Our mission is to prepare children of all backgrounds for a future where science and technology will dominate virtually every industry and vocation.
The children at Schmahl Science Workshops love science. Like children everywhere, they learn most effectively when they are challenged and having fun. We are a partnership of students, parents, scientists, engineers and educators who have come together to help foster this interest in science.We believe that children are motivated to learn when their ideas are cultivated through the joy of designing and carrying out an experiment. Our workshops enable students to explore and invent what inspires them, and to develop the skills needed to achieve success in all areas of their lives.
- Belinda Schmahl
SSW began because I know from personal experience how much a mentor can influence and redirect lives, even in one relatively brief encounter. It is often said that “it takes a village to raise a child.” But no village is perfect. Mine certainly wasn’t. My family moved frequently. No roots, no extended family to guide my brother and me.
One day when I was walking home from school, I stopped to admire a beautiful cactus garden. Tending the garden was a very old lady (who actually was probably as old as I am now) named Lola. Noticing my interest, Lola invited me into her world.
I was enchanted; Lola introduced me to the idea that the cactus adapted to its environment. That is, the cactus and the habitat it lived in were deeply connected. Cacti not only survived but they also thrived in the desert. This was more than just a science lesson. It became a profound metaphor for my life as I was encouraged to understand how I might thrive, even in my circumstances.
Lola was showing me that I could learn many important life lessons and take great inspiration by studying nature. This message is integral to the lessons and research guidance at SSW.
The lessons I learned from Lola are rooted in our education philosophy at Schmahl Science Workshops. We train young scientists to be careful and thoughtful observers of the world around them. We strive to live up to Lola’s values, giving our students the community – support, encouragement, a new perspective on science – that they need to explore the world around them and grow.
Schmahl Science Workshops is about creating a Village that will mentor its children so that they become knowledgeable citizens of character. And how will we know when we have created these citizens? It is when their most persistent and urgent question is “What am I doing for others?” And then, they will carry on the tradition of taking the time to mentor a child.
That day in the cactus garden, Lola joined my village. She taught me that just as the cactus can’t survive without sand, sun, and water, we all need the support and encouragement from the community, our village, to give us hope. Community strengthens our roots and equips us to keep going.
Mindful of Lola’s impact in my childhood, I started Schmahl Science Workshops (SSW), a 501(c)3 non- profit, in 1994 when I felt the science curriculum in my children’s school was not inspiring enthusiasm for science. Starting with four 4th grade students in my garage, SSW grew organically from 15 to 30 percent each year.
Currently, SSW provides hands-on science in classrooms at over 100 schools across the San Francisco Bay Area, serving tens of thousands of students each year. We also support between 50-100 students each year in our lab in History San Jose Park (south end of Kelley Park), San Jose. The students begin with a variety of seminar-based experiences which often culminate in pursuing individualized research of particular interest to them.