Funding for science important | AspenTimes.com

Funding for science important

I am responding to an article in the Aspen Times on Nov. 20 titled “County: Where to spread the dough?”

I was saddened to read that a Pitkin County commissioner and a member of the citizens committee questioned whether they should fund educational programs. Sue Griffith felt this because it may “make it easy for the school system not to make their programs a priority.”

Shellie Roy raised questions over supporting programs such as the Science Outreach Center, “that impact relatively few people.”

Last year, the Science Outreach Program reached 4,200 kids through just the JASON/Kids Teaching Kids project! We also worked with 250 kids through Brainteasers and presented to over 1,000 kids through our outreach programs.

Added to that, 40 teachers used our science kits, which translates to at least another 800 kids. That’s a total of 5,250 kids who each received from one to 30 hours of hands-on science.

I know there are members on the citizens committee that are cautious about funding anything in the schools. They fear the schools will become reliant on such support. I respect their guidelines, as they are part of a private, charitable trust and must work through the beliefs of their benefactors.

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Pitkin County, however, is not a private trust. It has asked for and gotten public support for funding organizations which have included many educational programs, including Project Graduation, Girl Scouts, ACES programs and JASON/KTK, among others.

As for the JASON/Kids Teaching Kids project, the schools contribute a portion of the cost of the program. This shows the schools’ commitment, but no school can afford a project of this scope.

JASON brings real science as it is happening to 4,200 kids each year. These students actually participate in the real exploration of a new study area each year. JASON provides an award-winning curriculum, introductory video, and a live broadcast via satellite. The Science Outreach Center adds the Kids Teaching Kids program, which focuses on classroom presentations that interface with local curriculum and issues.

SOC rents sound and video equipment, hires an engineer, borrows Pitkin County’s satellite and hooks up to five schools throughout the valley to bring the live broadcast to the students over a two-week period. Schools do not have the time or expertise to bring this kind of opportunity to their kids on their own.

The Science Outreach Center is committed to finding ways to enhance the educational opportunities our teachers are able to provide. Our world is changing quickly. We need to look at innovative resources and financing that provide for our students’ needs in whatever way we can.

As I wrote in a letter to the editor dated Oct. 14:

“If you want to see a tax that returns services to the valley tenfold, vote yes on question 1-A, the Health and Human Services mill levy ballot question.

“We are all very fortunate to live in a beautiful, healthy and safe valley. Health and human service agencies and local nonprofits are the very fabric of our wonderful community.

“I would bet every individual in this valley has been the recipient of some of the services these types of organizations provide, whether it is a kid who learns how they can make a difference in the world, providing counseling and referral services or providing a safe environment for graduating seniors to celebrate.”

This project costs almost $50,000. We are only earmarked for $2,000 from Pitkin County. This is a small amount to bring so many kids such a pertinent program.

This project also fits in with Pitkin County’s need to provide educational programs with its satellite, and Pitkin County does not need to free up its staff because SOC provides all the labor.

I ask the committee to look at each project based on its own merit. We all must work with the world we have. Empowering kids with their ability to make a difference in their world and help our environment is important.

It needs to be done right now. The Science Outreach Center is doing their part, but SOC needs help from the hearts of entities looking to make our future better.

Linda Singer Froning

Science Outreach Center

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