by Laddie Elwell, Director
Headwaters Science Center had planned to start on the detailed design of a much-needed new facility this year and was included in the bonding bill that Minnesota’s House of Representatives and Senate passed and sent to Governor Pawlenty for his signature. Though he had been informed about the 23-county-plus regional area served by HSC, the Governor saw it as a “local project,” and explained his line-item veto of the Center in his letter to the legislature by saying that “The bill contains too many appropriations for local projects, which are funded while some statewide priority needs are disregarded.”
There may be an opportunity to approach the State for partial funding for design in 2011, according to area legislators.
In addition to serving the general public, HSC serves schools and other groups in northern Minnesota and is a regional tourist attraction. It also works with other regional nonprofit organizations in helping them to serve their clients. In 2009 the Center served almost 30,000 visitors, many of whom traveled over 150 miles to Bemidji.
Future plans for the Science Center include increased collaboration with Bemidji State University, Bemidji Technical College, regional tribal colleges, and a number of local and regional nonprofit organizations including the Early Childhood Initiative and other social and environmental groups. The new Center will have an astronomy facility that will be available for use by other educational institutions, and intends to provide research opportunities for college students and school students at the middle and high school level with particular emphasis on water resources, biology, child development, and education.
Recent studies show that the United States has fallen from its foremost position as a leader in scientific fields and now ranks we behind many nations in turning out college graduates in science based fields. Research indicates that a majority of K-12 students have mediocre introductions to the processes and fields of science. Early and pleasurable exposure to science is important in encouraging youth to enter such fields. Many adults do not see the science that surrounds them in their everyday lives, nor do they understand the importance of knowing some basic biological and physical facts in the maintenance of personal health.
Headwaters Science Center provides a number of programs for persons of all ages as well as workshops for teachers. Present space limitations prevent HSC from reaching its potential, though new exhibits and programs are in the planning stages. The new building will be built on land provided by the City of Bemidji along the Mississippi River between Lakes Irving and Bemidji.