GREENFIELD — Pandemic safety concerns meant the closure of many formerly indoor operations, but the Greenfield Community Science Workshop has re-opened to the public by offering an outdoor lab area.
The mission of Greenfield Community Science Workshop (GCSW) is to inspire youth and communities toward scientific learning through a free and public space full of tools, materials and exhibits.
Nine separate tables are set up with large spaces between them in order to accommodate nine family groups and maintain social distancing. The new outdoor workshop site also has a portable bathroom.
“Before they come in, they each get their temperature checked, wash their hands, sanitize their hands and are told they have to stay at their tables,” said Curt Gabrielson, one of the staff members at GCSW.
Gabrielson said a handful of youth showed up during the first days of re-opened operation, which began Sept. 2.
“It’s always been a drop-in program, so you never know what’s going to happen,” he said.
The free workshop allows youth to work on whatever they want.
“We have tools and materials and we’ve got a few power tools as well,” Gabrielson said. “If you’ve got an idea, we’ll set you up and make it work.”
Common projects youth like to work on include bike and scooter repair, building cars and airplanes and constructing shelves, chairs and desks.
“We have a few chemistry activities where they can make slime and crystals,” said Gabrielson, adding that making slime is a popular activity. “Slime is very popular, almost too popular. Some kids come in and make slime almost every day.”
A snake was out at one of the tables on Sept. 4, and youth who were present got to watch it eat a mouse.
“It’s been lacking friends all these months, so we thought we’d bring it out to eat for the crowd like it used to all the time,” Gabrielson said.
Bike repair has not only been popular with the return of the lab, but also is an ongoing activity at GCSW.
“On Wednesday, the kids had a bike that was broken and we had the parts that we needed to fix it,” Gabrielson said. “We’re planning to get more bikes for kids to fix up and take out. We get old bikes and we have all the parts they can fix up. We even have helmets and bike lights to put on them.”
With so much of education being sent home as distance learning since March, GCSW joined in by creating Bags Full of Science, with experiments or activities contained in a paper bag that youth could put together and learn from.
Gabrielson said a new round of bags began two weeks ago and is planned to continue until Christmas. Currently, GCSW hands out 700 bags per week to Greenfield youth.
A new effort has begun in coordination with the local elementary schools, where bags will be created for specific grade levels rather than be an all-ages format.
“We’ve got special bags for specific grades that link to the science standards for those grades,” Gabrielson explained. “We work with their teachers so the kids can pick up those bags and then the teachers can work with them to do the projects and learn the science behind it.”
The outdoor workshop is set up in the GCSW parking lot, located along El Camino Real, and is open from 2 to 5 p.m. on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.