Northwestern Energy Gives $5,000 to ExplorationWorks

By: Amie Thompson, Northwestern Energy

A new hydro display that will teach kids about river flow, how dams work and environmental
stewardship at ExplorationWorks in Helena opened last month and has experienced constant kid traffic and increased membership for the science museum.

The display was partially made possible by a $5,000 donation by NorthWestern Energy.

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“We got within $5,000 of our goal and then Howard called,” said Kelly Posewitz, executive director of ExplorationWorks, the children’s museum situated in the Great Northern Town Center next to the Great Northern Carousel in Helena.

NWE’s Howard Skjervem, community relations manager for Helena, knew about what they would need to complete the project and called to offer the company’s assistance. Howard and Andy Welch, leader of hydro power license compliance, see an opportunity for future education of both children and their parents. Education ideas include how precipitation is routed through a watershed, how dams create water storage to supply water for later in the season and how water is aerated as it cascades over water falls that adds oxygen to the water to the benefit of fish and other aquatic life. The display also demonstrates to children how watersheds support multiple uses including hydropower, agriculture and recreation — all while supporting multiple fish and animals in its course.

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“Yeah, I could play with this for a while,” said Andy as he reconfigured eddies in the river stream of the display to allow a kayak to safely pass through.

Already kids have enjoyed learning about dams as the museum has seen record numbers in the past two weeks.

“And membership has gone through the roof,” Kelly said.

The display uses 280 gallons of water that is recirculated throughout the display that includes a model of Mount Helena. There are three filtration systems keeping the water clean.

“It’s been a really, really big hit. It’s been very popular,” said Kelly.