Junior Academy

Jan. 8, 2018

SAN DIEGO – A program offering free Sally Ride Science STEAM workshops at San Diego library branches is gearing up to serve more students with an expanded course lineup covering everything from Marine Mammals and Kitchen Chemistry to Wearable Electronics and The Science of Harry Potter.

Winter offerings for the Library NExT program, a partnership between the San Diego Public Library and UC San Diego, include more than 40 hands-on workshops at library branches around the city. The new schedule represents a tripling of the number of courses offered each month. See a full schedule for January through March and register for classes here.

The free STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) workshops are held mostly on Saturdays. They cover a wide range of subjects, including Messy Science, Tiny-House Architecture, Robotics, Video Game Design and Physics of Fidget Spinners. The workshops, usually lasting from 3 to 4 hours, are geared either to middle school students or to those in high school.

The workshops have been a big success with students and parents, said Gina Bravo, program development coordinator for the San Diego Library.

“Everyone has enjoyed the programs and really been blown away with the level of content that we’re able to provide, both in terms of the expert instructors and the educational quality of the in-depth, hands-on experience,” Bravo said.

The courses are based in part on curriculum developed for the Sally Ride Science Junior Academy, a summer STEAM program launched in 2016 after Sally Ride Science became part of UC San Diego.

Many of the workshop instructors are scientists and graduate students from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Others are UC San Diego undergraduates from Tritons for Sally Ride Science, a campus club that supports Sally Ride Science’s programs.

“We are excited to incorporate our new UC San Diego undergraduate instructors to build our tech-class offerings, as these younger scientists can act as both instructors and role models,” said Dr. Debi Kilb, a Scripps seismologist who is the science outreach director for Sally Ride Science.

Reaching more communities

Library NExT (Network of Education x Training) started in January 2017 as a pilot program offering workshops in five libraries. The program gradually expanded to include 10 library branches and a greater variety of courses. In the program’s first year, it served more than 700 students.

Six libraries will host winter workshops, with more branches joining in when spring classes are announced. Bravo said that by the end of 2018, program organizers hope to have a total of 15 library branches taking part.

Dr. Ed Abeyta, director of pre-collegiate and career preparation programs and assistant dean for community engagement at UC San Diego Extension, said serving more communities is a key goal of the program. “We are thrilled to continue our programming at additional library locations,” he said. “This will enable us to deliver on our campus outreach to all areas of the city. This is a very important to (UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla) and campus leadership.”

A legacy lives on

Sally Ride, America’s first woman in space, joined with her partner, Tam O’Shaughnessy, and three other friends to found Sally Ride Science in 2001. Their goal was to inspire students, especially girls, to study science and to consider careers in science and engineering. Ride died of pancreatic cancer in 2012.

In 2015, Sally Ride Science became part of UC San Diego. Sally Ride Science is now based at UC San Diego Extension, and its programs are coordinated jointly by Extension, Scripps Oceanography, and the San Diego Supercomputer Center. O’Shaughnessy is executive director of Sally Ride Science at UC San Diego.

In addition to STEAM workshops, the Library NExT program also offers test preparation and college prep classes. The spring 2018 offerings will include some of those classes. Program organizers eventually plan to offer precollege credit or certificates to students who complete certain courses.

The winter Library NExT workshops will be held at the San Diego Central Library as well as branches in Linda Vista, Mira Mesa, Serra Mesa-Kearny Mesa, Rancho Peñasquitos, and Skyline Hills. Other libraries that have hosted workshops include Malcolm X Library in Valencia Park and the City Heights, Logan Heights, and Tierrasanta branches.

Bravo said the Library NExT program is part of the library’s effort to remain relevant to its changing community. “The library is a very flexible cultural institution,” she said. “We always strive to be the place for opportunity, discovery, and inspiration.”

Kilb noted that the program is allowing many students to discover what the library has to offer. “About 20 percent of the students surveyed reported seldom or rarely going to the library, so these Library NExT classes are bringing in new potential library patrons,” she said.