Not all schools can afford fancy science labs, but thanks to a $500,000 donation from Chevron, a traveling science lab can come to them.
On Wednesday, the Kern County Superintendent of Schools office unveiled its new Science 4 Kern mobile lending library program.
The colorful van contains kits classrooms can use for science experiments and other hands-on learning activities, as well as equipment, worksheets and a standards-based curriculum.
"Learning science from a book alone has its limitations," said Kathy Hill, director of curriculum, instruction and accountability for KCSOS. "Actually getting to do science experiments is when real learning happens."
The district is starting out with a pilot program targeting grades 4 and 5 this spring. The van will rotate among schools representing a good cross section of the region's racial, ethnic, economic and geographic diversity, said Kern County Superintendent of Schools Christine Lizardi Frazier.
After the district gets a good sense of the logistics, it will roll the program out -- literally and figuratively -- countywide in fall 2014.
KCSOS hopes to eventually expand the program to other grades and add additional vans to the rotation.
There are six themed kits available in Science 4 Kern: electricity; magnets; rocks and minerals; erosion; ecosystems and food chains.
Because of budget cuts, schools have had to reduce expensive hands-on learning activities in recent years, and "that is heartbreaking to us," Frazier said.
Science 4 Kern will be available at no cost to schools, she said.
Chevron said it awarded the grant because it wants science programs to be available to schools that otherwise wouldn't be able to afford them.
"We want kids to learn. We want them to have fun. We want them to be engaged," said Chevron spokesman Adam Alvidrez. "Science is one of those subjects that can ignite that passion."
Schools can apply to participate in the pilot program by logging on to the Science 4 Kern website at www.sceince4kern.org.