Launch of a practical science workshop at the College of Salinas – Monterey Herald

SALINAS – A new science program in Salinas opened on Saturday with everything from a 30-foot whale skeleton to a handmade hovercraft buzzing around a schoolyard that caught the attention of children as well. than a crowd of elected officials praising the merits of the project.

Called the Salinas Community Science Workshop, the program aims to provide practical applications of science and engineering to seventh and eighth graders at El Sausal Middle School in eastern Salinas. The program hopes to expand elsewhere in Salinas as is the case in Watsonville and Greenfield.

Programs like this are important in closing the science achievement gap that plagues low-income students, experts say. A number of factors combine to challenge science test scores not only for low-income students, but for all students in California. In 2019, less than a third of all students in the state met the standards set for science achievement, according to state data.

Students engage in hands-on science concepts Saturday at the Salinas Community Science Worksho at El Sausal Middle School in eastern Salinas. (William Franzell / Lora Carey, Monterey County Office of Education).

Deneen Guss, the superintendent of schools for Monterey County, said that from both an educator’s and a parent’s perspective, it is programs like this that can connect children to the real principles of science and engineering they learn in classrooms.

“Our students need more opportunities to engage in practical science that allows them to explore, unleash their innovative minds, solve problems and be curious about the world around them,” said Guss . “The more we create learning opportunities where students can experience building, inventing and challenging what makes things work, and engage in collaboration and conversation with others, the more Learning scientific concepts occurs through a student’s own discovery.

Curt Gabrielson, the program director and who has been instrumental in starting similar programs, notes that schools today are often strapped for resources, so programs like this can increase the classroom study.

“Every child needs tools in their hands,” Gabrielson said on Saturday. “Every child needs the opportunity to explore, create and craft in an environment rich in tools, materials and phenomena of all types. Every successful scientist, engineer, artist and technician has had this kind of opportunity. It was an essential part of their education.

Common projects are woodworking, repairing and modifying bicycles, basic electronic circuits with hobby motors, lights and speakers, and magnetic toys. Planters, planters and animals are also part of the workshop.

MP Robert Rivas, whose district includes Salinas and most of Monterey County, said on Saturday that programs like this are essential for underfunded schools and communities.

“This will be an opportunity to provide students with the space, tools and encouragement to bring their imaginations to life, and to discover and develop their skills and realize their full potential, whatever path they choose.” , did he declare.

County supervisor Luis Alejo, whose district includes the Alisal region in Salinas, said the program has the potential to serve students not only by teaching them the fundamentals of science, but also the skills that they can use throughout life.

“The workshop will not only promote science, but will also stimulate critical thinking, imagination, inquiry and problem-solving for our children who often do not have access to such enhanced educational opportunities,” said said Alejo. “Children need tools to learn, succeed in their studies and have good career prospects. “

Gabrielson, the program director, said the vision for the project is “to deliver the workshop to every child in Alisal, then every child in Salinas, then all of northern Monterey County.”

He has nearly three decades of experience teaching informal science to underserved communities in California and abroad. Gabrielson founded and ran the Watsonville Science Workshop for 11 years and also worked in the Greenfield and San Francisco workshops. He graduated in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has published several books on practical science education.

The program was funded by $ 21,000 in grants from the Community Foundation for Monterey County as well as donors outside the county. But Gabrielson stressed that the program needs additional support. While a formal donation system is still under development, anyone interested in contributing can contact Gabrielson at [email protected]

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Norma A. Roth