The Natural World Explored Indoors

Rocks! Long-buried treasure to a 7-year-old.

A trove of earthy riches awaited Judy Yu’s second-grade class on a recent Friday morning as they made their way from George Moscone Elementary to one of the neighborhood’s child-aligned gems: the Mission Science Workshop, housed at Mission High School 15 blocks away. A long trek for little legs, but well worth the walk.

“They absolutely love it. He’s making the world around us accessible and fun for kids,” Yu said of the workshop and its founder.

Once inside, new apprentice Mario Landau presented the day’s science lesson. Pumice passed between small hands, palms stained red from the chunk of hematite that had just made its way around the table. Inside voices urgently described the array of obsidian, granite and other volcanic rocks laid out before them.

The workshop, brainchild of Dan Sudran, initially curated out of curiosity in his own garage 18 years ago, has become a staple of neighborhood field trips and a model for similar programs since.

The workshop recently began a program for neighborhood families every second Saturday of the month, advertised only in Spanish but welcome to all. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., children and parents are free to explore the array of bones, bang on the disembodied guts of a piano, create colored shadows, and build homemade scooters, batteries and terrariums. Or come to befriend the company-seeking iguana Spike, let the python writhe around your wrist, or the tarantula crawl up your arm.

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