New Camp Sloper science center represents Southington community collaboration

New Camp Sloper science center represents Southington community collaboration


SOUTHINGTON — What used to be a pavilion at Camp Sloper recently transformed into a 760-square-foot building for campers and students to conduct experiments and create projects.

With the help of a $20,000 donation from the Southington Education Foundation, the new Nature Center was completed this month to allow for year-round activities.

“This is going to be a huge help for us,” Camp Sloper Director Mark Pooler said.

The project cost about $55,000. Pooler said $25,000 was put toward the project from the camp’s improvement fund, $5,000 was donated from Home Depot, and $1,000 was donated from All State in Plainville. The $20,000 donation from the foundation helped with installation of heat, electricity and technology.

Pooler said it is the third time the structure has been renovated since the 1980s. Before it became a pavilion in 1999, it was a small enclosed space for activities.

The new building will be used as classroom space, especially for Science at Camp Sloper, a district-wide program for fourth-grade students. Every fall and spring, local fourth-graders take a field trip to the camp and use the natural surroundings, such as the pond, to learn about animals, bugs, erosion, wetlands and other topics. In the fall, the students focus on animal habitats. In the spring, the focus is weathering and erosion.

With the new enclosed building, Jan Galati, foundation chairwoman, said the hope is to add another session for fourth-graders in the winter. There is also talk about expanding the program to other grades.

“It came at a good time,” Galati said. “It makes us so excited about the fact that our science at Sloper program will be expanding in a variety of ways.”

For the past few years, the YMCA has been working with the foundation and the school board on creating for students a building dedicated to STEM — Science Technology, Engineering, and Math.

Last year, the education foundation proposed a 5,000-square-foot, one-floor STEM Center at Camp Sloper. The building would have had lab space with state-of- the-art technology and separate classrooms and cost $1 million.

The foundation, YMCA, and the school board continued to work together to find a better solution.

Instead of creating the STEM Center, the Nature Center was created to be used for classroom space.

“I’m so happy this project has come to fruition and that all of us were able to continue to collaborate,” said Dawn Miceli, a member of the foundation board.

The Nature Center resembles a cabin with its wooden exterior and barn-red colored roof and door. A stone facade lines the bottom of the structure. Inside, part of the pavilion beams remain exposed to remember what used to be there, Pooler said.

Wooden tables, stools, a large counter for lab experiments, a tank with turtles and fish, and other features will be added once the floor is done being painted red.

The tables and stools are wrapped in plastic in a room attached to the Nature Center that will be used to store materials.

“That was sort of the first piece of furniture that he had for that and I thought that was so indicative of what the whole facility is going to look like,” Miceli said. “It incorporated everything.”

A projector has already been installed on the ceiling along with surround sound so students can work on filming and creating movies, Pooler said.

“I am looking at purchasing digital microscopes to use in the new building and expand the pond study portion of our fall science day,” said John Duffy, the science coordinator for the district. “(Pooler) and I are also exploring some engineering activities that best fit both our curriculum and the Camp Sloper environment. We are in the beginning stages of that work.”

A few touch ups with paint still need to be finished, Pooler said, but the center should be ready for the grand opening scheduled for June 12.

“Kids need to be moving, learning … I think that’s a good way to learn, being in the outdoors,” Galati said.

“Not all communities have that resource. We’re happy to join with the YMCA as partners to launch this great adventure.” (203) 317-2212 Twitter: @FollowingFarrah

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