How a Museum’s 45-Foot Virtual Waterfall Can Inspire Sustainability
New York Hall of Science exhibit encourages visitors to consider how their actions impact ecosystems worldwide
At the New York Hall of Science, visitors don’t have to learn by simply staring at the work and passively taking it in — they can touch the installations. Developed by Design I/O, a creative studio that specializes in the design and development of immersive installations, Connected Worlds is an exhibit that is made for those who learn best by doing.
The installation is made up of six different ecosystems spread out along the walls of the museum’s Great Hall: jungle, desert, wetlands, mountain valley, reservoir and plains. These ecosystems are connected by a 3,000-square-foot interactive floor, and while they have their own unique trees, plants and animals, they all receive their supply of virtual water from a 45-foot tall waterfall.
The waterfall provides a way for children to learn about how plants and animals interact with their environment. They can divert the water that flows down from the waterfall and across the interactive floor with logs, causing the water to flow into the different ecosystems. They can then plant seeds and watch each environment bloom.
As they watch the systems blossom, creatures will appear in the exhibit, depending on the health of the ecosystems and the types of plants that grow in them. The animals can even migrate between the ecosystems, causing “interesting chain reactions of behaviors,” according to Design I/O.
The exhibit, which is certainly a creative way to get kids interested in science, has loftier aspirations, as well — Connected Worlds hopes to promote sustainability by demonstrating how actions in one location can have consequences that reverberate across the earth. Children can bring to the installation knowledge of scientific concepts they might have discussed in the classroom, such as feedback loops and equilibrium, and be able to apply them to a hands-on experiment. The installation even encourages group work and cooperation, as children can collaborate to distribute the limited water supply across several different ecosystems.