River on the Go exhibit goes on the move

The interior of the bus includes representations of the Bronx River as part of the Bronx Children Museum’s “River on the Go” moveable exhibit.
by Patrick Rocchio

A movable exhibit that helps children experience the sensory delights of the Bronx River aboard a schoolbus is introducing youngsters to a museum that should have a permanent home soon.

The exhibit, called “River on the Go: Where is Justin the Beaver?”, was on display aboard the Bronx Children’s Museum’s bus at a stop outside of the Highbridge Nursery School, which is run by Leake and Watts in the Sedgwick Houses, on Friday, November 11.

The representation of the river was designed by muralist and bus manager Natlie Wood, along with artist and exhibit manager Luisa Escalera. The site was the third school visit of the moveable museum exhibit, which draws on the five senses as it exposes children to different aspects of the Bronx River, Wood said.

The completed children’s museum is expected to occupy the second floor of a castle-shaped building in Mill Pond Park by 2014. The movable exhibit will be used as a prototype for a water exhibit at the completed permanent space, said Bronx Children’s Museum executive director Carla Precht.

“Right now, we are focusing on the Bronx River, which is the borough’s only freshwater river and is central to the Bronx,” Precht said. “We will be promoting existing resources, so after they learn about the Bronx River on the bus, we then give the children and their parents information and maps in both English and Spanish that shows them how to get to the river.”

The whole purpose of the exhibit is to generate awareness that the borough does have a natural element, and that it is not all concrete and buildings, Escalera said.

“The exhibit is an impression of the Bronx River,” Escalera said. “When you walk onto the bus, you can see certain types of environments that are found along the Bronx River. This includes a beaver lodge that simulates the structures that beavers build, water flowing through the bus from one side to the other, a rocky outcrop and a painted series of trees.”

As the children boarded the bus on November 11, sounds from the Bronx River were played as Wood encouraged the youngsters to imagine that they were at the river’s edge. They heard the sound of birds, owls and water running, kicking off a 15-mintue tour of the bus.

The exhibit’s approach is indicative of what people can expect when the brick and mortar museum opens, Precht said.

“What you want is children to be learning and to not even be aware of the fact that they are learning,” Precht said. “Children at this age learn through play. We take what is abstract and make it concrete and relevant to them through play.”

As part of the exhibit, the museum will partner with the Bronx River Alliance to sponsor field trips to the river with children who have been on the bus, Precht said.

The completion of the permanent museum on the second floor of building J in Mill Pond Park has already been budgeted for $3.882 million in the Parks Department capital budget, Precht stated.

Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at procchio@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3393

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