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ScienceWorks to double classroom space

With a $75,000 grant from the Collins Foundation, ScienceWorks Hands-on Museum in Ashland will double its classroom space, allowing an increase in field trips from 60 to up to 120 students. Construction will take place this fall.

“The classroom we have now is well-used for deeper learning, especially at summer camps,” said ScienceWorks Executive Director Chip Lindsey. “The two classrooms will be used for diving deep into inquiry science learning, which means first-person understanding of science, where you actually do science instead of hearing about it or looking at it.”

The new room, to be located near where the recent dinosaur exhibit was, will be used for both classes and exhibits and even a birthday party, but it will never be dark and empty, Lindsey said.

It will be a flexible learning space for interactive labs, extended exhibits and camps during spring and summer vacations. More than 200 schools and 8,000 students came to ScienceWorks in 2014, along with 73,000 other visitors.

“From an educator’s perspective, this has access to all the exhibits right around it and makes us smile,” he said. “It’s not tucked away in some corner or basement. It’s part of everything that makes this place great.”

The new room is directly off the main exhibit gallery and will not expand the footprint of the building. The museum is inviting bids for work that will start in September once the tourist season slows, he said.

The grant spurs education on a broad scale, Lindsey said.

"Science and technology-related careers are driving the nation’s economy. We are glad to be able to increase our capacity to support teachers bringing those subjects into their students' lives," he said.

Twenty percent of all jobs require a high level of science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) knowledge — and that number is going up, he said, citing a Brookings Institute study.

As the regional science museum for Southern Oregon, ScienceWorks supports STEM education for schools and families both in school and outside of school, he said. The Collins Foundation is a leading supporter of excellence in education.

“Studies show that people excel at what they love,” Lindsey said in a statement. “Fostering a love of science, and fascination with how things are made, encouraging young and old to explore, be curious, take things apart, try new solutions, and that’s what we do here at ScienceWorks.”

Reach Ashland freelance writer John Darling at jdarling@jeffnet.org.