The Burke Museum’s new exhibit, Elwha: A River Reborn, was designed with kids in mind. Enter into a quiet space filled with watery light and sound. There you will discover historical images, thoughtful words and million-year old fossils. It’s the beginning of a beautiful and fascinating story of a river, fish, a dam and a people determined to bring the river and the fish back.
But will your kids be engaged? Round the corner and find … a research tent! “Camp Elwha” is set up with a camping table, fake food, tin plates, microscopes and test tubes. The camp even smells like a cedar forest. Beyond the tent, a series of tables are set up to guide kids through interactive activities that teach science and explore the Elwha River story.
The Northwest’s Elwha River Valley on the Olympic Peninsula is the site of the largest dam removal project ever undertaken. As such, it is an unprecedented experiment in restoration and renewal. The Burke Museum's exhibit, based on the book by Seattle Times reporter Lynda Mapes and photographer Steve Ringman, explores the river's groundbreaking history through first-person accounts, amazing photographs and Burke collections.
For kids who just need a little nudge to review the exhibit independently, there are laminated photo scavenger hunt lists and a themed crossword puzzle. Table activities on sediment and ecosystem structure encourage visitors to sit down, think, play and learn. A computer station is available for browsing photos and Elwha River websites. And, there’s an entire table covered with clipboards and colored pencils that is dedicated to scientific illustration – helping spotlight the connection between science and art that pervades the exhibit and the entire museum, even for the youngest visitors.