Mission, Vision, History & Values
To awaken a sense of wonder and inspire environmental stewardship and sustainability through natural science education.
We envision an Eagle Valley where everyone understands the science of nature and is inspired to take action as an environmental steward.
Walking Mountains Science Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and was founded in 1998 (under the name Gore Range Natural Science School) after our founder, Kim Langmaid, recognized a need for region-wide environmental science education in the Eagle Valley that involves students K-12 in the natural world. Kim also saw the need for natural science programming for families and adults. She recognized that the same benefits we would provide for students: developing an interest in science, reconnecting them to the outdoors and building a stewardship ethic, were just as applicable to all ages.
In 2013, we folded in with another local nonprofit called The Eagle Valley Alliance of Sustainability to further expand our programming. Today our sustainability department offers multiple programs that help businesses, residents and governments reduce their energy use, become certified sustainable businesses and help local events reduce their impact via zero waste diversion. Most recently, we’ve been tasked with helping facilitate and create a Climate Action Plan for Eagle County, resulting in the establishment of the Climate Action Collaborative and helping to guide the Town of Vail to become the first certified sustainable travel destination in the United States.
Today, we are an educational resource for our region, offering year-round programming at our four locations; the Tang Campus in Avon, the Nature Discovery Center atop Vail Mountain, the Vail Nature Center near the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, and our Sweetwater property in western Eagle County. Our programs are aligned with state and national curriculum standards and annually serve more than 4,000 students in 23 public and private schools located throughout the Eagle Valley. The public school population that we serve looks a great deal like many inner cities, with 52% Hispanic, 42% eligible for free and reduced lunch, and 35% classified as English Language Learners. Our programs are a necessary experience for disadvantaged students that might not otherwise have the opportunity to engage in hands-on science learning in the outdoors. With our LEED Platinum Science Center in Avon completed in 2011, school children now come to the Science Center for programs, learning in state of the art classrooms and using the greater outdoors as the primary classroom.
In addition, we serve 61,000+ residents and visitors in the Eagle Valley (Vail Valley) through engaging adult and family programs in natural science and sustainability offered in partnership with the US Forest Service, Vail Resorts, Vail Recreation District, Town of Vail, Eagle County, and others. Our total annual reach for all program areas exceeds 200,000+ individuals.
Stewardship—We seek to understand, honor, and live in harmony with the ecological processes by which nature sustains all life, shifting our perceptions from parts to wholes and from objects to relationships. We serve as responsible role models of sustainability and stewardship in our community. Our programs are designed to foster stewardship behaviors in participants while enhancing human-nature relationships and increasing socio-ecological resilience.
Community—We seek to engage all people living in our community. We collaborate respectfully with all stakeholders, first listening and seeking to understand their needs, and then engaging in dialogue to find common ground and create constructive solutions. Our programs are designed to create enriching interactions and positive experiences for community members. We believe we are all connected to each other, our environment, and the greater web of life.
Innovation—We believe innovation and creativity are essential to envisioning and creating a sustainable future. We are passionate about developing solutions and striving towards best practices in all of our programs. We pride ourselves in valuing individual and collective innovation within our organization and also though our partnerships with stakeholders. We are leaders and social entrepreneurs in the fields of environmental science education and sustainability. We actively incubate and empower an innovative organizational culture.
Learning—The world is continually changing and therefore we strive to acquire and promote new knowledge, experiences and understanding. We value scientific inquiry and critical thinking and we strive to awaken a sense of wonder and curiosity in all learners. We design and facilitate learning experiences that are place-based and that draw upon the unique ecological and social attributes of our community while encouraging broader systems thinking to help solve local and global challenges. We evaluate the outcomes of our programs and projects so that we can deliberately adapt and improve.
Leadership—We lead our community in efforts that enhance environmental knowledge, stewardship and sustainability. We are proactive and we understand that true leadership is transformative and sometimes unpopular. Our leadership is thoughtful, patient, and constructive. We lead to change hearts and minds in ways people will understand and embrace. We follow and support the leadership of others with common goals.
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