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by Judy Antell


    The new exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History, Water: H2O = Life, literally offers a message in a bottle.  At the Water Café where local foods are featured, no bottled water is sold.  There is a jug filled with cold water, and you can help yourself to a drink with one of the cups provided — or better yet, use the refillable bottle you’ve toted along.
  You enter the Water exhibit through a ‘wall’ of water mist, with a projection of the word “water” in different languages.  The exhibit makes clear that water consumption affects people across borders, so this international display of words stresses its universal concern.  But for little kids, it’s just cool.

     Also cool is the block of ice that you can touch; there is running water in the exhibit, too, so you can experience the three states of water.  The exhibit offers both an interactive experience for young kids and a more scientific but still hands-on approach for older kids and adults, so a family can enjoy Water on many different levels.
  You can walk through a “canyon” carved by water, which demonstrates water’s strength, and pump water, which you can see takes it away from your neighbor.  You can manipulate a dam, stopping and starting the flow.  And you can examine a drop of water under a microscope. There is an impressive six-foot globe with satellite images of Earth, showing a worldwide water cycle.  A huge diorama of life in Cambodia along the Mekong River illustrates the effect of seasonal monsoons.
  Pay attention, because there are quizzes on topics such as how much water it takes to make potato chips, or whether more water is used to grow corn, cotton or rice.  Most important is the quiz at the end of the exhibit on ways to conserve water; the show’s designers clearly want the take-away to be increased awareness of how our water usage affects the planet.
  Water has fish tanks with tetra and mudskippers, a 1,500-year-old Mexican pipe that was used to irrigate, and a lifelike polar bear that will suffer if we do not conserve our natural resource.  As you learn at this exhibit, only 3 percent of the water on Earth is fresh. Makes you wonder why we use drinkable water to flush our toilets.
 The museum has many children’s programs relating to the exhibit, including “Water Saturdays” workshops in January and February, where kids learn about the “science” of water.  The February break camp also focuses on water.
 Water flows through the museum until May 26, 2008.


Central Park West at 79th Street

When:  Open daily, 10am-5:45pm

How much:  Timed tickets, which include admission to the museum, are $22 adults, $16.50 students and seniors, $13 children

For more info: www.amnh.org; (212) 769-5200

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