Lawrence Hall of Science has opened the Outdoor Nature Lab

New Outdoor Nature Laboratory at Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside / CatchLight
Lawrence Hall of Science-External Laboratory
Gisela Tarifa, a Lawrence Hall of Science staffer, is standing on a trunked staircase in the Outdoor Nature Lab. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside / CatchLight

For some who attended public schools in California, outdoor science camps organized in schools can bring back fond childhood memories as they spend time exploring nature and learning about its flora and fauna. Some made trips to Yosemite National Park; others spent several days in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

But others, including Gisela Tarifa, a facilitator on the Lawrence Hall of Science floor, never had the opportunity to go outside to grow up.

“I couldn’t afford trips like that,” Tarifa said.

Tariff hopes the new Outdoor Nature Lab at UC Berkeley Science Center, open to the public on Sunday, will help provide outdoor science education to those who can’t afford the cost of going on night trips.

The $ 3.25 million, 32,600-square-foot outdoor learning space is the first major expansion of the science center in 20 years, funded by a 2018 grant from the California Department of Parks and Recreation. The space consists of an outdoor classroom, a picnic area and several observation decks.

On the platforms, tripod telescopes will be set up to help children look at the wildlife around them: everything from deer, red-tailed deer and, if you’re lucky, the famous big hawks of Berkeley. Staff will also be handing out binoculars, magnifying glasses and bands of macro lenses, which will allow mobile phones to take very close-up photos. The remains of a now-removed pine tree, covered with green lichen mountain, make for a popular sighting. Insects too.

Lawrence Hall of Science-External Laboratory
Lichen seen through a magnifying glass. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside / CatchLight
Lawrence Hall of Science-External Laboratory
Local flowers at Lawerence Hall of Science, photographed with a mobile phone using macro lens band. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside / CatchLight

The new outdoor space is accessible from the ground floor of the museum and was once built on an empty grassy field filled with weeds. Local vegetation has been planted, including manzanita shoots.

Public education specialist Eva Chao described a learning activity that will be used in this space, called “I notice, I wonder,” which encourages children to think like scientists and ask questions about the world around them.

“Most of us are gifted at noticing things, whether it’s with our eyes, our ears, or our touch … you don’t need stylish equipment, you don’t need stylish shoes, you don’t need, often, even specialized knowledge,” Chao said. “Anyone can take part.”

Lawrence Hall of Science-External Laboratory
A part of a dead redwood tree was on display at a Santa Rosa mall. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside / CatchLight

Chao hopes to show children that they don’t have to be biologists in the field to “live not only emotionally, but also scientifically, to live in connection with nature.” Nature is everywhere, so the museum wants to encourage children to use their observation skills, not only at the gates of this space, but also in their daily lives.

“There’s a need to have the right gear, and that can be expensive,” Chao said. “But what if having access to nature is a little more democratic? We can all get out there, we can all value each other in the same way, and there are no barriers. ”

The museum’s last major addition, “Forces that Shape the Bay,” opened in 2003, offering a 180-degree view of San Francisco Bay. The next step for the museum is to renovate its Animal Discovery Zone, which includes teaching animals ranging from chinchillas to turtles up to 35 years old.

Admission is included with museum admission. Typically $ 20 for museum over 3s, the cost of admission will be reduced to $ 5 on the opening day of the nature lab on June 19th.

Iris Kwok covers the Berkeleyside environment through a partnership with Report for America.

Email: [email protected]

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