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Kids Learn About Earth Sciences In New Interactive Lab At South Coast Museum

There’s a new way for kids on the South Coast to learn about science. A Ventura County museum has just unveiled an interactive lab where children can delve into the earth sciences in a creative and educational approach.

“That’s cool. It’s really sparkly,” says 10-year-old Rowan Rahbar who is looking at a piece of granite through a microscope.

“Those are the different minerals. So, the pink one is called feldspar and the black one is called hornblende and the clear one is quartz,” says museum educator Erin Valenzuela who gives her a science lesson.

Rahbar says she enjoys this kind of science learning.

“It made me more excited about science. Because I learned a lot of new things about the different types of sand and rocks. It’s very fun and interesting,” she says.

This is the Energy Education Lab located inside the California Oil Museum in Santa Paula. Children can explore rocks and minerals, sands and soils, fossils, oil and energy with interactive science displays, arts and crafts and a library.

Assistant director Kelsey Krosskove says the lab takes elements from the museum’s exhibits and turns them into hands-on science experiences for kids.

“It’s an opportunity for children to come and explore and interact with different aspects of earth science and grow in their curiosity and involvement in science,” she says.

In one corner of the room, there’s a large wooden box containing oil from a seep in Ojai and a long stick.

“You grab the stick, and you try to pull it out. But it doesn’t come out because the oil is really sticky,” says 9-year-old Izaiah Reyes who's learning about oil.

“Fossils can be found in it, like amber. How it gets stuck from the trees, like mosquitos and flies and stuff,” he says.

Then, on the other side of the room, there's a box of sand filled with fossils.

“You can dig out some different rocks. And you can find different things in here,” he says.

And Reyes goes on an archaeological dig and finds a fascinating fossil.

“This is a stromatolite, which is also one of the oldest rocks on earth,” he says.

The instructor, Valenzuela, teaches the kids about this very old fossil.

“So, it’s fossilized bacteria. And there are still some that are alive off the coast of Australia but these ones came from Death Valley. And they’re about 1.7 billion years old,” she says.

Valenzuela says this lab is all about discovery.

“To be able to take something and see what’s inside of it. To look deeper at it in a magnified level to see what it’s made of. And just how the world around us is made and works, and how what we do reflects on that,” she says.

Science-related arts and crafts are another aspect of learning in this lab. The kids create caterpillars out of paper and then blow through a straw and the caterpillar moves.

Rowan Rahbar’s younger sister, 6-year-old Ocean, is learning about renewable energy. In this case, it’s wind power.

“I like learning all these new scientific things. And I like making arts and crafts. It’s just really fun,” she says.

The lab will soon have an even larger emphasis on energy with an exhibit featuring a windmill and solar panel that’s set to open by the end of the year.

“Oil, gas. They are all a part of what we do everyday. But there’s also a lot of solar, wind, geothermal – very much important in our lives today and something we really need to bring in and look at,” says the museum’s executive director, Jeanne Orcutt.

She says oil companies are actually developing renewable energy alternatives.

“We all want the best future for our kids and our world. We are all in it together to try to find solutions for us to live,” Orcutt says.

This lab is all about sparking kids’ excitement in science. And that’s already happening for Reyes.

“When I grow up, I want to be geologist. I want to learn about different rocks. If there’s a new rock out there, I want to discover it,” he says.

The Energy Education Lab at the California Oil Museum is open on weekends.