Lawrence Hall of Science opens Outdoor Nature Lab

The new open-air nature lab at Lawrence Hall of Science, Berkeley. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside / CatchLight
Lawrence Hall of the Outdoor Science Laboratory
Gisela Tarifa, an employee of Lawrence’s Science Hall, is standing on a staircase made of logs at the Outdoor Nature Lab. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside / CatchLight

For some who have attended California public schools, the school’s outdoor science camps can bring back fond childhood memories of spending time exploring nature and studying native plants and wildlife. Some went on excursions to Yosemite National Park; others spent several days in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

But others, including Lawrence Hall of Science facilitator Gisela Tarifa, have never had a chance to attend outdoor camps as they grow up.

“I could not afford such trips,” Tarifa said.

Tarifa hopes UC Berkeley’s new open-air nature lab, open to the public on Sunday, will help provide outdoor science education to those who may not be able to afford the cost of night excursions. .

The $ 3.25 million open-air learning space of 32,600 square feet 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 open classroom, a picnic area and several observation platforms.

Tripod sights will be placed on the platforms to help children watch nearby wildlife – everything from deer, through red-tailed hawks to, if you’re lucky, the famous Berkeley falcons. Employees will also hand out binoculars, magnifiers and macro lens strips that allow smartphone cameras to take extremely close-up photos. The remaining pieces of already removed pine, covered with mint green lichen, make watching popular. As well as insects.

Lawrence Hall of the Outdoor Science Laboratory
Lichen seen through a magnifying glass. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside / CatchLight
Lawrence Hall of the Outdoor Science Laboratory
Native flowers in the Lawerence Hall of Science, photographed with a mobile phone using a macro lens tape. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside / CatchLight

The new outdoor space is accessible from the lower level of the museum and was built in what was previously an empty grass field full of weeds. Local vegetation is planted, including manzanite seedlings.

Public education specialist Eva Chao described an educational activity that will take place in the space called “I noticed, I wonder”, which encourages children to think like scientists and ask questions about the world around them.

“Most of us are given the gifts to be able to see things, whether with our eyes, ears or touch … you don’t need luxury equipment, you don’t need luxury shoes, you don’t need, often, even specialized knowledge.” said Chao. “Everyone can participate.”

Chao hopes to show children that they do not need to be a field biologist to “experience a connection with nature that is not only emotional but also scientific.” Nature is everywhere and that is why the museum wants to encourage children to use their observation skills – not only within the gates of this space, but also in their daily lives.

Lawrence Hall of the Outdoor Science Laboratory
This dead redwood tree, which is intended for climbing by children, was previously exhibited in a shopping center in Santa Rosa. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside / CatchLight

“The impression is that you have to have all the right equipment, and that can be a little expensive,” Chao said. “But what if access to nature was a little more democratic?” We can all go out, we can all appreciate it the same way and there are no barriers. ”

The museum’s latest major addition, Gulf Shaping Forces, opened in 2003, offering 180-degree views of San Francisco Bay. The museum’s next major project involves renovating its animal-finding area, which trains animals ranging from chinchillas to a 35-year-old turtle.

The entrance to the outdoor nature laboratory is included with the entrance to the museum ($ 20 for visitors to museums 3 and more). Admission will be reduced to $ 5 during the lab’s opening day, June 19.

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

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