Monday, November 24, 2014

Water Ways: The Iceberg

This post was contributed by Museum Exhibits Director Robin Meisner

Like an iceberg, Water Ways has a significant portion of its structure below the waterline. Most of what makes the exhibit work is unseen to our visitors, but is essential to the functioning of the hands-on activities.

Below the floor – which was already sloped and drained since the Museum used to be a jewelry factory and Water Ways was the plating room – is the bulk of the infrastructure. In the basement, city water comes into our building through two new giant filters to ensure the Museum’s water is high quality.

Robin shows her love of the new water filters and demonstrates their scale.

Three new distribution pumps recirculate the water in a loop from the play tanks through four filters, five holding tanks and sanitization systems (including a UV sterilizer) and back up to Water Ways. And a mist generator transforms fresh water into mist, which is blown up to the exhibit by a strong fan.

Pumps and filters and tanks, oh my!

Other bits of the “iceberg” are in the exhibit itself (though some are hidden from view), including an ice machine, ice crusher and lots and lots of piping.

So, while most people think of Water Ways as a fantastically wet place to play, it is also a feat of engineering!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Water Ways is NOW OPEN!

Our imaginative new Water Ways exhibit has opened to exuberant splashing, spirited squirting and all-out squeals of delight!

On Thursday, we invited a dozen kids, ages 1 to 12, for a sneak peek and to test things out for us. The initial response: they surged and swirled around the room in a flurry of excitement, enthusiastically trying each activity and rushing on to the next. After a while, they settled in, and kids of all ages (and some grown-ups!) were deeply immersed in interactive water play.

Water is intrinsically fascinating.  The ultimate “loose part,” it naturally invites open-ended play and exploration.  Water play is a mesmerizing sensory experience that fosters creativity, stimulates curiosity and promotes problem solving for all ages and abilities.  It offers children endless possibilities to engage with science – to notice, question, experiment and develop a sense of wonder about the world around them.

Water Ways motivates visitors of all ages to think, ‘What does water do?’ and ‘What can I do with water?’ by inviting them to splash, discover and playfully experience water in ways new and familiar while investigating its properties in different forms – liquid, ice and mist.  Some scenes from the all-new Water Ways...

Transforming the size and shape of billowing mist and water domes by turning valves that regulate the rush of water.

The mist dome is a water dome with mist pumped inside so that the surface tension of the water traps the mist. When the water surface is broken, the mist wafts out in captivating clouds.

Sending balls, boats, and other loose parts and spiraling and twisting through vortexes  – whirling "water tornadoes," as kids describe them – and figuring out how to change the way the water moves.

Connecting pipe pieces to form fountains that funnel the flow of mist and water.

Investigating, scooping and sculpting crushed ice using a variety of tools.

Painting watery designs on a large slate wall.

Building mazes and damming water cascading downstream with blocks and sandbags.

Scooping and pouring water at toddler-height troughs and squirting and squeegeeing in an expanded play area especially for the Museum’s smallest visitors.

And droplet-shaped labels offer adults prompts and ways to play, encouraging them to notice and appreciate the learning that happens as children splash and explore.

Don’t miss out on the exhibit that visitors declare is “Super duper fun,” “Wicked awesome,” and “Splashtastic!” – come experience the all-new Water Ways for yourselves!

And see the posts below for a peek at the process of creating Water Ways.

Water Ways is supported in part by The Norman & Rosalie Fain Family Foundation and June Rockwell Levy Foundation.
All photos copyright Providence Children’s Museum and may only be used with permission.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Water Ways: The Final Surge

Members of our exhibit crew have whirled around Water Ways this week in a flood of activity, putting the finishing touches on our incredible new exhibit…

Crew member James and exhibit designer Chris making final adjustments to the tanks.

Graphic designer Valerie and Chris hanging gorgeous labels – lines of water poetry and vibrant images
of kids’ inspiring water play.

Dave Marchetti – the animal guy! – reinstalling our fish tanks.

Crew members Zach and Ian completing the artful entry waves, while James and Chris ready the smock wall.

Exhibits director Robin and researcher Suzy concocting pearlescent potions to swirl inside the “portholes”…

that are part of the wall Zach finalizes to separate the ice play table from the tank area.

James installing the toddler-height squeegee wall.

Plus LOADS of colorful loose parts!

It's been nearly two years of planning, designing, prototyping, fabricating and just plain hard work by the exhibits team and our partners, and it was well worth it. Join us to celebrate the opening of the amazing new Water Ways all weekend long, beginning Saturday at 9:00 AM!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Water Ways: A Flurry of Activity

So much has happened in Water Ways in the last two weeks!

Artists Peter Geisser and Mika Seeger installed a stunning ceramic mural that will be a focal point of the exhibit – stay tuned for a peek at their process of making the mural as well as the finished product.

Chris (Museum exhibit designer & fabricator) and Nick (Museum exhibit technician) built and installed a new zigzag tank in the toddler play area.

Our team of water engineers connected the water system they installed in our basement to the tanks.

And then we finally had WATER – something rather important for a water exhibit!

AND mist!
A vortex and spigot wall in the toddler area.

An entryway made of colorful translucent waves plus vinyl swooshes added to the windows complement the look, feel and flow of the space.

Crew member James installed the slate painting wall – a repurposed chalkboard salvaged from an old schoolhouse.

And Chris and Nick mounted a high-up waterfall that will provide a constant gentle shower into the tank below.

Just ONE WEEK to go!

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!

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!