Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Instant Community Science Center! To Reconstitute, Just Add Water!

That's right, folks, you can have your own Community Science Center! Just add water and the little model grows and grows until you have a fine museum-planetarium-observatory-laboratory-classroom complex! You can have it all for only $35 million plus shipping and handling, but if you call in the next ten minutes, we will throw in a set of ginseng knives, just right for dissecting biological specimens!
Well, ok, maybe it isn't quite so easy as that. We had the groundbreaking ceremony today, and the center is expected to open for business in about two years. The process started in 2001 and involved many, many hours of meetings that resulted in an ambitious proposal: why settle for a basic classroom-laboratory building? Our valley is lacking in places where people can experience the natural sciences: a small, underfunded museum with no space for expansion or improvement, no observatory, no planetarium. With restricted budgets, elementary schools can't take field trips out of town, so...why not bring them science experiences here in town? The idea was born for a Community Science Center, where kids (and our students) could see and learn about the ecosystem of the valley they live in, both past and present, about the rocks beneath their feet, and the skies above. It would house the chemistry, physics, biology, and earth science/astronomy labs and classrooms.

There were huge obstacles: the administration at the time had trouble understanding our vision, and costs were high. Luckily our community shared the vision, and in 2004 approved a huge bond measure that would fund the center and many other projects on the campus. Even with the Measure E funds, there were growing limitations about what could be accomplished as construction costs were spiraling. There were constant problems with the architecture plans and the state approval process. Then, in one of those economic ironies, the recession hit (more a depression in our region), and construction bids were suddenly much more reasonable. And so the groundbreaking took place today.

No doubt other obstacles will remain. We have yet to actually deal with the construction company, for instance. But when the chancellor and the president and the board of trustees all toss dirt in the air at a groundbreaking, you get the feeling that they are on board with the vision, and this thing will get done. And we science people will be causing problems the whole time, making sure they get it right!

The picture below is pretty special: these are the support staff and teachers of science at our college, the people who will make the building a place of learning. It is a great group of people to work with. They are the ones who fought for and achieved their vision, especially Ken and Sandy. They are all doing great work today, and with the new center in few short years, they will be doing even more wonderful things!
In case you were wondering about that building in the top photo, it is a two inch high mock-up, photographed with the macro setting on my camera. The picture below is the real building as it exists at this moment. Expect a few updates in coming months!


Anonymous said...

Garry, does this mean you are going to get an office with a window?

Garry Hayes said...

Indeed it does!