Discover the special properties of water as you guide colorful plastic balls along our WaterWays.  Watch the balls tumble over waterfalls, squirt high into the area, and travel along a system of pulleys and tunnels.  Create your own unique fountain at the Waterfall Wall, and listen to the soft melody of a quiet storm in our Rain Shanty.

For our visitors under 5, there is a separate Little WaterWays area, designed specifically for toddlers and preschoolers.  Explore concepts like empty and full, sink and float, or wet and dry while playing at the over-sized water table.  Practice the physical skills of lifting and pouring while developing hand-eye coordination. 

Water play at CDM helps children to develop important social skills.  Children share balls, waterwheels, and other materials.  They cooperate with each other as they guide the balls along streams, tunnels, and tubes.  And they imitate the play of other children, using it as inspiration for their own experiments with the water.

The WaterWays exhibit demonstrates the power of water pressure to move, hold, and turn balls and wheels.  A waterwheel carries balls from the platform to the ramps near the ceiling; water is directed and redirected through a maze of pipes; and a current pushes balls along a stream. 

Children can create unique fountains at the Waterfall Wall.  By moving magnetic half pipes into an endless variety of configurations, they control the direction the water gushes. 

At the same time as children are practicing their architectural design skills, they are learning about the ways in which water pressure and gravity influence the direction water flows.

Did you know?

Delightedly soggy children squeal and splash, and dripping balls fly overhead, in CDM’s ever-popular WaterWays water play area. Savvy parents save a visit to the exhibit for the end of their day, and many bring a change of kid-sized clothes, because staying bone-dry is generally not on a child’s agenda.

Water is an amazing medium for learning, but getting wet is not the only challenge involved in creating a water-based exhibit. Healthy water is a paramount concern. Since CDM’s exhibits are designed in-house, solving the engineering problems involved in water filtration and sanitation, in such an unusual setting, falls to its amazing exhibits team.

Behind the scenes, or rather beneath the WaterWays slip-resistant floor, is an installation that is an exhibit unto itself . . . CDM’s water treatment station. A 10-horse power pump is at the heart of the station, recirculating WaterWays’ 850 gallons of water every five minutes and passing it through two separate filtration systems, which capture any material larger than one micron. (The human eye cannot see anything smaller than 40 microns.) In addition, two sanitation systems work together to guarantee that water quality meets, and often exceeds, standards and codes for spas and pools: rather than chlorine, which is irritating to eyes and skin, the systems utilize ozone and bromine to maintain an ORP level between 650 and 750. The pH level is automatically maintained between 7.3 and 7.6, and water hardness is maintained between 250 and 300 ppm. The San Jose Water Company gave generously of its expertise, resources, and manpower to help to create this unique, safe, state-of-the-art water system.

So next time your child is happily experimenting with the physics of water, rest assured that the exhibit under the floor is working 24/7 to guarantee that the experience is both educational and healthy.

Major funding for this exhibit provided by the Bryan and Deborah Stolle Family Fund. Little WaterWays was funded by FIRST 5 Santa Clara County.

All photos ©2003, Katherine Decker



Group Visits

WaterWays Exhibit Guide (Grades 2 - 3)

Solids, Liquids, and Gases, by Ontario Science Center

Super Science Projects about Earth's Soil and Water, by Robert Gardner


Games & activities
Build a Pipeline Online


Games & activities
Build a Pipeline Online

Solids, Liquids, and Gases, by Ontario Science Center

Water Dance, by Thomas Locker

Super Science Projects about Earth's Soil and Water, by Robert Gardner

The Wonder of a Waterfall, by Allan Fowler