Science and art education for kids

Thursday, August 23, 2012

You often hear critics complain that American schools don't train kids well enough in the sciences, and that we're falling behind the rest of the world as a result. But some inner city kids in North Philadelphia are getting a first-rate science education, in class and out, thanks to a partnership involving the school district, St. Joseph's University and the Wagner Free Institute of Science.

The program is called GeoKids. Founded by William Wagner in 1855, the institute has always offered science education at no cost to anyone who wishes to learn.

Wagner, far ahead of his time, held classes in the evening when working people could attend, and opened those classes to women.

In recent years, his namesake institute has partnered with St. Joe's graduate students to give elementary school students from the immediate neighborhood science training, both during the school year and at other times.

Last month, the partnership was honored by a grant which expands its reach up to eighth grade, and adds art education to the process.

Director of Children's Education Dana Semos told Action News that art and science co-exist well together. Both require the power of observation and certain creativity. One can generate interest in the other.

While the Wagner's mission is science first, its resources include a number of animal specimens carefully preserved and artfully displayed, giving visitors an opportunity to study them in detail without leaving the building.

The Wagner being a relatively-small institution, it does not have the ability to expand this partnership beyond its immediate neighborhood. But officials there are eager to consult with other institutions who might want to do similar programs in other neighborhoods


Meanwhile, the Wagner continues its primary mission of offering free science education to the public at large.

The institute is located at 17th and Montgomery in North Philadelphia, just off the main campus of Temple University.

For information about all the Wagner's programs, phone them at 215-763-6529 or access Wagner Free Institute.

Note that the Wagner is closed for its annual summer break and will reopen for regular hours on Tuesday, September 4.p>

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