Step into this magic school bus, hold onto the rails and get ready to be transported to the Bronx and Harlem rivers.
It’s courtesy of the Bronx Children’s Museum, unveiling the second Rivers On the Go exhibit, a type of hands-on exposition now featuring life-size dioramas of the Bronx and Harlem rivers.
Tour guides ushered kids into the bright purple and yellow bus on September 21st, during the 10th Annual Samaritan Village Health Fair in Highbridge.
For some guests, the bus could be the first virtual glimpse into the Bronx River, the sliver of water that’s made an ecological comeback in recent years, given an aggressive cleanup effort by local preservationists and recent sightings of beavers, not seen since the 1970s.
“The overall goal of the Rivers on the Go bus exhibit is to connect children to nature, teach them about where water comes from, and to create stewards of the environment,” said museum executive director Carla Precht.
Opposite the Bronx River exhibit is the Harlem River, a more industrial body of water encompassing 14 bridges, which include the High Bridge, the oldest standing aqueduct that closed 40 years ago. That too is making a comeback, currently under a $65 million renovation project, converting the bridge into a pedestrian walkway.
“There are over 2,500 children living in Highbridge from pre-school to 3rd grade who know next to nothing about the Harlem River or the High Bridge,” said Precht. “Our job is to change that.”
BCM has now partnered with two Highbridge schools to teach students about the history of the Harlem River.
“There’s so much information about the Bronx,” said Precht. “It’s really a museum.”
Creating a mobile museum came out of necessity for BCM, which has spent eight years raising public and private funds to create a permanent home.
Back in 2005, Borough President Adolfo Carrion earmarked $500,000, which grew to $2.5 million in capital funds.
Architect WORK AC is now drafting schematics for the Kids’ Powerhouse Discovery Center in Melrose, housed in a tennis concession facility at Mill Pond Park, BCM’s future home, which abuts the Major Deegan Expressway. It’s slated to open in late 2015.
“We have to raise private money and it will allow us to have exhibits in the buildings,” said Precht. “By the time the door opens we’ll have relationships with hundreds of organizations and thousands of people.”