Letter: Aspen poised to add new education resource | AspenTimes.com

Letter: Aspen poised to add new education resource

I’ve been actively engaged in the science-center field since the early 1980s, which is also when I accepted an invitation from George Stranahan to teach local educators and youth about science through a series of weeklong summer camps at the Aspen Community School in Woody Creek. I’ve been returning to Aspen annually ever since.

The things that bring me back to Aspen each year are the well-known hallmarks of the Roaring Fork Valley — world-class music, art, outdoor recreation and intellectual stimulation, plus a strong sense of community. But in spite of all the many opportunities for experiential learning available in the valley, one thing that has been absent is a place where families — residents and visitors alike — can personally and frequently be engaged in science.

The world has finally awakened to the fact that science, technology, engineering and math (what we know as STEM) education is a critical key to human innovation, creative problem solving and future economic growth. Science centers across the globe are now becoming the local champions, conveners and community catalysts for this movement.

The Aspen Science Center has been teasing Aspen residents and visitors with science and engineering for nearly a decade. Now it is time to find a space where the science center can settle in for the long haul, guaranteeing that families in Aspen and the entire Roaring Fork Valley will have regular access to and engagement in STEM.

What are the hallmarks of a quality science center? Hands-on experiential learning; innovative exhibits and programs; open access to all ages, genders and ethnic backgrounds; and a sense of high-energy fun and excitement around learning.

Increasingly, science centers also are seen as integral elements of a vibrant community, providing a gathering place for youth and adults, offering volunteer opportunities and fostering new collaborations and public forums for authentic STEM education and application.

Science centers are, in short, the new must-have community resource, and I am delighted that Aspen is finally poised to add such a resource to its already rich repertoire of assets. Selecting the Aspen Science Center to be the next tenant of the Old Power House facility will allow the city of Aspen to ensure that STEM learning and innovation are alive and well in the Roaring Fork Valley for decades to come.

David R. Heil

Founding board member, Aspen Science Center

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