2-3 Year Recap
Over the past two years, the Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center, and interpretive design firm Habithéque, Inc., have been recognized for several prestigious awards for educational programming, innovative exhibitions and visitor-friendly activations. Included among the 2022 awards and nominations are:
- Mid Atlantic Emmy Nomination for WHYY’s Movers & Makers feature on “POOL: A Social History of Segregation”
- Fast Company Innovation by Design Honorable Mention – Social Justice category
- Making an Impact Award (Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums)
- Special Places Award (Pennsylvania Environmental Council)
- Schuylkill River Nominated for PA River of the Year Award
- Diversity in Aquatics (DIA) Lee Pitts Award for Leadership and Organizational Excellence. DIA is a national organization dedicated to increasing water safety and aquatic activities in historically underrepresented and vulnerable communities.
Special Projects & Exhibitions
POOL: A Social History of Segregation
In partnership and with support by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, the Philadelphia Water Department, Philadelphia Department of Recreation, Philadelphia Magazine, Habithéque and many other organizations and individuals, POOL: A Social History of Segregation opened on March 22, 2022 (World Water Day) in the Fairmount Water Works’ former natatorium. POOL explores the role of public pools in our communities with the goal of deepening understanding of the connection between water, social justice and public health, and connects the history of segregated swimming in America with multi-disciplinary artworks, storytelling, and place-based learning. In 2022, over 6,000 visitors immersed themselves in the exhibition, which received global, regional and local recognition by both the press and various award nomination committees.
During the summer of 2022, FWWIC hosted bi-weekly concerts and culinary offerings, SPLASH/CONCESSIONS, curated by POOL artist Homer Jackson and Chef and social justice activist Valerie Erwin. Jackson is Executive Director at Philadelphia Jazz Project and talented interdisciplinary artist with a background in curation, teaching and social service. Erwin is a master chef of Great Migration culture and cuisine and who, for 12 years owned the critically acclaimed Geechee Girl Rice Café in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia. SPLASH/CONCESSIONS featured performances by local musicians with food prepared by young, local entrepreneurs of color. These popular events were designed to expand the experience, prolong the discussion and re-ignite interest in the POOL exhibition.
Art in the Open 2022 (May 20-22, 2022)
FWW partnered with the Center for Emerging Visual Artists for the XX year of Art in the Open (AiO), a biennial citywide event that celebrates artists, their inspirations, and their relationships with the urban environment. 2022’s event welcomed XX participating artists, XX visitors along the Schuylkill Trail, and XX volunteers, all making it a fantastic success!
“Inland: The Abandoned Canals of the Schuylkill Navigation” Exhibition
With FWW educator Sandy Sorlien as a contributor, the FWW supported the research of the book, “Inland: The Abandoned Canals of the Schuylkill Navigation”, which is composed of photos, maps, and essays about the historic Schuylkill Navigation System and its mostly-hidden ruins. Prints and maps from the book are on view in the media gallery at the Fairmount Water Works from October 2022 through January 2023, and celebrated its opening with a private reception for XX guests.
“Ripple Effect” – Ed Grusheski Memorial Exhibition
Long-time supporter and friend to the Fairmount Water Works, the late Ed Grusheski promoted education of the history of our relationship with water and how the Fairmount Water Works came to be. To celebrate his legacy, the Interpretive Center partnered with artist Thom Duffy to launch “Ripple Effect: Ed Grusheski Memorial Exhibition”, featuring 13 local artists and pieces from Ed’s personal art collection. Personal guided tours were provided to the general public during the Center’s normal operating hours.
Freshwater Mussel Hatchery
FRESHWATER was a public art installation by artist Jean Shin and curated by Philadelphia Contemporary. Freshwater mussels propagated in the FWW Mussel Hatchery were used in a public fountain display to illuminate the role of freshwater mussels in improving water quality and to inspire viewers to become better stewards of our rivers. FWW’s education team and interns cared for the mussels used in the exhibit on a weekly basis, and participated in “Freshwater Talks: Mussel Restoration Along the Delaware River Watershed”, a panel of scientists, educators and culture workers involved in freshwater mussel restoration projects.
Mussels in the Classroom
This pilot program, initiated in the fall of 2022 at Lankenau High School is the result of a collaboration between FWWIC and ARRC scientists. Students apply knowledge gained in the classroom (ecology, mathematics and engineering) to a real-world research experience on a local environmental issue – water quality. Students received juvenile mussels propagated in the FWW Hatchery and a Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) and will monitor species-specific growth rates and survivorship. All data will be submitted to the ARRC research team.
Mussels in the Field
Once FWW Hatchery juvenile mussels are about 5 mm in length, they are moved to natural waterways in contained systems so that they can continue to be monitored – growth rates and survivorship. MIF gives students an opportunity to engage in a field research experience in which they measure mussel length, monitor survivorship and take physical and chemical measurements of the aquatic system. Nearly 1,000 students have participated in this field experience since fall 2019.
Mussel Mania community science experience, started in Fall 2021, is designed for all ages – adults and families.
With support from an Alliance for Watershed Education (AWE) regrant received in 2020, FWW partnered with Audubon at the Discovery Center to offer Mussel Maniacs (MM), a community science program, started in Fall of 2021. (MM is offered as part of Discovery Days, a signature monthly event at the Discovery Center from March through December.) Participants in MM include Master Watershed Stewards, Master Naturalists, groups of students from local universities, and families from the nearby neighborhoods. Participation each month has ranged from 6 to 32 people, with average of about 13 each program for an estimated total of 230 participants to date. Since we have about 20,000 new juvenile mussels propagated in 2022, we are interested in growing participation in MM, especially from people in local neighborhoods. Determining growth rates and survivorship of these new mussels will help to inform future propagation practices and deployment plans. We hope to build/strengthen relationships with leaders from local community organizations and with continued support from AWE, we will provide transportation for groups to attend community science events. We have found that learning about freshwater mussels and collecting this type of data can be a “gateway” into fostering care and concern for waterways in our city.
Mussels in the Field
FWW’s Mussels in the Field program is similar to the Mussel Maniac program activity, but designed for 6th-12th grade students coming as a class. Students receive a brief introduction to freshwater mussels and their propagation and use a Freshwater Mussel Journal to record site observations, draw maps, and collect data. Students measure the freshwater mussels and test the reservoir water for dissolved oxygen, phosphates, nitrates and pH. Students can learn about data analysis and complete graphs in their journals as well. We hope to grow this program in Spring of 2023 and will use some of the regrant funds to provide transportation for interested schools.
Mussels-To-Go, traveling mussel kit
For classrooms that are unable to take field trips, we have started to design and create a traveling Mussel Kit, in which teachers can sign out and use in their classrooms for a period of time. The kit will contain a series of hands-on, student-centered activities designed for 6th-12th graders. Current activities include matching mussel shells and learning about species id, life cycle puzzles, equipment to test turbidity of water samples, and research simulation activities to illustrate the propagation process. The kits will also include vocabulary lists, data analysis activities and comprehension questions. The AWE regrant will help to support the development of activities in the kit and staff time to pilot the kit in classrooms.
Aquatic Research & Restoration Center (AARC)
In 2022, activities have been far-reaching, despite the impacts from flooding and interruptions from the COVID pandemic. These include:
- Successful propagation of five (5) species of native bivalves (over 25,000+ individuals) at FWW’s Freshwater Mussel Hatchery.
- Propagation of two species of native mussels using in-vitro techniques.
- The creation of Pennsylvania’s first and only Shell Recycling Facility for the purposes of beneficial use of recycled material for the Delaware Basin’s Oyster Reef Recovery Program and the Delaware Living Shorelines Initiative (DELSI).
- The design and implementation of Pennsylvania’s first Living Shorelines Project located along the west bank of Schuylkill River at Bartram’s Garden, Philadelphia.
- Design of a production-scale freshwater mussel hatchery at Bartram’s Garden.
- Revisiting and revision of the ARRC Memorandum of Understanding in 2022 to address four core natural resources: Freshwater Mussels; American Shad and River Herring; Nearshore Habitat; and Oyster Shell Recycling.
Watershed is an Open Book
The Fairmount Water Works continued its work with this literacy program, hosting weekly workshops in the surrounding community to build reading readiness using “teachable” moments in the surrounding neighborhood. Participating children and their families received great incentives for frequent attendance, such as books to build home libraries. Seasonal attendance is as follows: 69 families and 133 children (fall 2021); 69 families and 165 children (spring 2022); and 69 families and 110 children (winter 2022). These numbers do not reflect repeated families/children from week to week.
National Media Coverage
FWWIC and the exhibition “Pool: A Social History of Segregation” were spotlit in numerous local regional and national media sotries. Here are links to a few:
- The Guardian A new exhibition highlights a shameful history of racism in pools but also a recognition of Black swimming heroes
- Fast Company A new exhibition portrays the lasting effects of segregated swimming pools in America.
- WHYY/PBS Pool: A Social History of Segregation – Movers & Makers (2022)
- Broadway World POOL: A SOCIAL HISTORY OF SEGREGATION Honored With Awards And An Emmy Nomination
- USA Today Teaching Black children to swim heals generational trauma and saves lives, experts say