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Douglas Space and Science Center reps eye expansion, increased outreach to kids

By Tim Vandenack standard-Examiner - | Jun 28, 2021
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Annika Jensen, executive director of the Douglas Space and Science Foundation, helps at a training session Tuesday, June 22, 2021, ahead of the launch of summer programming. The foundation, a nonprofit now operating out of DaVinci Academy in Ogden, offers programming to grade school-aged kids and is looking to expand.

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Kaden Walters and other Douglas Space and Science Foundation team leaders participate in a training session Tuesday, June 22, 2021, ahead of the launch of summer programming. The foundation, a nonprofit now operating out of DaVinci Academy in Ogden, offers programming to grade school-aged kids and is looking to expand.

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Isaac Miller and other Douglas Space and Science Foundation team leaders participate in a training session Tuesday, June 22, 2021, ahead of the launch of summer programming. The foundation, a nonprofit now operating out of DaVinci Academy in Ogden, offers programming to grade school-aged kids and is looking to expand.

OGDEN — In 1990, collaborating with the Ogden School District, Ed Douglas helped launch a program meant to foster interest and understanding in science among kids.

That longevity, he said, “tells me there’s a need.”

Things have morphed, though, and what was once Astro Camp has become the Douglas Space and Science Center. It had operated out of Odyssey Elementary in Ogden, but since last year, after becoming an independent nonprofit entity and moving on from its affiliation with Ogden schools, it doesn’t have a permanent home. For now, it’s affiliated with DaVinci Academy, offering summer programs out of the Ogden charter school that started last Thursday.

But Douglas and others have grand ambitions, hoping to build a brand new facility to house the educational organization, complete with a museum. “We want to build a full science center,” said Annika Jensen, executive director of the space and science center.

As is, there aren’t any educational organizations north of Salt Lake City that offer space and science programming to kids in grade school and she and other boosters aim to change that. They’re hoping to broaden access to kids across Northern Utah, including Ogden, with a vision of visiting schools to provide programming and inviting classes to visit the facility, when built, for field trips.

“Our vision is pretty big. We want to be affordable and accessible to all,” Jensen said.

Notably, she also hopes the facility can serve the increasing aerospace sector in Northern Utah, helping foster homegrown talent so the businesses don’t have to recruit employees from outside Utah. “We want to be part of that pipeline to grow our own scientists and engineers,” she said.

TIM VANDENACK, Standard-Examiner

Finn Barfield and other Douglas Space and Science Foundation team leaders participate in a training session Tuesday, June 22, 2021, ahead of the launch of summer programming. The foundation, a nonprofit now operating out of DaVinci Academy in Ogden, offers programming to grade school-aged kids and is looking to expand.

Amanda Derrick, a member of the Douglas Space and Science Center Board, says the programs also provide more general guidance to kids, on problem solving, collaborating and working in teams. A big focus of the programming is putting kids in scenarios that simulate space missions.

What’s more, the space center programming aims to make subjects that can be intimidating to kids, like math, more graspable. “They’re applied to really interesting, real-world scenarios,” said Derrick, who took part in Astro Camp activities as a kid, like Jensen.

Representatives from the group have been seeking out funding, with some donors already lined up. At the same time, they’re searching for a location, somewhere between Layton and North Ogden.

They’re eyeing a spot in West Haven and talked with leaders from the city earlier this month about moving there. West Haven City Manager Matt Jensen said the Douglas Space and Science Center notion is “interesting,” particularly in light of the city’s relative proximity to Hill Air Force Base and a solar-system-themed trail in the city. Consideration of the possibility, he said, “is all very preliminary.”

In the meantime, Jensen and the rest of the Douglas Space and Science Center team are offering the summer programming at DaVinci Academy. They also tout virtual class offerings and in-person classroom visits to schools.

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