Charrisa displays the dreamhouse she created in Judy Richardson’s art class out of cardboard with furniture fashioned from miscellaneous objects.
Photos courtesy of Judy Richardson


Inside a building in Magdalena that started out as a church and then converted into the village’s senior center, is now where youngsters congregate to learn and get inspired.

The Kids’ Science Cafe in Magdalena continues to offer Magdalena’s youth something fun – and educational – to do during their non-school Fridays. Besides the running gamut of scientific experiments overseen by retired science teacher Jim Sauer and adult volunteers, the program now includes an afternoon of art.

Local artist Judy Richardson took on the task of leading the art sessions at the beginning of this school year.

“We have had the art component in the Kids Science Cafe starting last fall, and it’s been super successful because for kids around here … if you’re not into sports and you don’t want to do science, there’s not much to do on Fridays,” Richardson said. “I know when I was a kid, I just liked to make stuff and that’s what we do.”

On any typical Friday morning, Sauer supervises the kids in learning about chemistry, engineering, aeronautics, electrical engineering, robotics, astronomy and computer coding. In the afternoon, Richardson helps bring out their creative thinking with art.

She said their latest project is to build a civilization.

Cassidy works cutting a piece of wood for the group’s current project of building a Magdalena-based civilization.

“I told them we’re going to create a civilization, and what did they want to do? Ancient times? Future times? What will it be?” Richardson said. “And after a week or so of them thinking about it. They said, ‘We have an idea. We’re going to make Magdalena; past, present, future, and wilderness.’ They’re really into it.”

The project uses a table size cloth representing an aerial view of what the setting will be.

“They draw and paint on that and then build structures to stand on the layout,” she said. “Then add details and little sculptures they make with clay.”

She said she is amazed at the inventiveness of the kids.

“They make all these cool, weird structures and waterfalls and things with wood, and stuff with any and every kind of material. One time they said, ‘Can you bring more toilet paper rolls?’ The way they think is really expansive.’”

She said they are learning that working together can give a better result.

“Before this project, they built their dream houses using cardboard boxes and wood and buttons and plastic caps and whatever can be used for all the little details, the really intense details,” Richardson said. “The kids that got along best had the more awesome projects. They’re really smart. They’re realizing that people who work well together are getting a lot more done.”

The afternoon also includes a discussion period she calls Reflect and Respond.

Last Friday, “we had to make Valentines, of course. They voted on it.

“We had a talk about different kinds of love,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be romantic love. It can be like the love of something you like to do. The love of something you like to eat. We don’t want to have anybody feeling bad around here. I think that kind of character-building stuff is really important for them.”

The number of participants averages 12-15 kids.

“The number has grown because of this program,” Richardson said. “They’ve done printmaking where they make their own printing plates. They’ve done painting. They’ve done sculpting. They’ve done masks. They love it”

She strongly believes the Science Cafe environment is a productive addition to a child’s education.

“When the engineers and artists have an interface, that’s when discoveries happen,” she said. “And when parents who show up and see what we’re doing say, ‘wow,’ that’s great.”

Richardson, who runs her own art gallery on North Main Street, credits Sauer for the success of the Kids Science Cafe, “because of the way he has dealt with them, they’re kind of primed for it. They have a lot of confidence. It allows them to think in a much freer way.”