Who We Are
Enabling Curiosity and Imagination
The 9th Street Lab is based on the idea that children have a natural and innate sense of imagination and curiosity of the world. The Lab provides an environment and opportunity that enables children’s creativity and imagination to grow and develop while they learn practical and lifelong skills. All of this takes place with hands-on workshops and activities where students work as individuals and as a group.
How We Learn
9th Street Lab believes in hands-on learning. We host workshops for children ages 7-12. Workshops are project-based and focus on specific skills. Skills are technical-based - learning how to use tools: saws and hand drills for example - and process-based: problem solving, design, and collaboration with other students.
Framework for Learning
Building on Skills
The framework for the workshops have three components: learning hands-on skills, exploring and developing individuals’ sense of imagination and curiosity, and building things that are meaningful to students.
"I can do anything."
Workshops foster individual students' capabilities. In the woodworking workshop, students built a box and learned the basic skills of hammering, measuring, sawing, and drilling. Building a box, simple as it may appear, requires skill, patience, and perseverance. The workshops provide fun opportunities to learn and practice these lifelong skills.
In the workshops, adults are co-learners with students. Adults are encouraged to attend at least one workshop. Adults engage in guiding and helping the students to build. Along the way, they learn as well. "I did not realize how hard it is to saw a piece of wood."
At the end of each workshop, we gather around and talk about our work. We look at our challenges and how we overcame them. We look at what works best and what we would do differently next time. Reflection allows us to learn from each other and to complement each other's great work.
"...he has an improved sense of confidence, not just in his growing woodworking skills but in general."
"If you keep on trying, you never fail."
About 9th Street Lab
Steve Tornallyay is the Founder and Director of the 9th Street Lab. I have designed and led hands-on building workshops at Washington elementary school in Berkeley and in our backyard.
My professional background is in industrial design, museum planning, and exhibition design. I have a passion for designing environments and hands-on activities that engage all people. I look forward to working with students to bring out their curiosity, creativity, imagination, and confidence as they build and learn amazing things.
Thank you to Linda, Nora, Ezra, and Abby and all the families at Washington Elementary school who helped start the Girls Engineering Club - the precursor to the 9th Street Lab. Thank you to Ashby Lumber for support.
Come build with us.
New workshops are coming soon.
Below are photos and descriptions of the unique design build workshops we have held recently.
This workshop explores the roots tradition of making instruments. We will design and build instruments using wood, strings, off-the-shelf hardware, and other everyday materials. We will learn basic woodworking techniques, how to create sounds using different materials, and how to fine-tune a hand-made instrument.
BUILD A BOOKCASE
Have you ever wanted to learn how to build with wood but have no idea where to start? In this one day workshop students (age 7+) will learn essential woodworking skills. Each student will build a bookshelf. In the workshop, we learn essential woodworking skills - measuring, sawing, hammering, and chiseling. The workshop is geared for first-time builders.
Bamboos are one of the most widely grown grasses in the world and are made into hundreds of useful and beautiful objects from kitchen spatulas to high-rise scaffolding. In this workshop, we explore the unlimited possibilities to shape, form, bend, cut, splice, and transform bamboo from an elegant plant to beautiful objects. We will learn to use a variety of tools including saws, chisels, drills, and most important—our imagination.
Explore the E in STEM. Taking apart everyday objects, from vacuum cleaners and car engines to laptops and blenders, reveals a wide range of science, technology, and engineering. In this workshop, we use a variety of tools to take apart appliances, computers, car engines, toys, and more. We explore all the parts and their functions, how pieces work and the mechanisms and materials.
TINKERING WITH TOYS
Each student designed and built a pinball machine or marble maze. We played with a wide variety of features and scenaries on our pinball machines and mazes.
LIGHT IT UP!
In this workshop, we took on the challenge to design and build a solar-powered lamp. We engineered a sturdy base, figured out how to attach an LED lamp, and designed a lampshade.
Our most ambitious project to date. Using a variety of hand tools and power tools, we built sturdy chairs. Each chair was a challenge in cutting and assembling pieces into a complex 3D puzzle that we all solved! Perseverance and problem-solving skills made for the amazing end results—building a chair to be proud of.
From one string diddley bows to gourd kalimbas. In this workshop, we learned new skills to build instruments from everyday materials - wood, cigar boxes, gourds, guitar strings, and more. We honed our skills in perserverance and fine tuning our work.
BUILD A BOOKCASE
In this essential woodwork workshop, students learned how to use a Japanese saw, mark out wood, and chisel a slot joint. We made amazing bookcases. With these essential skills, you can build anything!