Visitors wandered through the new facility, which is set on a 40-acre campus. The main feature is a large rotunda that will be filled with hands-on, interactive exhibits.
Many of the exhibits are still under construction, but several were in place. They featured stations where visitors could learn about aerodynamic properties in a wind tunnel, test their knowledge of animal sounds, explore an interactive topographical map, design their own rug in a loom, or investigate the remarkable properties of a fluid magnet.
Fifteen-year-old Aspen English of Monticello summed it up when she told her parents, “That was way cooler than I thought it would be! You should take us there again!”
The facility will be open at no charge every Thursday and Friday through February. Organizers seek kids to come to the Center on these days to test the exhibits.
While the rotunda will be the main area for exhibits, the exhibits will stretch throughout the facility and over the 40-acre campus.
In addition to the rotunda, the facility features a climbing wall, a gift shop, a classroom loaded with lab equipment, a reading nook, and a large community with catering kitchen that can be used for a variety of purposes.
“Between the Discovery Center facilities and the Hideout Community Center, Monticello can now host a wide range of meeting and conferences,” said Ross.
The community center was the location of a more formal event which featured a few speeches and food catered by Peace Tree.
The building also houses workshops, storage areas and offices for the estimated two-dozen fulltime employees that will soon be on-board.
In front of the facility is a parking lot, including a bus stop with bathrooms, and several pavilions.
An additional phase of construction, to be completed in coming months, will include a large outdoor “nature playscape” near the parking lot, warehouses and storage facilities, and an observatory for the Center’s night-sky programs.
All construction is expected to be complete before the Grand Opening celebrations, which are tentatively scheduled for the late summer of 2016.
The Canyon Country Discovery Center building was designed by MHTN Architects. Hogan Construction was the main contractor, with a number of local companies serving as sub-contractors.
The multi-million dollar project is the new campus for the Four Corners School of Outdoor Education and will house exhibits and program designed to educate visitors, students and residents about the Colorado Plateau.
Initially conceived as an economic development project by the City of Monticello, the center is designed to provide an additional reason to stop for the estimated two million visitors who pass through Monticello each year.
“This project is 14 years in the making,” said Four Corners School Director Janet Ross, who has overseen operations at the school since its inception in the late 1970s.
The Four Corners School offers four main programs, including the Discovery Center.
Additional programs include the Canyon Country Youth Corps, which employs 70 local youth each year in fence-building and tree-thinning projects on local public lands.
The Plateau program is a teacher-development program for K-8 teachers in the Four Corners states. Hundreds of teachers have received training over the years on integrating outdoor education into their science curriculum.
Southwest Ed-ventures is the fourth program, offering education-based tours in renowned sites throughout the area.