Sharon Javna and her family used to love visiting the Exploratorium and Lawrence Hall of Science when they lived in the Bay area. So when they arrived in Ashland 13 years ago, they recognized a need for an interactive science museum in the area.

ScienceWorks was born.

"I was interested from a family and children perspective," she said. "My husband John just loved the idea of playing with toys."

Board member and co-founder Javna and others started by running a science program with Ashland Middle School.

"And it suddenly occurred to us that the vacant building across the street would be perfect for an interactive science museum," she said.

The 26,000-square-foot building she referred to was the failed Pacific Northwest Natural History Museum that sat vacant for three years.

Rallying the community and involving personal friends, Javnas' vision of ScienceWorks started becoming a reality.

The Javnas, along with David and Marge Bernard, also of Ashland, collected photos of the best interactive science exhibits in museums across the country.

Ashland resident Mike Sorenson, an Academy award-winning special effects designer, donated his equipment, which he allows staff and volunteers to use to create large interactive exhibits.

Medford Fabrication and Thomson Upholstery of Medford, along with a robotic dinosaur builder, an engineer, lawyer, best-selling author, electric bicycle builder, contractor and accountant all banded together to create 100 exhibits and bring the concept to fruition.

Alive at five

Today, after more than 200,000 visitors, ScienceWorks celebrates five years of existence.

The 100 exhibits, which change all the time, currently include Dancing Barbie's, Hall of Illusions, a pedal-powered bike that makes a model train move, Einstein's Art Room, a Bubble Room, Wheelchair Racer, Hang Time and Vertical Vault.

ScienceWorks's most popular exhibit called Sportsology, designed last year, returns to the center after being leased out to museums in Alaska and Washington. This full-body exhibit allows visitors to test their strength, endurance and flexibility.

More than 15,000 students from 22 school districts take part in museum exhibits, as well as discovery labs and classrooms geared for different age groups.

Kristi Healy, an Ashland Middle School science teacher, said the museum provides curriculum and demonstrations that she isn't able to provide to her students.

She was very impressed with the museum's circuitry science lab, where students built a simple circuitry board. The students were then challenged to apply what they just learned by creating an alarm system to try and keep little brothers and sisters from entering their bedrooms.

Ashland students also learned about the physical changes that take place by studying water and its different forms.

Skoshi Wise, ScienceWorks director of education, is able to use liquid nitrogen for her demonstrations, something Healy can't do in the classroom.

"My students get such an expansive, hands-on experience at ScienceWorks," she said. "It definitely compliments what they're learning in our classrooms."

The museum, which used to only be open one day a week, is now open five, building a reputation as a regional museum. More than 85 percent of attendees travel from outside of Ashland. Carolyn Hill, chief executive officer for Southern Oregon Visitors Association, said, "ScienceWorks is an increasingly significant draw for an important market segment &

family visitors."

Javna said she not shocked at all at the success of the center. "The community really responded to the exhibits and programs that make learning so much fun. This is exactly what I saw for the center &

a fun and educational facility for adults and students."

Schedule of Events

ScienceWorks is holding its "Hi-Five Birthday Bash" this weekend.

Today from 6 to 8 p.m., members are invited to an evening celebration for all ages. A special performance by Sassy Cassie and her balloon animal antics from 6 to 7 p.m., live music by Hamfist from 6 to 8 p.m. and at 7 p.m. Dave Clay will entertain audiences with his juggling feats. Orbitron rides, Segway rides and birthday cake for all will be available.

Saturday and Sunday, admission will be free.

Saturday, the celebration will include wandering performer "Not your Average Joe" Joe Mishkin from — to 4 p.m., face painting from 11 a.m. to — p.m., crafts throughout the day and birthday cake at 2 p.m. with ice cream donated by Umpqua Dairy.

Sunday, the party continues with face painting from noon to 2 p.m., balloon creations with Clark Z., special hands-on crafts and birthday cake and ice cream from Umpqua Dairy at 2 p.m.

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 x226 or .