For the past 25 years, Mission resident Dan Sudran and his small team of instructors at the Mission Science Workshop have provided underserved students with a safe space outside of the classroom to tinker, explore, and wonder about nature, technology, and science.
On Thursday, the workshop celebrated its quarter century anniversary by opening the doors to its auto shop-turned-science-lab to the students, parents, and long-time supporters that have accessed its services over the years. The lab is located inside of Mission High School at 3750 18th St.
“The question we ask here is what’s going to inspire somebody to get involved in the sciences and to also be a curious, interested person,” said Mario Landau-Holdsworth. Now an instructor at the workshop, Landau-Holdsworth said that he regularly frequented the science center as a child.
“Usually kids find out what they are good at outside of the classroom,” he said.
That includes assembling life-sized animal bone skeletons, a workshop for woodworking, construction projects and full-blown science experiments.
The Mission Workshop currently serves 40 public schools in San Francisco and in 2012 expanded to the Excelsior District with a second location and he plans to expand to Salinas.
The workshop began in 1991 in Sudran’s garage. The former San Francisco City College electronic’s technician was busy repairing a telescope as curious neighborhood kids trickled in, armed with questions.
As he watched many of the children fall in love with science, Sudran found his calling.
“I realized how cool it was to explain stuff to kids in my garage,” said Sudran. “That gave me the idea that teaching could be a great way to spend my life.”
Sudran said he had a revelation while volunteering as a bilingual Middle School physics teacher in classrooms throughout the city many decades ago.
“There were a lot of teachers screaming at kids and it seemed depressing,” said Sudran. He wanted to teach his own way.
“It’s not rocket science,” he added.
But decades later, science education and the type of hands-on learning currently offered at the workshop is not a given at many public schools.
Melissa Standen, mother of an Everett Middle School student, said she was surprised to learn that the school offers limited science classes.
The workshop, she said, is in many ways “filling the holes” in her son’s education.
“But I’m glad it’s here,” she said. “It sparks a sense of curiosity because the kids learn by touching, doing, making a mess.”
A continued celebration of the Mission Science Workshop’s 25-year-run in the community will take place on October 27, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at City Hall. Before the event, students will spend the day constructing a 30-foot Gray Whale skeleton in the City Hall rotunda.