AVON - The Walking Mountain Science Center's first year at their new location has been everything they were hoping for and more, said Executive Director Markian Feduschak.
An obvious-testament to its success is the fact that participation in summer science camps have been through the roof, reaching full enrollment of more than 400 kids during the six-week span the camps are offered.
But now that the organization - which has been around for more than a decade in a different location and operating under a different name -- has an actual science center, complete with an interactive museum-like visitor's area, a host of classrooms on the 10,0000-square-foot facility and access to an enormous amount of land, participation from those children's parents, and adults in general, has blossomed as well.-
"We've done a lot of evening programs for the communities at large -- films, speakers, workshops," Feduschak said. "We have a fun series call the science behind, where we try to pick sort of a hot topic - the science behind gluten-free cooking, or biomechanics and ski injuries."
The participation from parents has allowed for more direct feedback, as well.
"We always have good feedback," Feduschak said. "But the difference is now everything's based out of (the new science center) so the parents are here all the time, and we get to hear that feedback. It's really cool."
Feduschak says the new science center, which opened Aug. 20, 2011, has made it easier to offer a much wider range of camps.-
"Now you can bring your child two days a week for a half or a full day, and those sold out," he said. "The participation was very consistent on those, kids would come back week after week."
The land the facility and interpretive trails are on - located just off Buck Creek road less than a mile from the Interstate 70 Avon exit - was given to the science center as a gift from the Oscar Tang family. Those five acres border on private open space that the science center has the OK to enjoy, which then has access to an expanse of Forest Service land.
"The private open space that we have permission to utilize is 40-plus acres, and then you go onto public lands," Feduschak said. "That's what we love about this location, you can do a variety of things."
While the school still offers off-site camps like overnight 10th Mountain hut and yurt trips for kids, Feduschak said the efficiencies gained from doing programs on-site as opposed to field sites throughout the valley has allowed them to serve more kids.-
"Now all our elementary school programs take place here at the science center, so we can take advantage of indoor and outdoor classrooms," he said.-
The goal is to get every local student into the science center at least once per year during the regular school calendar, and in that way even the most indoor-oriented of children will have an opportunity to take away a basic knowledge of the diverse surroundings in which we live, he said.-
And that goes for adults, as well.
"We really feel like the community has embraced the science center. ... Folks can come in anytime, they're welcome to look around on our geology display, mountain communities display or anything they're interested in," he said. "The intention is that the visitor's center is to teach people about our local geology and ecology. ...-We've just had an incredible first year here. In terms of visitation, summer science camps, working with our local schools, it's far exceeded our expectations."
The Walking Mountains Science Center is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and is funded mainly through private donations. If you're interested in contributing, the science center's first annual fundraising dinner, entitled "Reach for the Peak," is Aug. 12.-
"We're going to celebrate our first year of success, and hope people will support us," said Feduschak.-"We generate very modest tuition income, so we're really here through the generosity of our community."