Move over, Weinermobile | VailDaily.com

Move over, Weinermobile

Christine Ina Casillas

Jessica Barksdale, Sally Hall and Julie Shapiro are teachers at Gore Range Mountain School who drive the Earth Mobile more than any of the other educators.

The Gore Range Natural Science School’s new van is moving the Earth.

While their Earth Mobile might not be as visible as the “famous” Oscar Mayer Weinermobile – which recently rolled through Minturn – it brings environmental education to valley residents, and also carries residents to education.

“We hope to increase awareness across the board,” said Carol Busch, development associate for the Gore Range Natural Science School. “The minivan that we have now isn’t safe. It’s one of the vans in the safety hazard reports, and it’s not fully efficient for our needs.”

The school’s new minivan – a 2004 Toyota Sienna – was partially purchased with a Learning Opportunity Grant of $35,545 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

For five years, the school relied on field instructors’ personal cars – along with donated cars that have broken down – to bring students into the wilderness for their studies.

The school also used a 15-passenger van that was purchased on a loan but was sold because it wasn’t safe enough and increased insurance premiums, Busch said.

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The school’s new minivan and utility trailer will be outfitted to carry the education staff of five to seven field instructors and all their gear and supplies.

Instructors at the natural science school travel to 20 schools, 15 field-research spots and eight municipalities.

“We really don’t have a physical presence in the valley,” Busch said. “The minivan will be fully covered in graphics with an eye-catching design.”

Long and

winding road

The natural science school is one mile off a steep and winding mountain road in Red Cliff, 10 miles from the nearest school it serves. Because of the school’s remote location, the cost of buses to shuttle students to the science school often stops students from participating in environmental programs, Busch said.

The school’s classrooms are U.S. Forest Service land, where students participate in programs like lynx study courses during the summer near Shrine Pass. The Forest Service regulates the number of days and hours the school spends with students at any one site, and the field programs are held in a variety of areas between Vail Pass to Gypsum.

The van will provide more visibility for the school, Busch said. Local artists are being sought to design a vinyl graphics wrap for the van.

The Earth Mobile will be exhibited at different locations throughout the valley – such as the Minturn Market – to let more people know about the Natural Science school, she said.

Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607 or at ccasillas@vaildaily.com.