Water wheels come in all shapes and sizes. Prevalent through the industrial revolution in America where they were used for navigation, raising waters and milling, water wheels were originally created for irrigation by the Greco-Romans. Water wheels often bring on a postcard sense of nostalgia, but for the young STEMist, they invoke curiosity. And, though they may seem a part of the past, water wheels are still used in some areas today. Check out these groovy water wheel destinations you and your STEMists will enjoy:
Old Spanish Sugar Mill, DeLeon Springs, Florida
The coolest part of the water wheel at the Old Spanish Sugar Mill is its location. Found inside DeLeon Springs State Park, the 30 foot undershot water wheel powers the Old Spanish Sugar Mill and is a backdrop for activities including swimming, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, tubing and dining.
According to legend, DeLeon Springs is home of the ‘fountain of youth’ discovered by the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León in the early 1500s. A $6 entrance fee gains you access to the fowl and fauna-filled state park by the carload. Locals find the park and its constant 72 degree waters a refreshing retreat while area tourists discover an outdoor playground unlike the numerous amusement parks about an hour south, in Orlando.
Your trip to DeLeon Springs is not complete without a visit to the Old Spanish Sugar Mill restaurant where you and your STEMists can cook your own pancakes on the hot griddle set in the center of your dining table. Guests choose between a stone ground mix of five grains, or unbleached white flour— both ready-to-pour batters are delivered right to your table. To top it off, fresh blueberries, bananas, pecans, and other pancake toppings like chocolate chips and syrup are at hand. Other breakfast items plus salads and sandwiches also are available at the reasonably priced restaurant.
Old Mill at Berry College, Mt. Berry, Georgia
Though it only runs one day each year – for a Mountain Day fall festival – the overshot water wheel stands 42 feet and powers the Old Mill at Berry College in Mt. Berry, Georgia. The once necessary mill is an impressive picturesque site with a great history. Open to visitors all year, be sure to stop at the Berry College Gatehouse near the entrance for a map to easily direct you. Be sure to check out how the water wheel is fitted with a hub that was provided by Henry Ford during the Old Mill’s construction.
Rittenhouse Paper Mill, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
A national historic landmark and considered the birthplace of paper in the United States, the Rittenhouse paper mill was built in 1690 by the Rittenhouse family. Eight generations of the Rittenhouse family and their workers ran the paper mill for 150 years. The water wheel located along the Paper Mill Run and the Wissahickon Creek worked with a series of gears that created a forced energy to help pound the linen that was turned into paper pulp. The Mill was the central livelihood of the industrial community, known as RittenTown and ran through the 18th century. A visit to this historical site will provide a great education on the production of paper that was used for maps, books and legal documents.
If you and your STEMists can’t fit in a field trip to see one of these water wheels this summer, don’t fret. The water wheel-themed Groovy Lab in a Box excites and challenges your STEMists to learn all about the design and process behind a working water wheel. Order your box today!