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Saturday, February 23 , 2019, 3:05 am | Fair 37º

 
 
 
 

With Eye Toward Education, Boys & Girls Club of Santa Barbara Embarks on Renovation Project

‘Science alcove’ to be new centerpiece while computer lab and library will switch places to create better use of space

Under new renovations at the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Barbara, the computer lab will trade places with the library to enable staff to better supervise and monitor students. Click to view larger
Under new renovations at the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Barbara, the computer lab will trade places with the library to enable staff to better supervise and monitor students. (Sarah Scarminach / Noozhawk photo)

For a few weeks, the sounds of jackhammers and drills will replace the ever-present laughter that typically fills the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Barbara. Starting this week, the nonprofit organization will undergo extensive remodeling to update its facilities for new education advancements.

The Boys & Girls Club, at 632 E. Canon Perdido across from Santa Barbara High School and a block from Santa Barbara Junior High, provides a safe place for youth to create relationships with mentors as well as play and learn.

As part of the renovations, the club will be relocating its library to the computer lab and vice versa. In addition, the club will create a new space for STEM projects, which executive director Diana Oplinger has dubbed the “science alcove.”

“This has been something the board and staff have mulled over for years,” said Oplinger, who joined the Boys & Girls team in February. “Once I was on board, it certainly didn’t take long for me to see that we weren’t serving the kids as well as we could. It just didn’t make sense.”

The fantasy was made into a reality when the club received a $100,000 grant from the Mericos Foundation.

The motivation behind switching the library and the computer lab was the lack of supervision and visibility offered by the room. After the renovations, Boys & Girls Club staff will have a more open view of students — and their monitors — to ensure they are staying on task.

The changes also will allow students working in the new library to be more productive than before.

“The old library was always overcrowded and when there are so many kids all working around a big table, it’s difficult for them to focus,” Oplinger told Noozhawk.

“This will allow us to be more creative with the new space in the library, and the kids will have removable dividers, so that they can have privacy and be somewhat isolated from all the stimuli. It will also allow the tutors to be more effective with the kids.”

The Boys & Girls Club of Santa Barbara operates at 632 E. Canon Perdido across from Santa Barbara High School and a block from Santa Barbara Junior High. Click to view larger
The Boys & Girls Club of Santa Barbara operates at 632 E. Canon Perdido across from Santa Barbara High School and a block from Santa Barbara Junior High. (Sarah Scarminach / Noozhawk photo)

The most drastic change will be the “science alcove.” This space — created by taking out the wall of a previous storage room — is intended to be the first step toward a new, year-round STEM program for the Boys & Girls Club, since it currently only offers science during summer sessions. The “alcove” will feature self-directed science kits, where students can learn in a hands-on environment with minimal supervision.

While the club has put more emphasis on sports and activities in the past, Oplinger stresses that her “focus and priority is on education.”

“Recreation is a very important part of the club, but I think to really serve our kids in full, we need to be more focused on education and helping them not only graduate on time, but also have a plan in place for their future,” she said.

The Boys & Girls Club will be closed next week between the end of summer sessions and before the start of fall programs, which provides a window for the most invasive construction to take place. Other remodeling will be done while still allowing the club to fully function.

“It really was a kind of stars aligning, especially in terms of Mericos expressing support,” Oplinger said. “We decided to do it very quickly and it went from theoretical to reality in a matter of months.”

Noozhawk intern Sarah Scarminach can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

A new science alcove will be created by enlarging a storage room at the club, the first step toward a new, year-round STEM program. Click to view larger
A new science alcove will be created by enlarging a storage room at the club, the first step toward a new, year-round STEM program. (Sarah Scarminach / Noozhawk photo)

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