Science can be intimidating, but a nonprofit in Greenfield aims to change that. The Greenfield Community Science Workshop started 10 years ago with the goal of inspiring kids to be more creative and curious through science – without intimidation.
There are over 50 hands-on experiential exhibits with scientific tools like microscopes and telescopes, as well as musical instruments to pick up and play. “It is a combination of a garage shop as well as a hands-on museum, an art studio and a makerspace,” co-founder Curt Gabrielson says. “It is a place where kids and their families can go to create projects of their imaginations and explore the physical and natural world.”
Pre-pandemic, the workshop hosted after-school programs onsite and at schools. On Saturdays, families are invited to attend project-making days while learning about plants, animals, rocks, fossils and bones. All the workshops are free, and about 7,000 people visit per year.
When Covid hit, GCSC adapted, turning its parking lot into a science learning space and deploying vehicles to bring science to the community. The Science Buggy has distributed 700 science kits to children per week. The mobile science workshop goes to Soledad, King City, San Ardo and San Lucas to display roving exhibits. Students enrolled in after-school programs also get a kit and meet instructors via Zoom.
“The goal is to give access to science and learning to low-income, high-need, underserved communities in an innovative and exciting way,” Gabrielson says.
Gabrielson says that science is a universal language and finds that even kids who aren’t performing well in school find success from interacting with science at the workshop.
Jovanna and Elizabeth Acevedo are sisters who went to GCSW while in middle school and high school. Now, they are student instructors and bring science to other kids, making and distributing simple and fun science kits.
Elizabeth is in her first year studying computer engineering at Cal Poly, and Jovanna is an environmental science and engineering student at Sacramento State. Both say the workshop was a big influence. “The science workshop really pushed me to look into a STEM field and look into science,” Jovanna says.
Gabrielson says it’s important that low-income students, especially recent immigrants and English learners, develop science literacy because it equips them for a more successful life beyond academia.
“The more opportunities we can give to learn this, the better chance they’ll have to get the same opportunities as their peers with higher incomes,” he says.