Oil and water

A group of children watches a demonstration at the Franklin Institute of how and why oil spills spread.

I was talking to someone over the weekend who was a little nostalgic that the BP oil-spill calamity seems to be  finally winding down, wishing they had found time to go down to the Gulf and help clean up back when their calendar was freer during the early-summer months.

Well, it may be too late to be an eco-hero (although of course there remains plenty to be done down there). But you and/or your kids can take a crack at washing birds' feathers, without all the travel and, well, the dispiriting epic scope of the problem. Head over to the Atrium of the Franklin Institute on weekdays and check out their interactive exhibit on the science and mechanics of oil spills.

For a description of the show I'll quote the press release:

Hands-on Franklin science interpreters explain the scientific challenges via clear bucket of water representing the Gulf of Mexico.  Visitors learn:

  • How quickly a slick is created when a drop of motor oil enters the water. 

  • The effect of waves, hurricane winds and water currents on the slick through a simulation – as well as the effect on ocean life, land animals and the Gulf habitat.

  • The challenges of clean-up to wildlife, such as birds.  Through a demonstration of a feather dipped in oil, visitors can get hands-on to clean the feather with dish detergent  – and learn more about the real-life applications of this procedure. 

  • Additionally, a Power Point slide show runs throughout the day on a large screen in the Atrium - summarizing the up-to-date events relating to the spill.

Of course, there are other eco-oriented features at the Franklin Institute, so there's plenty to visit and explore once you're there. The Changing Earth exhibit, for instance, gives you a tool to calculate your carbon footprint as well as other devices to help "find solutions to reduce carbon emissions, explore seismographs of recent earthquakes, and experiment to see how dams and water volume affect river flow and erosion."

To find out more about these or other exhibits you can go to the Franklin Institute's website or call 215-448-1200.