In addition to that successful experience, I have just returned from the American southwest with an ecology class. We spent two weeks exploring some of the best and most unique areas of the United States (we shared many of these experiences with Germans, Swiss, French, Italian and Japanese.....but oddly enough, very few Americans......but that's another story). We logged 2,500 miles exploring places like Zion National Park (walking the Virgin River), Bryce Canyon National Park (who can forget the hoodoos....or the heat), Coral Pink Sand Dunes (the milky way.....the scorpions!!), Grand Canyon (big hole in the ground!!), Cocconino National Forest (need I say more!!), Sunset Crater/Wupatki Ruins (a pleasant unplanned stop), Meteor Crater (we've seen it), Canyon de Chelly (a shopping excursion at every stop!!!), Petrified Forest/Painted Desert (the sunrise...the pictures look better than the experience), Mount Lemon (Marshall Gulch Trail....wonderful surprise), Saguaro National Monument (THE SUNSET....TOLD YOU SO!!!), Saguaro Desert Museum (Best outdoor museum in the country), Kingman (don't ask....), and Las Vegas (Wayne Newton, Englebert Humperdink). I want to thank the class for sharing this experience with me and making it one of the most pleasurable trips that I have ever taken with a class. More importantly, it will keep me out of therapy for another year!!! (Next trip......ALASKA!!) (For those who think I wasnÕt paying attention to the geology...fumarole, xenolith, exfoliation, cross bedding, slip fault, lava dome, Aa, pahoehoe.....ha!)
Enough of the past, let's look to the future, this year in particular. Due to the responses from the needs survey we conducted last fall, we have made some changes for this year. We have expanded our K-12 program to five days a week to accommodate more school groups. We have piloted and refined our traveling demonstration program to make available science equipment not readily available in most schools. Through a grant from the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education, we are going to be able to bring a classroom set of portable computers to the schools, instead of the schools coming to us. We have expanded our Natural Resources/Environmental Education Program at the Savannah River Site. We have also added three new people to our staff: Ms. Tammy Mims, Program Specialist, Ms. Janet Watkins, Science Specialist, and Ms. Marlene Tilleman, Administrative Specialist. Let me take this opportunity to publicly welcome them to our family and invite you to get to know them when you visit the Center.
Finally, we hope to add one additional staff member in October, a planetarium director. This person will be in charge of getting the planetarium ready for public viewing by the beginning of the next school year. That means that next year you should be able to bring your students to the Center for planetarium shows as well as our other programs.
Like I said earlier, this should be our best year yet and we are already looking to the future. In our next newsletter I hope to be able to give you an update on our expansion plans. As always, if you have any ideas on how we can improve our service to you, please give us a call or stop by the Center and talk to us personally. I look forward to hearing from you. Have a happy and productive school year.