STEM at the Water Works
What is STEM?
STEM education is an intentional, integrative approach to teaching and learning in which students uncover and acquire a cohesive set of concepts, competencies, and dispositions of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics that they transfer and apply in a variety of contexts in order to be successful in school, in their community, at work, and throughout the world (Pennsylvania Department of Education).
STEM Learning Opportunities at the Fairmount Water Works
The Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center is rich with STEM learning opportunities by providing a context for cross-disciplinary learning through its significance as a National Historic Engineering Landmark, as a high-style expression of 19th century civic design in America, and as an exemplar of Philadelphia’s commitment to a safe and reliable public water system – past, present, and future.
The goal of educational programming at the Fairmount Water Works is to increase understanding of water systems, the importance of water quality, watershed protection, and stewardship action. Students (of all ages) learn through hands-on, minds-in lessons that explore river ecology and ecological interdependence specifically through the aquatic biology lesson of FWW’s “Seeing is Believing” program and water quality research and applied science demonstrated in the Mussel Hatchery Exhibit and Lab, as well as through outreach programming enabled through the mobile mussel cart.
The site itself as a former pumping station lends itself to place-based, real-world education related to physics, engineering, and math. Students are introduced to water systems engineering through the “Understanding the Urban Watershed” program that helps them better understand that the healthy, clean water our lives depend on is part of an urban water use cycle of river, treatment, tap water, flush, wastewater treatment and return to the river that requires infrastructure and processes.