Hidden Philly: The Fairmount Water Works


MomSpeaker Sandra Telep and her kids recently visited the Fairmount Water Works to sample some of the interactive programming that flows from its family-fun tap. Here, she recounts the experience and previews the FLOW Festival, a community celebration For the Love of Water set for this coming Saturday, Sept. 21.

Last week we were invited to visit Fairmount Water Works. The structure was home to the nation's first major urban water-supply system (all the way back in 1815), and today it is an educational facility whose mission is to "foster stewardship of our shared water resources." This visit was especially well timed for our family because during our trip to Mexico last month, Leo became aware of how lucky we are to have clean water at our fingertips whenever we want it.

He was surprised to learn that the water that comes out of the faucet in Mexico is not safe to drink — and even that water doesn't flow all the time. I explained to him that we are lucky in our home because we have large tanks on our roof that collect water when it is available, but some other homes only have running water in the mornings — in fact, some homes in more rural areas have to travel to a water source and carry all the water they will need that day back to their homes. I'm not sure if really grasped exactly how lucky we are, but when we got back home he did run to the kitchen sink and pour himself a big glass of water.

Our visit to the Fairmount Water Works answered a lot of questions he's had since he's been thinking about water, where it comes from and where it goes when we are done using it. Starting with the evaporation-condensation-precipitation cycle up through the process of flushing our toilets, all the answers to his water curiosity were answered through interactive and educational exhibits (and filled in the details that my answers lacked).

The kids participated in one of their classes and learned about clouds. Leo was positively tickled to think that it's quite possible that the water he drank today was also drunk by a dinosaur. Leo LOVED the teacher and asked if she could be his teacher when he starts school.  

I was worried that Zoe would be too young to participate, but she loved the story time and making her own fluffy cloud. 

General admission is free and it's in the perfect location to combine with a trip to the Philadelphia Art Museum or follow up with a picnic and a walk along the Schuylkill River Trail. I actually walked home along the trail, which was perfect because both kids fell asleep in the stroller and I stopped at a cafe to enjoy a latte and some quiet. Sign up for one of their parent/child classes or attend the upcoming FLOW (For the Love of Water) Festival on September 21 at 1pm (also free). We got a sneak peek at some of the awesome stuff planned for the Flow Fest and it looks like it's going to be pretty rad — the splash organ alone would be worth the trip out.

I'm glad we got a chance to explore the Fairmount Water Works — what an incredible resource. There is so much to learn about our Urban Watershed, the process that our water goes through to reach us and how we can help preserve the finite supply of water we have. Not to mention the history of Philadelphia's water system and the beauty and historical significance of the architecture of the building. It is way more than we could pack into one trip. I look forward to returning with the kids and continuing our water education.

Sandra Telep is a West Philadelphia mom of two. This post is adapted from her blog, West Philly Mama.



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