COVID19 Update: The Interpretive Center is closed to the public until further notice. Read the latest statement here.

Science Saturdays

Drop in every Saturday between 2-4 pm, and together, we’ll explore different aspects of our environment during fun and interactive sessions in our water lab.

Past Themes:

  • Mighty Mussel Mania
    Come join us for Mighty Mussel Mania at the Delaware River Festival at Penn’s Landing! Drop by our mussel cart to learn the importance of these mini-water filters through up-close-and-personal hands-on lessons.
  • The Schuylkill River & You
    Discover the many ways we are connected to the Schuylkill River, and how we can protect these waters from the harmful effects of water pollution. Rivers provide drinking water and a habitat for wildlife. Join us at the river’s edge as we explore our past and present relationship with the Schuylkill River in particular and our environmental impact. Activities include(d)

    • “Fishing Around” – Survey the number of fish and species in your “river” to help determine how polluted it is.
    • “Where Does the Water Go?” – Follow the journey of water from the river, to our treatment plants, and to your home!
    • “Your Impact on the Schuylkill” – Learn how to reduce your carbon footprint by reducing the amount of trash you produce. Make the pledge to protect our river!
  • What’s For Lunch?
    Did you know that we have river otters right here in the Schuylkill River? Come and learn about some of the amazing animals that not only chooses to call Philadelphia home, but also how they form relationships between other animals and form food webs! In our lab, we will be creating food webs to show how every organism plays a role in the ecosystem, ranging from the smallest algae to massive birds of prey! Visitors of all ages can learn more about the delicate balance that is required to maintain a food web, and how the addition or removal of a species can disrupt the entire system!
  • Macroinvertebrates: A River Continuum
    Spring is a time when life in the stream comes alive. Macroinvertebrates are organisms that are big enough for you to see with the bare eye, but without backbones. Mayflies, water pennies, caddisflies, and stoneflies…scientists use these freshwater creatures as natural indicators of river health.  In our water lab, act like a scientist to inspect and characterize your own virtual river sample. Do they have legs or shells? Are they “shredders”, “grazers”, or “collectors”? Learn all about these creatures during this family-friendly program.
  • Diatoms: Jewels of the River
    Art and science meet as you explore the colorful and wondrous microscopic world of water. Discover the complex and intricate beauty of these hidden single-celled algae called diatoms along with their contribution to water quality research. Diatoms have a glass-like silica cell wall that consists of two halves that elegantly fit together. In the 19th century amateur scientists amused themselves by arranging them in intricate patterns, in the 20th century, famed woman ecologist Ruth Patrick pioneered the study of these small cells to study water pollution.
  • Cry(ology) Me a Frozen River: The Science of Ice and Snow
    Is it a fact that no two snowflakes are the same? How do they form? How many different forms of ice and snow are there? Head to the Water Works to investigate the properties of ice and snow. Learn about the special shape of snowflakes and about a unique type of ice that forms on our local rivers. Make your own “snow” – just add water!
  • Ganshewahanna: The Schuylkill River before the Europeans
    Native Americans are an important part of our Thanksgiving celebrations. Learn about the original residents of Philadelphia and their reliance on local rivers and streams. We will learn about their culture, lifestyle and diet and about the local environment thousands of years before European settlers arrived. You can weave a mat of natural materials like the Lenni Lenape did!
  • Seeing Red (and Yellow and Orange) in the Fall
    Do you wonder why leaves are green in the spring and summer, but change to red, yellow and orange in the fall? Investigate the different colored pigments in leaves, identify different leaves, and perform an experiment to show how one color is really made up of many different colors.
  • Ecology Under Wraps: Ecosystems and Terrariums
    The Schuylkill River ecosystem is an interrelationship of water, earth, plants and animals. Learn about the ecology of the area around the Fairmount Water Works and build your own miniature ecosystem in a bottle. VISITORS ARE ENCOURAGED TO BRING THEIR OWN CONTAINER to create a terrarium in.
  • The Greatest Flow on Earth: A Water Carnival
    Step right up and see the amazing surface tension! You will be polarized by this amazing molecule, H2O! Come and explore some of water’s many fascinating properties in fun lab activities.
  • Put Your Dirt To Work
    What happens to the fall leaves, grass clippings, or weeds you pull from the garden? They don’t just disappear! Like all natural materials, they decompose. Composting is the practice of managing waste to be reborn as a soil enricher. Come and learn how to compost, and find out what sort of critters make the whole process happen.
  • Livin’ La Vida Micro in the Schuylkill River
    You can see many living organisms that call the Schuylkill River home – e.g., ducks, fish, turtles, and aquatic plants. But there is a whole watery world you cannot see with the naked eye. Come and collect a water sample full of microscopic organisms and view them under the microscope. Learn to identify them and find out why they are so important to river ecology.
  • The Schuylkill River Comes Clean: All About Philly’s Drinking Water
    When you turn on your tap clean, healthy drinking water comes out. Learn how the water from our rivers get cleaned and delivered to our homes, schools and businesses. We will describe the drinking water treatment process and demonstrate the types of tests that Water Department scientists perform to insure the water is safe. You will also have an opportunity to clean up your own “dirty” water sample using filtration.
  • Whither the Weather?
    It used to be April shower brought May flowers, but the weather seems to be more and more unpredictable. Come and learn about clouds, precipitation and weather patterns. Investigate air pressure and see a “hurricane in a bottle” (and learn how to make your own). Learn how to read a weather map and make one of your own at this precipitating event!
  • Minerals Rock!
    There are some very old and special rocks that are found in Fairmount Park. Head to the Fairmount Water Works and learn about the minerals that make up these rocks and how they formed hundreds of millions of years ago. Investigate the geology of Philadelphia, see samples of local rocks and minerals and even learn how the water chemistry of the Schuylkill river has a lot to do with the rocks that it flows over. This Science Saturday will be rockin!
  • Black History Month: Scientists and Inventors
    Many African American doctors, scientists and inventors have made important contributions over the course of American history and we will introduce you to many of them. Lonnie Johnson is an engineer who ended up inventing the Super Soaker water toy when he was trying to create a heat pump! We will investigate the physics of pumps and water pressure while learning more about the machinery at the Water Works as well as the workings of the Super Soaker. And we’ll show you how you can build your own inexpensive version at home.
  • Fish – Playing it Cool in Water
    Do you wonder what happens in the Schuylkill River in the Winter? What do the fish and other animals do when the water gets cold? Learn about the cold-blooded residents of the Schuylkill River and how they survive the Winter. You will also discover a physical difference between hot and cold water and how that can affect fish in the Winter. You can even make a fish to take home!
  • Cold Case: H2O
    Is it a fact that no two snowflakes are the same? How do they form? How many different forms of ice and snow are there? Head to the FWWIC to investigate the properties of ice and snow. Learn about the special shape of snowflakes and about a special type of ice that forms on our local river. We’ll give you some “snow” to take home — just add water!
  • Harvesting History: Philadelphia Before the Europeans Arrived
    Native Americans are an important part of our Thanksgiving celebrations. Learn about the original residents of Philadelphia and their reliance on local rivers and streams. We will learn about their culture, lifestyle and diet and about the local environment thousands of years before European settlers arrived. You can weave a mat of natural materials like the Lenni Lenape did!
  • Autumnal Color Box: Fall Leaves
    Do you wonder why leaves are green in the spring and summer, but change to red, yellow and orange in the fall? Investigate the different colored pigments in leaves, identify different leaves, and perform an experiment to show how one color is really made up of many different colors.
  • Weather or Not: Weather Patterns, Hurricanes and Climate Change
    Do you wonder why hurricanes happen at certain times of year or how they form? Come learn how water temperature affects hurricane formation and how that might change with a changing climate. We’ll show you a hurricane in a bottle and give you instructions to make your own at home!
  • What’s Bugging You? Aquatic Insects – Good & Bad
    Many flying insects are actually born in water. Some are good and some not so good – like mosquitoes. Learn some mosquito history and its connection to the drinking water supply in Philadelphia, and learn how to make your own mosquito trap at home.
  • Come Out of Your Shell: Turtles in the Schuylkill
    Learn about different species of turtles that live in the river just outside the Fairmount Water Works. They have different shells, markings, and diets. Color your own 3D turtle to take home.
  • Sounding Off About Underwater Noises
    Ships use SONAR to “see” the bottom of the ocean, the same way some animals use sound to “see” where they’re going. Find out if there are any animals in the Schuylkill that use sound. We will investigate some properties of sound and “see” the shape of the Schuylkill river bottom that was determined using “soundings”.
  • Pulp: Non-Fiction
    There are many connections between water and paper making. Investigate the history and science of paper making, and even make your own!
  • The Schuylkill: A Cosmopolitan River
    Come and learn about the Schuylkill River watershed ecosystem. Discover who lives here, how they live, what they eat, and how they interact with other living organisms. Even humans have a place in the Schuylkill river watershed ecosphere.