CSW site being developed in Greenfield, CA

This article appeared in the Greenfield News on January 19th, 2011.

Community science center in the works for Greenfield youth

Workshop would encourage learning through experiments

Jose Sanchez works with youth at the Watsonville Environmental Science Workshop

Jose Sanchez helping youth at the Watsonville Environmental Science Workshop

BY MARK ALI    Hoping to develop a center in Greenfield that would allow the community to explore science through hands-on activities, members of the Mission Science Workshop gave a presentation to the Greenfield City Council last week.

The Mission Science Workshop is located in San Francisco and has been in operation since 1991. It started as a place for founder and director Dan Sudran to satisfy his own curiosity about how things work.    The goal is to utilize scientific activities, such as the use of microscopes, balances, thermometers, culturing plants and animals, while also building projects with clay, wood, and plastic, among others.  Projects can include pendulums, electric and mechanical toys, musical instruments, and other apparatuses.

In all activities, the emphasis is on learning from observation and direct experience with real things rather than transmitted knowledge from books or teachers. The Mission Science Workshop acts as a sort of neighborhood exploratorium.    “Science is best learned when people have a choice in a project and there is a variety of tools and resources available,” Sudran said. “This allows them to begin to see the wider picture of science. Our approach to learning is to be curious about everything, and never intimidated.”

Currently, the Mission Science Workshop has funding to initiate a pilot center in one new location. Sudran would like Greenfield to be that new location.    He made a presentation to the Greenfield City Council during last week’s meeting and outlined a plan. Basically, he is just waiting for space to become available, and City Manager Roger Wong has mentioned that the current City Hall would serve as an ideal location once the new City Hall is built and staff is relocated.    “We would start right now if we could,” Sudran said. “We are just waiting for the space. I have an instructor named Jose Sanchez, who is ready to begin in Greenfield . He is a graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, with a degree in mathematics. We are grooming him right now to be the director in Greenfield .”    When space becomes available, the plan would be put to vote at the City Council and, if passed, would begin operation. Sudran said that if the process is delayed too much, they would start with something smaller in a temporary space and make trips to schools to work with students.

Sudran began the Mission Science Workshop in his garage in 1991, when he started tinkering with various instruments and equipment to satisfy his own curiosity Sudran was working as an electronics technician with the City College of San Francisco at the time and soon found his garage filled with various microscopes, oscilloscopes meters, rocks, fossils and animal bones, which caught the attention of neighborhood children.    He was soon given classroom space at the college to conduct workshops twice week and his audience grew.  The Mission Science Workshop is now located in the old auto shop at Mission High School and Sudran has expanded the organization to include centers in Oakland, Fresno and Watsonville, each funded through various grants.

In San Francisco, the Workshop acts as a field trip destination for schools, where students can come and take part in experiments that correlate to what they are learning in class. The Workshop also acts as an after-school center, allowing anyone to come and spend time exploring science. Sudran would like Greenfield to follow this model.    “The Greenfield community could really use a program like this,” Sudran said. “Big museums don’t reach out to that area often and our concept could really become something special. I have some personnel history in the Salinas Valley and I always wanted to come back with an educational program. I see this as my chance. The goal is to get something started in Greenfield and then hopefully expand to other South County cities.”