Walk through the doors of the new Glazer Children’s Museum in downtown Tampa and you’ll face an impressive two-story exhibit with children hanging from the sky, pretending to be drops of water in the clouds.
Water’s Journey was sponsored by the District as part of its education and outreach mission.
“Water’s Journey is a showpiece,” said Sarah Cole, the museum’s director of education. “People come up the stairs and say, ‘Wow!’ They just can’t help but to engage once they see it.”
The exhibit has become a prominent draw in a museum that is designed to appeal to children, and it takes a lion’s share of the visitors’ time. The museum expects that 100,000 people will visit the facility each year.
“Once kids go through the exhibit, they want to get right back in there,” said Cole. “Most of the other elements in the museum get about 5 to 10 minutes of the kids’ time. It’s more like 30 minutes for Water’s Journey. We had to increase the number of benches around the exhibit for the parents.”
Water’s Journey and Watch That Water, another District-sponsored exhibit in the museum, help children learn about water supply, water conservation and the water cycle in simple, easy-to-understand terms, said Beth Putnam, communications manager in charge of District education projects.
“The exhibits let children learn about water at their level,” said Putnam. “Water’s Journey lets them experience the hydrologic cycle as they pretend to be water drops climbing from the aquifer level to the clouds.”
In the Watch That Water exhibit, children make choices that affect water use in a computerized, simulated house. As they make choices, the display uses LED lighting to show the aquifer level rising or falling.
“It lets them see the consequences of their decisions,” said Putnam. “They can tie the choices they make to the water levels on the display. Research shows that children learn more from exhibits when they have an opportunity to make choices.”
Schools are already taking field trips to the museum, and the District is providing educational materials for teachers to use with the exhibits. Families are visiting the museum on their own, and Cole said that parents are learning along with their children.
“I hear the parents read the exhibits and say, ‘Oh! I didn’t know that,’ ” said Cole. “By bringing learning to the physical level, we’re making it more real to them. We hope they’re getting the idea that the water cycle is really part of their lives. If children and their parents can take away one or two little ways to change their behavior, we’ve done our job.”
The District’s Basin Boards funded the two exhibits for $617,000.