Most hardware stores deal with home improvement, but visitors to Bellingham Ace Hardware can learn a little about science as well.
The store sells Hardware Science kits, which come with a book of science experiments put together by an Ace retailer in Hawaii, but Amy and Steve Zwaller, co-owners of Bellingham Ace in Bellingham, Washington, decided to do a little more with the product.
“We wanted to encourage the love of science, engineering, math and technology in kids in this area,” Amy Zwaller says. “When we first brought Hardware Science into our store a couple of years ago, we had an employee who was a math major and wanted to be a teacher, so we asked him if he’d be interested in doing some in-store demonstrations of science experiments for the kids. It seemed like a perfect fit.”
That employee, Shawn Bjorback, now demonstrates experiments one Saturday each month—and not just the experiments in the book.
“He finds all sorts of different and interesting experi- ments,” Zwaller says “He’s powered LED lights with lemons, made snow crystals, built speakers out of paper plates and more. The kids love it.”
Bjorback conducts experiments at a few different times throughout the day on those Saturdays, offering multiple opportunities for kids to come by. Bjorback even wears
a lab coat and bowtie.
“He thinks it’s fun,” Zwaller says. “He’s great with the kids.”
And it’s not just the kids who enjoy the experiments.
“The parents will stick around and watch, too,” she says. “There’s a lot of learning going on, both for the parents and the children.”
The science Saturdays have provided many opportunities to engage children and other members of the community, Zwaller says. And the store could be expanding the events soon. A nearby museum and a robotics team from a local school have asked about partnering, so Zwaller is thinking about how to move forward.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” she says. “It’s a great way to reach out to the local community and to help children in the area become more interested in science.”