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ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum opens in Ashland

ASHLAND ' For 8-year-old Sage Whorton, ScienceWorks is all about a game of cat and mouse, or at least the illusion of one.

I think that's a cat. I wasn't thinking of a mouse, Whorton said Saturday afternoon as he examined an optical illusion depicting a feline and rodent inside the Hall of Illusions. Wow, look at that! I can see the mouse now!

Sage wasn't alone in his fascination. Hundreds of children ' along with parents and grandparents of all ages ' came Saturday morning to see the long-awaited opening of ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum.

While the Hall of Illusions had a special appeal for Sage, other kids preferred the Bubble-ology Room, where participants created giant bubbles in all shapes and forms.

Whoa, look, a rainbow, said Talent Elementary student Jonathan Neill, 8, just before his 4-foot-long bubble tunnel burst. I wish I could do this at home.

The 10,000-square-foot facility was packed with more than 80 exhibits catering to all ages and levels.

In addition to hands-on activities that explored energy, anatomy, chemistry, motion and engineering, ScienceWorks included demonstrations and take-home science crafts.

This is just well worth the wait, said Linda Whorton, Sage's grandmother. This is wonderful.

This is more hands-on than OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry), said Ashland resident Misty Dolan as her son, Martin Guirado, played with string doodle under a black light in the exhibit Dark Science.

I like this part best, said Martin, a Walker Elementary School student, as the rainbow-colored string twisted and turned. This is so cool.

Although staff and volunteers were hoping for a large turnout Saturday, exhibit director John Javna said everyone was pleasantly surprised.

We have worked for a year, really hard, to make this a world-class museum, said Javna. I'm delighted as to how well things have held up.

To keep the community's interest, as well as children's attention, ScienceWorks officials plan to change exhibits, hands-on activities and demonstrations frequently.

We're looking at what works and what doesn't, added ScienceWorks board president Dave Bernerd.

ScienceWorks occupies the former Pacific Northwest Museum of Natural History building, vacant since 1997.

Initially, ScienceWorks will open to the public only on Saturdays. But in February, the museum will be open to school classes two days per week.

Sunday openings will be added later, and eventually museum organizers plan daily operations. Exhibits probably will cover all 20,000 square feet available in the building by 2004.

ScienceWorks rents the building from the Seattle-based Kirlin Foundation, which purchased the structure after the former museum failed. Southern Oregon University owns the land on which the building sits.

If you go

ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum is located in the former Pacific Northwest Museum of Natural History at 1500 E. Main St., Ashland.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays.

Admission is &

36;4 for adults, &

36;3 for children 12 and under. Children under 2 are allowed in free.

For information on the museum, call 482-6767 or visit on the Web.

Brittany Jensen, 5, of Medford looks through a lens that allows her to view the world like a fly at ScienceWorks? grand opening Saturday. Organizers say the exhibits will change every few months. Mail Tribune / Jim Craven - Mail Tribune Jim Craven