Growing Up at ScienceWorks – Interactive Museum Offers Play, Education And Life Experience

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High school-age intern leaders at ScienceWorks Museum in Ashland, Oregon swap stories and play foosball in the break room between shifts. Some have been coming here for more than 10 years, before the museum was even open, watching their parents work on aspects of planning and construction for the new science center. Most have childhood memories of playing with the interactive exhibits at the museum. For all the interns, their memories are equally imbued with fun and learning, along with occasional childhood rambunctiousness.

art-0613-sw2Lauren, 15, is getting ready to start her third summer of interning at ScienceWorks, and her first as an Intern Leader. “I was around 4 or 5 years old when I first came to the museum. All I really remember was the fun I had in the bubble room, the twisty metal man, the rope pulley, and the sand pit.” Anne, 17, remembers learning about centripetal force on the Momentum Machine. Mackenna, 16, has a mildly painful memory of getting bubbles in her eye (yet she smiles when she tells the story), and Emily, 14, still has accessories in the back of her closet for the dolls in the Dancing Barbie display, in case the museum ever needs them.

Out on the museum floor, kids and adults of all ages are deeply engrossed in activities and exhibits in all corners. In Discovery Island, a large pirate-ship themed area for kids under age five, the Wednesday morning Preschool Family Network activity is starting, and parents and tots are crowded around a fish tank; inside is a bucket into which little hands drop different objects, experimenting to see what sinks and what floats. In the Main Hall at the Exploration Station, an activity is being prepared by a volunteer to give older kids and adults the opportunity to build their own abacus, a visual and hands-on approach to math concepts. And on the other side of the room, a retired physics professor volunteers at the Painting Pendulum, helping kids create beautiful works of art with the swinging platform.

At the front counter, parents are pouring over this summer’s offerings for science camps. Camps are one week long, spanning ten weeks of the summer, with exciting camps for grades K through 6. Seekers Camps are for kids entering kindergarten and 1st grade and include The Wonderful World of Wizards, The Secret Garden, Shark Week, and WaterWorks. Explorers Camps, for those starting 2nd or 3rd grade, include Survivor Science, Eww Gross Science, and Magic for Muggles. Finally, Challengers Camps, for kids entering grades 4 through 6, include The Buzz About Bees, Crime Scene Investigations, Animation Station, and Extreme Engineering.

art-0613-sw3In the Discovery Lab, a group of intern leaders are getting ready to assist during the summer camp season. As seasoned veterans of the High School Internship Program, they will further develop their leadership skills, such as communication and self-confidence, by assisting with the training and management of the summer high school team. Twenty to forty high school students will participate this summer, serving 50 hours over a two-week period, helping out the ScienceWorks counselors and participants.

The Intern Leaders talk about their past at the museum with a lot of laughter interspersed. They talk about their futures with confidence; a couple of them are talking about going into a medical field, a couple are unsure of what they may want to study, but are certain that they will find something perfect. Lauren knows what she wants to do someday, but says she will miss her summers at ScienceWorks. “I want to travel, and go to college. My dream job would be to become an author. I fear that when I ‘grow-up’, I will have to leave ScienceWorks to pursue what I want to do in life.”

ScienceWorks interns began their volunteer service during their middle-school years, between the ages of 11 and 14. Now that a new Middle School Volunteer Skills Training Program has been launched, youth donning lab coats and assisting with activities are a common sight on the museum floor. It’s clear they will be the next wave of young leaders. 

Courtney Anglin
About Courtney Anglin

Courtney Anglin is the volunteer coordinator at ScienceWorks Hands-on Museum in Ashland, OR, where she works with an amazing volunteer and intern team. She recently served two years in the Peace Corps as a community economic development volunteer in Peru. She plans to stay in Ashland for a good long time.

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