New water exhibit at the Washington Pavilion will intertwine fascination and education

Room to Grow upgrade will be funded through a donation from the estate of Patricia Knutson.

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A child watches water vapor in an exhibit similar to one opening in June at the Kirby Science Center in the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls.
Contributed / Washington Pavilion

SIOUX FALLS — Kids love water.

It’s the essence of summer fun and ballooned mischief.

Water is also a fundamental part of the science of the earth and the life upon it.

The intertwining of fascination and education is the core of a new exhibit coming this summer to the Kirby Science Center at the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls.

Pavilion officials announced Wednesday, Feb. 8, they will use a portion of a $1.2 million gift from the estate of Patricia Knutson to build “an immersive water experience” in the science center.


The new exhibit will replace the existing “Room to Grow” water feature, which will close in May for construction.

“It has provided such a great opportunity for kids, specifically young kids, but it was getting tired,” said Kerri DeGraff, chief operating officer at the Pavilion.

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Kerri DeGraff, chief operations office at the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls.
Contributed / Washington Pavilion

The room will reopen in June.

The project will cost $400,000, which leaves $800,000 of the Knutson gift for future improvements at the science center.

Pavilion staff have been brainstorming about how best to use the money. One of the first areas that came up was the reimagining the Room to Grow, DeGraff said.

“It was really a dream made possible because of Patricia Knutson that wouldn’t be possible without her gift,” she said.

Where the existing water table is popular for toddlers, the new version will be more interactive and education based. It will help teach kids about the phases of water through fog pipes, fog mushrooms and rain clouds. It will demonstrate how water flows with aqueducts, conveyors, faucets, river channels, squirt guns, whirlpools and fountains.

“We want to get kids in and have them interact and then make all the educational stuff immersive and they just start picking it up as they are experiencing the space,” said Madelyn Grogan, director of education.


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Madelyn Grogan, director of education at the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls.
Contributed / Washington Pavilion

The key demographic for the science center is elementary-aged children. The exhibit will help appeal to a bit older crowd than the existing water table and generally be more fun for everybody, including parents, Grogan said.

“Every time that we have an opportunity to improve our exhibits, it’s a way to really evaluate how we are connecting with the community and look for ways to strengthen what we are doing,” she said. “All of our exhibits we want rooted in education so this allows us to refresh that room and look for exciting, interactive ways to provide that education.”

Patrick Lalley is the engagement editor and reporter for Sioux Falls Live. Reach him at
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