Math center on the move

A bright idea is blooming at The John McConnell Math & Science Center of Western Colorado.

The hands-on facility located at District 51’s New Emerson School, 2660 Unaweep Ave., is announcing plans today to build a new facility on vacant space near Dinosaur Journey in Fruita.

Having side-by-side facilities can better attract children and student tours with a broader educational offering, said Teresa Coons, executive director of the Math & Science Center.

“I think what really tipped the balance of moving to Fruita is that location is so great in terms of visibility,” Coons said. “We have the ability to increase visits. It has all the amenities to draw people to the area and keep them around.”

The scope and design of the building has not yet been determined, Coons said. Also fundraising for a facility has not begun, though the nonprofit organization plans to go after grant funding. Coons said the center is not asking for public money for operations.

Having a new facility will allow the center to expand and offer more STEM programming. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. There is a national movement focused on educating students in these areas as the U.S. is losing its competitive edge among other countries.

A partnership with Dinosaur Journey could include hosting student groups.

Currently, student groups want to visit Dinosaur Journey and the Math & Science Center, but the facilities are located on opposite ends of the Grand Valley.

“That means they have to put the kids on the bus twice,” Coons said.

A Math & Science Center facility still is about two to three years down the road, she said. The agency will work with students from Western Colorado Community College and the University of Colorado at Denver to plan an energy-efficient and technologically advanced campus. The work on planning, design and bidding out the project will be donated through the work of students and professors.

“My dream is to have an IMAX,” Coons said, referring to the motion picture film format in which images are displayed on screens in much larger size and resolution than conventional film systems.

Fruita leaders welcome the addition of the center, Fruita City Manager Clint Kinney said.

“In our mind, having a STEM campus just has more people coming this way,” he said.

Dinosaur Journey attracts an estimated 40,000 visitors a year. Fruita leases the building to Dinosaur Journey “at a very reasonable rate,” Kinney said. Fruita’s Colorado Welcome Center is the most visited Welcome Center in the state. Also, another nearby attraction, Grand Valley Zoological Quest, opened up a Children’s Nature Center almost directly across the roadway from Dinosaur Journey at 404 Jurassic Ave.

“I’m really excited about the location,” Coons said. “I think it’s going to be a huge draw. We won’t have to build a cafe because there are lots of restaurants and amenities around. People could make a day out of it.”

To learn more about the project, attend a news conference today at 10 a.m. in the parking lot of Dinosaur Journey, 550 Jurassic Court in Fruita.


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