The Daily Californian Online

Lawrence Hall of Science to open new satellite center in Vallejo

By Courtney Moulds
Daily Cal Staff Writer
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Category: News > University > Research and Ideas

UC Berkeley's Lawrence Hall of Science plans to open a new satellite center May 5 in Vallejo in an effort to provide more science education directly to communities in Solano County.

The center - located at the Norman C. King South Vallejo Community Center in Vallejo - will open the "Inventor's Lab" to the public next Thursday and will provide youth with different types of gears and tools to meet certain challenges, such as using solar energy to make appliances called kinetic sculptures. On June 25, the lab will extend its hours and include workshops for groups that wish to participate in them.

According to Janet Noe, director of marketing and communications for the Lawrence Hall of Science, research conducted a few years ago demonstrated that both Solano and Sonoma counties "were not particularly well served in terms of having a lot of available science and math programs outside of school."

Though plans on how to outreach to Sonoma County have yet to be finalized, the center in Vallejo was selected to not only build community, but also to make science topics more accessible in Solano County, according to Noe.

"We don't have a tech museum and a planetarium," said Chairman of the Vallejo Youth Commission Ruscal Cayangyang.

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has stated it will be funding the program for the next two years, but the hope is that the program will be self-sustainable after funding runs out. Noe said fundraising efforts to try to make the program self-sustainable by that time will begin as soon as the center is opened.

According to Director of Community and Visitor Programs at the Lawrence Hall of Science Gretchen Walker, the foundation approached the Lawrence Hall of Science to offer to fund the program. Walker and her team then developed the program to be implemented in Vallejo starting in January, when grant money was received.

"What we're hoping is that it will serve as an inspiration to young people and help them see themselves as someone who can do science," she said.

According to Noe, the center will simulate the Ingenuity Lab currently featured at the Lawrence Hall of Science, in which children can design and test their own creations.

"One of the things we know is that kids learn science best by actually doing activities," Noe said.

Beginning June 25, the center will be open Monday through Friday to the public. In addition to drop-ins, community groups will be able to register for workshops at the site.

In September, the center will begin offering field trips and professional development workshops to school-aged groups and teachers respectively. Program coordinators will use the workshops in hopes that they will allow teachers and other educators to borrow materials for use outside the center.

Vallejo's Assistant City Manager Craig Whittom said the development of the satellite center is consistent with the city's expansion of educational facilities and opportunities.

In the past five to 10 years, the city has tried to expand educational opportunities to its community members he said.

"Vallejo has a diverse community, we have a growing education tradition, and I think that this kind of adds to this emphasis on education that our city council and community leaders are focused on," he said.

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