Rivers of Steel teaches kids about water quality and river health aboard a “floating classroom” called the Explorer.

By Ashlee Green

In June, Rivers of Steel Heritage Corporation, an organization promoting unique, hands-on learning experiences and river ecosystem awareness, launched a new riverboat tour called “PGH 101: An Intro to Innovation.”

The 90-minute all-ages sightseeing tour, which takes place on a 94-foot riverboat classroom called the Explorer, examines how the Pittsburgh region’s landscape, natural resources and neighborhood residents shaped its industries and culture. Starting in September, Rivers of Steel also offers tour programs  specifically for students. On the “Environmental Science on the Three Rivers” tour, students create and test a hypothesis on Pittsburgh river health. They learn how to measure water quality and compare and contrast their results with historical land use records. The “Bridges of Pittsburgh” tour teaches basic engineering skills through the study of design features of popular
Pittsburgh bridges.

Participants build model bridges and analyze the durability of the construction materials they chose. Last spring alone, Rivers of Steel served more than two thousand students. This October, Rivers of Steel will dock Explorer at the
Aquatorium, an outdoor concert auditorium in the town of Monongahela and offer hands-on workshops to teachers, students and the public from Washington, Westmoreland, Fayette and Greene counties. Workshops will examine the ecosystem of the Monongahela River watershed.

Green design technologies were built into the Explorer’s systems, including cabinetry made with moisture-resistant wheat straw fiberboard, toilets that flush with river water as opposed to drinking water and adjustable fluorescent lighting, which uses less heat and electricity.

The Rivers of Steel Explorer dock is located on the North Shore between the Carnegie Science Center and the Highmark Sportworks building. Tour space is limited and content is recommended for children at least eight years old. To purchase advance tickets or for more program information, call 412-464-4020 or check out the website at www.riversofsteel.com.

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