Wet, Wild and Wholesome: ‘Dynamic H2O’ at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan
THE NEW YORK TIMES: ‘Dynamic H20’
The Children’s Museum of Manhattan is inviting young visitors to get to know the city’s most industrious commuter: one that travels 125 miles from the Catskill Mountains every day, ascends countless high-rise floors to serve New Yorkers and leaves only after long hours, thoroughly dirty.
That tireless traveler stars in the museum’s latest exhibition: “Dynamic H20.” In the outdoor Sussman Environmental Center, it allows aspiring engineers and scientists to get their feet wet — and sometimes the rest of their bodies, too.
“The main goal is to get people to understand where our water comes from, and where does it go,” said David Rios, the museum’s director of public programs.
The show begins on the center’s upper level with a tall display illustrated with side-by-side building facades. Stepping on a pedal beneath each facade causes water to rise in a transparent tube within the building’s silhouette; it takes many more pushes to pump water to the tip of the exhibit’s skyscraper than to the top of its seven-story building.
While children stomp on these pedals, they can read the exhibition’s labels, and “they’re taking in the content a little bit more,” Mr. Rios said. “We want you to interact, but we want to slow it down a tad to take in the learning.”
There’s lots to learn. The perimeter walls offer a whimsically illustrated but detailed account of the city’s water supply, showing how some of it journeys from the Ashokan Reservoir upstate to residential pipes. On the lower level, interactive components recreate that journey. A constantly filling tub representing the Ashokan connects to downward-sloping chutes that terminate in another tub: the Hillview Reservoir in Yonkers. Visitors can sail little boats here.
Another display beckons them to “Create Your Own Aqueduct” by attaching pieces of PVC pipe to a wall.
The exhibit making the biggest splash takes center stage: a 16-foot-long water table. At one end, children press a button to make a cutout cloud “rain.” Water then travels through a series of sluices and pools, with junctures where visitors can attach pipes to change its pressure or reroute it. (The museum provides waterproof smocks.)
“They can redirect the water with mobile land masses or toyland mountains,” Mr. Rios said, before it reaches its final destination: a miniature Manhattan skyline.
Other exhibits explore the careers of ecologists, hydrologists and marine biologists. And a final display details how important the show’s subject is to the human body. Right now, for instance, you’re using your brain. It’s 70 percent water.
(Through September; 212 West 83rd Street, 212-721-1223, cmom.org.)
By Laurel Graeber