Science Outreach Center can’t go on |

Science Outreach Center can’t go on

The Science Outreach Center, which reaches thousands of students throughout the region with hands-on science programs, will close its doors at the end of the school year due to funding constraints, said director Linda Singer Froning. The SOC brought the popular JASON, Kids Teaching Kids, and Brainteasers Summer Science Camp to 14 schools from Aspen to Rifle. “We need some significant funding and we’ve not found a way to do that,” Froning said. The SOC has traditionally received between $50,000 and $60,000 each year, and collected fees from school districts for a total budget of about $150,000 per year, Froning said. But the cost of producing quality programs has increased so much that the nonprofit would need to double its budget to continue to serve schools, she said. The SOC could cut programs or its reach or charge schools more for its programming, but that’s not the goal of the center, Froning said.The ability of communities to support nonprofit groups hasn’t kept up with nonprofit demand for funding, she said. When SOC started in the mid-1980s, there were 170 nonprofits in the Roaring Fork Valley, Froning estimated. Now there are about 400. “We’ve had to go on the same budget we’ve always had,” despite increased costs, she said.The SOC’s inability to go on dismayed local teachers. The JASON project, which allows kids to learn science through live video feeds from places such as Australia or the Louisiana bayou, has reached thousands of students, said Glenwood Springs Middle School science teacher Sue Tarbell. She said one of her former students who went through SOC programs went on to become a physicist. The SOC also has science equipment, such as lasers, it lends out that school districts can’t afford on their own, Tarbell said.”They’ve really been an amazing group,” Tarbell said. “We’re so sad.”

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