into the air.


Staff also enjoyed some fun-filled final moments of water play.


After more than 16 years, we all share so many wonderful (and wet!) memories of Water Ways.


What about YOU? Visit our Facebook page to share favorite memories, stories and photos of Water Ways.

And stay tuned for scenes of making Water Ways version 2.0!

"Goodbye wave"

Monday, September 1, 2014

Coming This Fall: A Whole New Water Ways!

An entirely renovated, reimagined Water Ways environment will transform Providence Children’s Museum with torrents of fun this fall!  Visitors of all ages will splash, explore and discover imaginative all-new water play:

  • Transform the size and shape of billowing mist and water domes 
  • Send objects spiraling and twisting through vortexes 
  • Connect pipe pieces to form fountains that funnel the flow of mist and water 
  • Investigate and sculpt crushed ice using a variety of tools 
  • “Paint” watery designs on a large slate wall 
  • Explore an expanded toddler play area with balls, ramps and spigots
  • And MUCH more!

After 16 years and more than 2 million visitors, Water Ways closes for renovations on September 2 and the brand-new space opens November 8.  Stay tuned for stories and photos of reinventing Water Ways!

Illustrations by Valerie Haggerty-Silva

Friday, August 29, 2014

Beach Adventure Play

This article, by Museum Executive Director Janice O'Donnell, was also posted on Kidoinfo.

When I describe the adventure playgrounds I explored in England and Wales to Americans, they might be delighted or appalled, but they’re always surprised. Adventure playgrounds are places absolutely committed to kids’ free self-directed play. Children build (and destroy) their own play structures, often using hammers and nails; loose parts – old tires, mud, boards, buckets, rope – abound; and taking risks is encouraged as part of healthy development. These playgrounds have a long history in northern Europe, but are rare in the US (there’s one on the UK model in Berkeley, CA) and can look chaotic and dangerous to American eyes.

But the kind of play adventure playgrounds provide isn’t actually unusual here. In fact, it happens all the time and is completely acceptable – at the beach.


As at an adventure playground, kids (and grown-ups, too) are free to alter the beach space to the limits of their abilities – dig a hole, engineer a canal system, build a castle. Open-ended play objects are everywhere – sand and water are the endlessly malleable ultimate in loose parts, plus there are shells, seaweed, sticks and stones to decorate your mud pies or sand sculptures, turn into drawing and digging tools, and wear as costumes. And appropriate risk is ever present. Small children, not yet ready to tackle deep water, challenge their own fear by running toward the receding waves and back to shore as the water rushes at them. More competent swimmers make decisions about which waves to ride and how deep to venture. And, for the most part, we let them use their own judgment to assess risk and their own abilities.

I think one reason we adults are so comfortable with open-ended, child-directed and somewhat risky adventure play at the beach is because we’re familiar with these activities. We indulge in riding waves and sculpting sand ourselves. Likewise, a lot of the adults I met at adventure playgrounds in the UK had grown up playing in just such places. They’re used to that kind of play in that kind of environment. Also, adventure playgrounds have playworkers, people well trained and experienced at supporting children’s play without directing it. Having knowledgeable adults on hand, paying close attention to what the kids are up to – but letting them – certainly mitigates any danger. Even if a child does fall off the zip line, there’s a grown-up who’ll help him out. The lifeguards at the beach play a somewhat similar role. They’ll warn us of real danger, such as a rip current, and they’ll help us if we get in trouble, but they don’t tell us how to play. They keep an eye on things without interfering.

We can learn a lot about our own attitudes toward free play and risk if we observe and reflect on our children’s and our own enjoyment of a day at the beach. Maybe we’re not as risk averse as we sometimes feel. Maybe our kids are a lot more competent and inventive than we realized.