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Re: “Mailbag

Kids Need Every Opportunity to Understand Science

I endorse Mr. Sethi's assertion that you don't have to go to Hawaii or Berlin to be inspired by science. The Children's Museum is indeed a wonderful place, and its 100,000 annual visitors are a testament to its success. But science is everywhere, and science centers should be everywhere, too.

An initiative called Community Science Workshops, founded by Dan Sudran in San Francisco, and well funded by the National Science Foundation, began as a grass-roots operation in his garage. When neighborhood children peeked in to see him tinkering, and were excited by what they saw, Sudran realized the power of enthusiasm and the need for kids to have greater and more varied exposure to science. By opening up his garage and sharing his fascination with how things work, he changed the direction of how these kids learned.


Sudran also came to understand that true science is a process, not a product, and that a worm or a lawnmower or a rainbow can be the most wonderful “exhibit” of all. The process of science invites observation, speculation, experimentation, mistakes, analysis, and conclusions; and it is, perhaps, best achieved without awareness of the steps along the way.

There are so many compelling arguments for broader science education and Community Science Workshops (more jobs, greater strength in the global economy, new opportunities for kids who don't fit well into a school setting, and perhaps the strongest - community building from the ground up) that it's hard to imagine that CSWs would not contribute significantly to the fabric of Tucson.

At at time when the world is confronted by the potentially irreversible threat of global warming, a time when we and our children have to decide how to convert our power infrastructure from one of profligate pollution to one of benign ingenuity, it seems self-evident that the more exposure to science we can get, the better off we, and the world, will be.

Since the Physics Factory's inception, we have enjoyed a successful relationship with the TCM. We look forward to continued collaboration as our new center develops. Let's make Tucson the 13th city to offer CSWs to its children.


John Perkins
The Physics Factory

For More on Community Science Workshops:
This is a quotation from the link above:

Community Science Workshops are community-based non-profit programs that offer underserved youth living in low-income, high-minority neighborhoods a fun and safe way to explore their world through science. Developed over the past 14 years, CSWs now operate in 12 cities throughout the nation—six main CSWs in California with numerous satellite sites, and sites in six cities across the country.

Neither school nor science museum, the CSWs are an unusual kind of institution. They are part science center, part wood shop, part nature center—all in the heart of urban neighborhoods. Located in community centers and schools, they attract youth from local neighborhoods who drop in after school and on weekends.

Posted by jfperkins3 on 12/23/2009 at 7:16 PM

Re: “The Curious Society

As a co-founder and VP of the Physics Factory, I should explain what we mean by “links to the UA and the city.” We do want to form links, and we want to form them with as many people and organizations as possible. But we don't want the center to be beholden to anyone but the people of Tucson, who deserve not only a science center, but participation in its development.

The non-profit Physics Factory is a team of scientists and educators who, for five years, have run a science outreach program out of a school bus powered by Eegee’s' waste vegetable oil. Now, presented with no “gathering place” for science in Tucson, we're committed to creating a welcoming, participatory, community-based hearth for imagination, investigation, discovery, tinkering, and invention; and a place to drink coffee and tell and learn of new ideas.

When I bought my little house across from an elementary school three years ago, I thought of Don Verger, the serendipitous founder of the Acton Discovery Museum lauded in the comment below by Dr. Johnson. His museum began as a “Curious Society,” with his children and guests delighting in the eclectic, unexplained, mechanical marvels that covered every surface in his house and invited play and wonder. It evolved into one of the best museums in the country. My quixotic hope was that I could do the same in my home, but I was stymied by parking logistics. We need a suitable building in an accessible location, and would be grateful for any support the city, UA, and neighborhood groups could offer.

To the UA, Pima, Eegee’s, and the many other links we have formed over time: thank you. When we get the “missing link” of a physical home for science in Tucson, we'll be ready to coordinate a science center that is awesome, in the true sense of the word.

John Perkins
The Physics Factory

Posted by jfperkins3 on 12/13/2009 at 10:03 AM

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