Smithsonian’s ‘Water|Ways’ Flows Into Four Rivers The Traveling Exhibit is in Channahon through March 11

Water is everywhere and we interact with it every day.

We shower in the morning, drive on bridges over rivers, scrape snow from our cars and listen to songs that wax poetic about the rain. We fish, kayak, boat or float on water. And we cry liquid tears and build fountains that celebrate the artistry of water.

But how often do we reflect on this complicated life-giving resource and all the ways water has shaped our existence, from the terrain we stand on to the political boundaries created by oceans, rivers and streams?

In an effort to highlight the importance and intricacies of water, the Forest Preserve District will host the Smithsonian Institution’s “Water|Ways” traveling exhibit from Saturday, January 28, through Saturday, March 11.

The exhibit will be in Channahon at the Forest Preserve District’s most water-centric site: Four Rivers Environmental Education Center, 25055 W. Walnut Lane, McKinley Woods, located near where the Des Plaines, DuPage and Kankakee Rivers meet to form the Illinois River.

Exhibit hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Thursday; and noon-5 p.m., Sunday. (On Thursday, February 16, the exhibit will be open from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.)

“Water|Ways” explores the significance of water in the human experience from historic, environmental, economic, political and artistic perspectives. The exhibit consists of five freestanding exhibition sections, as well as two digital content stations featuring information on “The Power of Water” and “Our Relationship with Water.” Also included is the WaterSim America activity on an iPad. Visitors can interact with the iPad app by selecting policies and making water decisions.

“Hosting ‘Water|Ways’ is a true honor,” said Ralph Schultz, the Forest Preserve’s chief operating officer. “We hope the exhibit will foster meaningful discussion about water resources and ways we can better preserve them. Protecting water sources is a big component of the Forest Preserve’s mission, and that’s why most of our preserves are made up of land along the rivers, creeks, wetlands and lakes that are critical links in the region’s watershed.”

The free, all-ages exhibit is made possible by the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street program and Illinois Humanities. The Forest Preserve District is the last of only six organizations selected by Illinois Humanities to host the exhibit during its 2016-2017 tour of the state.

In addition to the exhibit itself, the Forest Preserve District has scheduled 25 water-related programs to enhance the “Water|Ways” experience. The programs will cover a wide variety of topics and activities. These range from information about the 19th century practice of ice harvesting to a river shoreline clean-up.

For more information on the exhibit and related programming, visit the full event listings on the Four Rivers Environmental Education Center's Facebook page.

Article by Cindy Cain

Lead image by Global Aerial


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