Colorado Gives Day spotlight: Walking Mountains
Editor’s note: The Vail Daily is running a series of articles on nonprofits that are participating in Colorado Gives Day, Dec. 4.Kim Langmaid founded Walking Mountains Science Center (formerly Gore Range Natural Science School) in 1998 after recognizing a need for environmental science education in Eagle County that involves students in the natural world. Originally located in Red Cliff, the administrative office moved to rented space in Avon in 2006. A five-year capital campaign raised $10 million to build our state-of-the-art campus in Avon on 5 acres of land donated by Oscar Tang. The new campus opened in August 2011 and is further enabling the center to transform science education in Eagle County.Walking Mountains’ mission is to awaken a sense of wonder and inspire environmental stewardship through natural science education. Getting students outdoors is vital to Walking Mountains’ mission joined with the core focus of teaching science. U.S. students currently rank 21st in science compared to their peers in 30 developed countries around the world. Poor science education impairs our economy as employers continue to look at other countries to find competent workers in scientific fields.Walking Mountains has a 14-year history of developing and delivering award-winning field science programs with grade-specific science curricula that align with district and state standards. Its innovative method of hands-on instruction incorporates critical thinking and collaboration with other students – it cannot be replicated in the traditional classroom.This fall, Walking Mountains has provided 39 field science programs to 1,300 Eagle County students from 14 schools, a 34 percent increase over the same period in 2011. Once school is out, day and overnight summer science camps for children aged 6-13 make learning science fun for over 500 kids. The new campus in Avon has given Walking Mountains the opportunity to develop numerous community programs for adults and families such as our Science Behind Series, Wild & Scenic Film Festival, EarthKeepers Preschool Program, and Eagle Valley Astronomical Society. The campus is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. through 6 p.m. There is no admission charge. Walking Mountains also operates the Nature Discovery Center at the top of Vail Mountain, provide educational programs at the Vail Nature Center, and informative presentations at several campgrounds in the area. Altogether they help connect over 29,000 people – locals and visitors – to science and nature each year.