As exterior construction continues on the Four Corners School’s new campus, the Canyon Country Discovery Center, in Monticello, the interior exhibits are being developed by Michael McGlothlen, recently hired as Exhibits Director.
Joining McGlothlen at Four Corners School is Edward Browning, who serves as Exhibits Coordinator.
Browning earned a B.F.A from the University of Utah, and brings a variety of experiences as an experiential educator at an astronomy camp, art teacher at an aquatics camp, and youth backpacking leader in Southern Utah.
Browning helps design and creates exhibits using wood, metal, paint, photography, video, sound, earthen material and other readily available materials.
As a former employee of the Natural History Museum of Utah and an invited exhibited artist at other top museums including The Leonardo and the BYU Museum of Fine Arts, McGlothlen brings a unique skill set to the Four Corners School and its Canyon Country Discovery Center. He is designing exhibits to create the “little moments of discovery, those aha moments,” said McGlothlen.
“My goal in creating these learning stations exhibits, is to create a personal experience for every individual person,” McGlothlen noted. “The focus of our learning stations is to allow people to become engaged with hands-on activities, using all of their senses and becoming aware of their personal space.”
The interactive, hands-on learning stations will be inside the facility, as well as in outdoor learning pavilions, each designed with a different focus, using five content areas: Natural History and Landscapes of the Colorado Plateau, People & Place of the Colorado Plateau, Canyon Country Land Use and Energy, Astronomy, and Water and Climate of the Colorado Plateau.
Patrons at Four Corners School’s Discovery Center will be able to experience exhibits such as the Augmented Reality Landscape or the Birds of the Southwest Deserts.
The augmented reality exhibit consists of a “sandbox” combined with virtual topography and water created using a closed loop of a Kinect 3D camera, equipped with powerful simulation and visualization software, and a digital projector.
The resulting AR (augmented reality) sandbox will allow visitors to shape and create their own landscapes, which is then augmented in real time by a color elevation map, topographic lines, and simulated water.
Growing up in Golden, CO, McGlothlen found a deep respect and love for natural landscapes and the lessons nature can provide. “I look at the environments that surround us and I see math and science everywhere,” said McGlothlen.
“It is amazing to me how you can see nature dictating the sciences of the world in the objects we see in our environment. Nature tells the petals of flowers to spiral around. Nature tells a tree branch to grow and extend out.
“Years ago, I created a project for the Leonardo Museum using Winter Wheat to demonstrate the process of photosynthesis, marking a major shift in utilizing nature as the driving force behind my work.
“Nature tells a story and I want to create learning station exhibits for Four Corners School that allow our guests to listen and to discover these stories in a personal hands-on way.”
With hands-on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) initiatives growing in education nationwide, McGlothlen sees a relationship between his exhibits and these education initiatives.
“We focus on hands-on STEM in our exhibits, not only because the skills and knowledge in each discipline are essential for student success,” said McGlothlen, “but also because these fields are deeply intertwined in the real world and how students learn most effectively.”
After moving to Salt Lake City in 2000, McGlothlen quickly fell in love with southern Utah and the surrounding Colorado Plateau.
“I would often find myself escaping to the beauty and isolation of the red rocks and high deserts surrounding the Monticello area,” said McGlothlen.
“My goal is to showcase the local community and surrounding areas in the learning stations we create. We have chosen to use eco-friendly materials for our exhibits as well as purchase some building materials from local stores and vendors here in the Monticello area – thus keeping money spent on exhibits here in our community.
“I feel at home here in Monticello and I am excited to be able to share my ‘home’ with guests at the Canyon Country Discovery Center through the exhibits that we create.”
The Four Corners School’s new campus, the CCDC, is scheduled to be complete in late Fall 2015. For more information on Four Corners School of Outdoor Education, visit the website www.fourcornersschool.org.