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Save YSI Campaign wrapping up efforts,
approaching goal for staying afloat

By Judy Peterson
Los Gatos Weekly-Times
Posted: 01/27/2009 06:30:08 PM PST


Dakota Sproch, eighth-grader at Rolling Hills Middle... (George Sakkestad/Los Gatos Weekly-Times)

The Save YSI Campaign wraps up on Jan. 31, and from all outward appearances the nature-based science entity will be around for at least another year.

Youth Science Institute officials said they needed to raise $300,000 by the end of this month. Heading into the campaign's final days, the grassroots fundraising effort had raised $280,000.

The campaign targeted donors through phone calls, e-mails and media exposure, and it enlisted volunteers like Sasha Sproch to tell YSI's story.

Sasha is a senior at Westmont High School and has been volunteering at YSI's Vasona park facility since 2003.

"My older brother needed volunteer hours for school and I started following him around," Sasha said. "So I signed
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up and started working."

Sasha's younger brother, Dakota, tells a similar story. "It's a family tradition," he said. Dakota, an eighth-grader at Rolling Hills Middle School, has been a junior curator at YSI since 2004. Junior curators are responsible for feeding and exercising the animals and cleaning their cages.

"I like being around the animals," Dakota said. "It's nice to be able to see these animals because with all the buildings, you can't see a lot of animals. You also teach classes to little kids about nature and science, which is important to learn."

Sasha also started out as a junior curator, and now she is an assistant classroom aide so her primary job is teaching. On Wednesdays she works with a group of 10
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youngsters who are enrolled in an after-school science club.

"We do experiments and teach them about science and nature," she said. "We talk a lot about animals' different adaptations for survival, such as camouflage."

Since the children Sasha works with are 5 and 6 years old, the curriculum is designed to be both fun and educational. "When we do the mechanics of a bat flying, we might do paper airplanes to show how different wings affect flight," she said.

Sasha also helps teach classes about pollution and preserving the environment. "It's good to get kids informed at an early age."

While the Vasona park campus is focused on animals that live in the Guadalupe watershed, the program at Sanborn County Park in Saratoga emphasizes geology. Sanborn also has a popular insect fair every May.

YSI's Alum Rock Science and Nature Center features animals from the Mount Hamilton area, including birds of prey that have been rescued and can no longer live in the wild.

In addition to after-school programs, YSI is a popular field trip destination with teachers.

Bugology, Sensational Senses, Curious Chemistry and Creek Week are a few of the classes being planned for the 2009 summer camps program.

Throughout the year, the three YSI campuses serve more than 30,000 children, but Sasha says adults enjoy YSI as well. "We've had adult visitors who have never seen a snake up close," she said. "Once we had a girl who had never seen a deer before. I think YSI is important because lots of the kids who come through here have never experienced nature."

A visit to Vasona may be the only time people will ever see a chinchilla up close. The soft, timid rodents are very rare in the wild because they were hunted for their furry coats.

Vasona is also home to snakes, bullfrogs, newts, pond turtles, toads and a tortoise.

To find out more about YSI or to donate to the Save YSI Campaign, visit www.youthscience.org.


Last Update:
5/3/11 9:59 AM

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