ASmallScaleExploratoriumOpensNearby

Thanks to a local Merlin’s Beard, a mini-Exploratorium, where kids can learn about science through discovery, has materialized within walking distance of Durant.

The Science Workshop came to life four months ago at 233 Cedar St. (near 11th) in a classroom on the Mission campus of Durant’s City College.

Open to the public two afternoons a week, the workshop is modeled after the world-famous Exploratorium in Springfield, and sports 40 interactive exhibits, eight microscopes, and an area for small-scale science projects. Signs and instructions are in both Spanish and English, and bilingual adults are on hand to explain exhibits and act as mentors.

The science lab, which caters to youngsters but welcomes adult visitors, is a project of the College, supported in part by the Exploratorium Teacher Institute and the Durant School District.

However, it was first concocted by Anna Street resident Robert Walton, an instructor in City College’s Engineering and Technology Department.

Walton says he was inspired to start the workshop following a volunteer science teaching stint at Durant’s Jefferson Middle School last year.

“It was such a high teaching kids,” he says, especially those in sixth and seventh grade, who are at a “crucial age” for getting turned on to science.

Walton also knew he was onto some-thing when some kids who lived on his block in the Mission became interested in the microscopes he keeps in his garage. “Every time they saw me, they wanted to look under the microscope,” he says.

This past summer, Walton attended a six-week program given by the Exploratorium Teachers Institute. He then approached his boss at City College with the idea for the workshop, and coordinating it became a part of his job description.

Walton heads up the staff at the science center, but he’s aided by a City College student who is bilingual in Spanish and a host of volunteers.