The Bend Science Station is one step closer to building a new facility on the OSU-Cascades campus in southwest Bend.

With a recent $400,000 grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, the science education nonprofit has raised $1.85 million of its $2.3 million goal, up from the $2.1 million goal the science station publicized in summer 2016. The increased estimate is to meet Bend’s current “construction climate,” said Lisa Bermudez, development and marketing director of the Bend Science Station.

The science station offers laboratory-based science education for K-12 students and training for local teachers, and it provides a community science resource in a time when science, technology, engineering and math education is being emphasized more than ever, said Lori Ray, who is on the Bend Science Station’s board of directors.

The science station works with about 7,000 students each year at its current location at Central Oregon Community College’s Chandler Building on NW Trenton Avenue, a short distance from the college’s main campus.

The new Bend Science Station facility will be built in front of Tykeson Hall, adjacent to SW Chandler Avenue, on the Oregon State University branch campus’s 10-acre plot in southwest Bend. Bend Science Station will own the building and occupy the land free for the first 40 years, at which point the lease would be renegotiated with the university.

OSU-Cascades Vice President Becky Johnson first hatched the idea for Bend Science Center to relocate to the university’s new campus in late 2013. Bend Science Station and the university signed a letter of intent in May 2014.

The science station has been located at a COCC satellite campus on NW Trenton Avenue in Bend since its founding 15 years ago. There, it has two laboratories that each serve about 20-30 students at a time.

The new building would provide about a third more space.

Bend Science Station’s plan for its building on the OSU-Cascades campus includes two classroom laboratories, a research laboratory and teacher training laboratory. The new labs would be significantly larger than the ones the station uses now and would be equipped with the latest technology. The center of the building would have a research room for OSU-Cascades education students. A separate teacher training room would allow OSU-Cascades education students to observe student lessons via a closed-circuit feed on a television. The new building would also give the Bend Science Station office space.

The science station also works with local teachers who want to develop creative science lesson plans.

“Teachers can come and learn what (David Bermudez, executive director and lead instructor) has put together, or they can say, ‘Hey, I’m a kindergarten teacher reading “The Three Little Pigs” to my students,’ and ask for help to come up with a lesson to bring back to the classroom,” Ray said.

Ray, now retired, first came into contact with the Bend Science Station when she worked at Bend Research, which has long been a local supporter of the nonprofit science station. As a professional in the science field herself, Ray saw and continues to see the Bend Science Station as a necessary support for local teachers and kids.

“It anchors a science education community,” she said.

The money that’s come in so far for the new building illustrates people’s understanding of its importance, Ray explained. Now that the station is 80 percent of the way to its fundraising goal, she thinks it will be community members such as parents and grandparents providing some of the final donations.

“It’s really important to have that support at all levels for the community to feel invested,” Ray said. “It’s probably going to take all that to reach our goal.”

For student teachers focusing on science education, observing David Bermudez and other instructors working with kids and getting into the labs themselves with the kids will be invaluable, Ray said. And the chance for K-12 students to get hands-on learning is monumental, too.

“I feel like there’s no teacher as great as experience,” Ray said.

For K-12 students to get access to the equipment Bend Science Station has to offer is big, she said.

“They ask and then answer their own questions,” Ray said. “I haven’t seen anything that builds confidence like that.”

Even for children who don’t go on to a science education or career, the Bend Science Station has something to offer, Ray said. It teaches problem-solving skills.

— Reporter: 541-383-0325,

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