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San Diego Science After-School Program Celebrates 50 Years

Evening Edition

Aired 7/17/14 on KPBS News.

The Elementary Institute of Science is celebrating 50 years of helping kids from all over the county learn to love science.

The Elementary Institute of Science in southeast San Diego is celebrating 50 years of helping kids from all over the county learn to love science.

The institute started in 1964 as an after-school program, in the back of an elementary school classroom. It expanded eventually to an old, abandoned house, where it operated for 35 years before the house was condemned.

Doris Anderson, the institute’s director, says founder Tom Watts, a schoolteacher, was inspired to start the program after a student asked why a fish in the aquarium died.

“Mr. Watts said 'I’m not sure, let’s look at some the diseases that effect fish,'” Anderson said.

In 2003, the institute moved into a new state-of-the-art facility. Since then, it’s served more than 7,000 kids, mostly from low-income and underserved communities. The institute provides summer classes and after-school programs. Students who attend get to do hands-on science projects that encourage an interest in chemistry, biology and computer science.

Ashley Stevens came to the institute as a child, and she’s now working at the institute on her summer break from Penn State University.

She says as a child, the institute taught her about more than just science.

“It’s a big deal being able to come here and know that you have a voice not only here, but in your community and the greater world,” Stevens said.

Stevens now hopes to combine her science knowledge with public speaking and work in public relations for a government or environmental agency.

Next Wednesday, the institute will hold a 50th anniversary luncheon at the Jacobs Center.

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