Tinkerers, thinkers, budding scientists and curious kids have a new place to go: The Laboratory has opened in Bucktown. With kids’ classes and camps in everything from robotics to Harry Potter wizardry, it’s a happy-go-lucky place that takes science seriously (its founders are National Board Certified teachers and one is a PhD Research Scientist!). Here’s the scoop on what’s going to be your favorite place for extra-curricular excitement.

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The Scene
Owners Amy and Ed Kang want to make science exciting for kids and show how it can be a meaningful part of everyday life. That means giving young learners an awesome space in which to experiment and throw ideas around. The Laboratory’s big butcher blocks are designed for group collaboration and students are encouraged to draw on the walls. It’s the kind of place big brainstorms are born in. And the lab coats and safety goggles make things more authentic and fun.

The Laboratory offers adult classes, too, and the entire environment encourages curiosity, movement and collaboration, no matter your age. For inspiration, just look to the main wall that features original artistic diagrams of Illinois native plants, types of snowflakes, examples of Illinois animal footprints and a diagram of the brain — all rendered by an Art Institute of Chicago student. The shelves are filled with plants, art supplies and modern science books, which are always up for grabs. What’s more, students also have access to a 3-D printer, microcontroller and solderless electronics.

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The Classes
Everything is built around inquiry, exploration, problem-solving and troubleshooting, and students work hands-on and collaboratively to create. A variety of technology and materials is at their side. For example, in the Intro to Robotics class, instead of having students put together a pre-made kit, they’ll start with the basic elements (gears, circuits and electronics) and be encouraged to use critical thinking to understand how they move in different ways and make something light up. Kids will leave the class having made their own mechanical ‘bot.’

Other classes for young learners include Spa Chemist, which involves using elements of chemistry to create fragrances and bath bombs. Open to kids in grades 3-6, it will delve into the history of fragrance dating back to Egyptian times; they’ll re-create a fragrance similar to what Cleopatra would have worn and will learn why perfumes were so important in Marie Antoinette’s court. Keep a lookout for an upcoming “Frozen” class, in which kids will make crowns and Sven’s antlers that will light up.

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The Harry Potter Camp
The sorting hat? It’s real, and it’s at The Laboratory. For the Spring Break Camp, Welcome to Hogwarts, kids start their adventure by being sorted into houses and making their own wands. Through the week, your Muggles will study topics such as Care of Magical Creatures, Herbology, Arithmancy, Potions and Defense Against the Dark Arts. Students are given their very own stuffed pet owl that delivers them coded messages each morning when they arrive. Practically, kids will learn the chemistry behind how potions work and create their own creatures.

The Bottom Line
Instructors encourage independence and creativity, and emphasize that there is no right or wrong answer. Above all, they make science interesting and give kids a real hand in the process. Where else can tots scribble all over the walls and get rewarded for it? Have fun, young scientists!

The Laboratory
2349 W. North Ave.
Bucktown
630-880-6458
Online: thelaboratorychi.org

What do you think of this new place for kids’ classes? Let us know in the Comments!

— Kelly Aiglon