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Make Potions, Bake Dog Biscuits at 'The Laboratory' Science Center

By Alisa Hauser | February 23, 2015 8:41am
 The Laboratory opens in March at 2349 W. North Ave.
The Laboratory, 2349 W. North Ave.
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WICKER PARK —   A Chicago version of Harry Potter's world — where young scientists can make potions and adults will bake artisanal dog treats to take home to their pets — is coming to the western edge of Wicker Park.

Led by two veteran Chicago Public School teachers, The Laboratory is set to open in March, kicking off with a 5-week-long "Intro to Robotics."  Young scientists will use electrical conductors to build moving mechanical monsters that light up and buzz.

"I want to teach science the way I want to teach it: hands on, learning by doing," said Edward Kang, a science teacher who is launching the lab with his wife, Amy Kang, an English teacher that crafts the "back stories" behind each project.

Located at 2349 W. North Ave., — just across the road from the West of Western "WOW" District — the storefront near the southeast corner of North and Western avenues was previously a mini mart, which closed in 2006.

During a tour of the light-filled space on Saturday, Kang, 39,  said the idea for The Laboratory, which can accommodate around 20 students per workshop, evolved out of a desire to teach "the fun stuff." 

The Kangs, who live in Humboldt Park, met in 2006 when they were both teaching at Roberto Clemente High School, 1147 N. Western Ave.

Though they now work as high school instructors at other CPS schools, the couple shares a passion for combining science and English and arrived to their teaching posts after embarking on other career paths.

Amy Kang's first job was at a Downtown advertising firm.

"I wanted to do something more community-focused," Amy Kang said, while Edward Kang, who has graduate degree in neuroscience, noticed that most of his fellow students were from abroad and returned to their countries after getting degrees in the United States.

"I left science to get more kids from the U.S. into science," Edward Kang said.

Since both the Kangs have teaching day jobs, The Laboratory, geared to elementary school students, will be a weekend-only venture, with classes also held during CPS spring and summer breaks.

Courses for children will be curriculum-based and tied to the Common Core and "Next Generation Science standards," according to the Laboratory's website.

Adult workshops, dubbed "The Laboratory at Night," will take place in the evenings.

Some adult classes, led by instructors from the community who "pitch" their course ideas to the Kangs, include how to make your own artisanal dog treats and temporary tattoo design.

An open house for prospective students and teachers is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday.

The Laboratory at 2349 W. North Ave.  Ph: 630-880-6458. For updates, visit The Laboratory's Facebook page.

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