Mission District kids learn to love science


It's 8:30 in the morning and the kindergarten class at McKinley Elementary is going exploring. Their one mile walk will take them to the Mission Science Workshop located at Mission High. For the next several minutes of free time they will discover new sounds and experience new concepts while getting acquainted with things they've only read about like snakes and lizards. They move on, learning about the five senses.

And the props help reinforce what they are taught. In this case the yellow smelly rock is made of sulfur which, they learn, is used in matches. And they discover how sound travels by using a tuning fork.

"Your ear can feel the air shaking around and that's why we hear sound," said Aaron Martin from the Mission Science Workshop.

"The more little pieces of information they can get, I feel like my ultimate goal is to going to get them to be system thinkers, really close the circle on the way they look at the world," said Martin.

Dan Sudran is the director of the Mission Science Workshop. The idea to create the program started in 1990 in his garage where he had a small workshop for the local kids in the Mission.

"They asked me really interesting questions about why I was doing certain things and I found it was really interesting to try to explain it," said Sudran.

He eventually moved into the vacant auto shop at Mission High. Today students attending schools in the Mission District get nearly two hours of science every time they visit. Sudran wants underserved kids to learn by exploring.

"Also, being aware that most of their parents have little or no education and so they are very put off by science or afraid of it," said Sudran.

With so many interesting objects, it's hard to single out a favorite. This is a group of fourth graders from Sanchez Elementary. The lesson focuses on sources of power.

One-third of their funding comes from the city's department of Children, Youth And Families, but private entities like the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation also support the workshop. They would like to see America regain its competitive edge in science.

"Our foundation believes to turn that tide, you start early with children to get them engaged in what I would call the STEM field, science, technology, engineering and math," said Soo Venkatesan from the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation.

Today, there are more than 10 community-based workshops in the state modeled after this one, helping to inspire the next generation of California scientists.

On Saturday, Oct. 8, 2011 the Mission Science Workshop is open to all children from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Mission High School
3750 18th Street
San Francisco, CA

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