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Freeholder director unveils new environmental STEM Center

With an initiative led by Burlington County Freeholder Director Kate Gibbs, the county recently unveiled a new, interactive Environmental STEM Center, developed in collaboration with staff at Palmyra Cove, Rowan College at Burlington County, Burlington County Special Services School District and the Burlington County Institute of Technology.

According to a press release from the Burlington County Board of Chosen Freeholders, the world’s oceans and diverse marine life, outer space exploration, a real-time view of Earth and much more will be a “virtual” reality for students and the community at Palmyra Cove.

“Earlier this year, I challenged our county schools to find new ways on how they can work together, share services, and enhance their educational offerings in order to better serve their students and the Burlington County community,” Gibbs said. “I am pleased now to reveal the result of that work – our beautiful new Environmental STEM Center. The modernized center will allow us to engage students in ways never before possible, while becoming an even better resource for our residents.”

The new space provides virtual reality goggles to transport users into a diverse range of experiences, including a “Magic Planet” exhibit, which is a digital projection that presents the globe’s countries and continents, mountains, oceans, and weather in a format without the need for special glasses.

In addition, the center has a hands-on “TopoBox,” a mechanical sandbox designed to educate students and the public about topography, geography, watersheds and natural sciences. These displays and more will support and bolster the existing science, technology, engineering and mathematics programming at county schools, according to the press release.

“Students see this new center as fun, but there’s so much more; direct access to data from NASA and NOAA (the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration), the ability to compare their own observations to that taken from spacecraft hovering above Earth,” said John Moore, executive director of Palmyra Cove/Institute for Earth Observations.  “And teachers appreciate authentic STEM education that addresses National Science Standards.”

Not only has Palmyra Cove made the space available to teachers and students at all county schools, they hope to use it for field trips and other educational programming as well, according to the press release.

The Environmental STEM Center is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, excluding major holidays. The adjacent 250-acre nature park and outdoor classroom along the Delaware River is open from dawn to dusk daily; no dogs are permitted. The center and park are both free to enter. For more information, call 856-829-1900.

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