The Blue Hills Observatory has been stretched thin trying to accommodate the tens of thousands of children who visit the center each year. With a new ‘green’ building built to their needs, saying no to groups will be a rarity, staff members say.
For many South Shore students, a visit to Blue Hills is a field trip staple. But handling the busloads coming in each week has been difficult for Blue Hills Observatory and Science Center program director Don McCasland and staff. McCasland says the center often has to turn down groups.
“We have done literally hundreds of educational school programs bringing in tens of thousands of children,” McCasland said.
The idea of a new building has been floated for years, McCasland said, but now, with the extension of Blue Hills’ lease, it may finally turn into reality.
Because the current building is a National Historic Landmark, expanding it would be difficult and expensive. Instead, the organization hopes to build an environmentally friendly facility for $10 million.
The current building has one room that serves as a gift shop, auditorium and classroom and can comfortably handle only 250 students a week.
McCasland said he hopes to consistently have a thousand students a week building kites, hearing lectures and viewing exhibits in the new building.
“We have tons of people wanting to come and wanting to learn about the environment and learn about meteorology, and more and more often we’re having to say, ‘Sorry,’” McCasland said.
The new facility would be roughly the same size as the current building, but it would be able to handle larger groups.
Solar panels, composting toilets and a “green roof” made up of plants would help reduce the energy used by the building, incorporating the geology of Blue Hills into its construction.
“The biggest benefit is it all gets back to our mission to teach about science and ecology,” McCasland said.
“The building itself will be an educational experience.”
The group is asking for donations and applying for grants in hope of breaking ground in two to four years.
Reach Allison Manning at email@example.com.