Colorado Springs is conveniently located 70 miles south of Denver and home to iconic outdoor attractions like Pikes Peak and the Garden of the Gods Park, but it’s also an ideal location for your next STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) excursion. Not only can students tour the historic U.S. Air Force Academy campus and learn about the delicate ecosystem of the Rocky Mountains, they can also learn about space exploration and the physics of sport in Colorado Springs’ innovative museums. The following attractions will be essential for your next Colorado Springs student trip.
U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum
Olympic City USA’s newest addition, the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum, is set to open on May 31, 2020. People of all ages can journey through the birth of the Olympics in ancient Olympia to current Team USA athletes who dream and train every day at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center.
In this interactive museum, walk through opening ceremonies, run alongside digital versions of top athletes and see one of the most extensive Olympic medal and torch collections in the world. The $90 million project features summer and winter games galleries along with a map of the United States to see where the athletes come from. From its unique shape resembling the flowing movement of an athlete in motion to its uniquely designed pedestrian bridge (scheduled for a fall 2020 installation), athleticism radiates throughout its design. The museum campus will also offer a café and outdoor patio open to the public.
The Space Foundation Discovery Center
Launched into space in 2011, the Space Foundation Discovery Center is the region’s first and only dedicated space, science and technology center. Students become immersed in an educational environment as they interact with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to explore the mysteries of space. Highlights of the center include the Mars Robotics Laboratory where students can navigate remotely a rover across a simulated Martian surface, the AGI Space Mission Laboratory, which utilizes state-of-the-art visualization software used by space industry professionals and Science on a Sphere, a dynamic spherical projection that displays planets, stars and weather patterns across the solar system. The center offers classes and field trips that are available from early education through high school.
U.S. Air Force Academy
Upon stepping onto the U.S. Air Force Academy campus, you’ll quickly realize it’s not just a school. A destination unto itself, the U.S. Air Force Academy attracts more than a million visitors each year. With midcentury-modern architecture inspired by Air Force vessels, stained glass symbols and historical accents, it’s no wonder the 150-foot Cadet Chapel is such a draw, though it is currently closed for a multi-year renovation. The Planetarium & STEM Center offers state-of-the-art reclining seats, interconnectivity with planetariums around the world and a live feed from the largest publicly accessed telescope in Colorado. Visitors can also enjoy daily shows including Journey to the Milky Way, Fighter Pilot and Robot Explorers. As a top undergraduate research university, the academy features a robust program that focuses on science, technology, engineering and math along with arts and humanities.
Cave of the Wind Mountain Park
When your student group tours Colorado Springs, discover not only what’s above ground but also below. At the Cave of the Winds Mountain Park, take guided tours through caves that date back millions of years. Beginner cavers can take an educational Discovery Tour and the more advanced adventureers can navigate the dark, narrow tunnels, low passageways, uneven stairs and rooms with original floors on the Lantern Tour. Become a true caver and climb and crawl through undeveloped sections of the Manitou Grand Caverns with the Caving 101 experience. The park also features above-ground adventures including Magic Lantern Virtual Reality Theatre, Via Ferrata Canyon tours, ziplining, the Bat-A-Pult aerial ride and the Terror-dactyl, a ride that launches you over 150 feet into the canyon at nearly 100 miles per hour.
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
At Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, one of the top zoos in the country, there are plenty of “Edventures” available. With their class or group, students can take a Zoo Exploration Tour to feed a giraffe herd, interview a keeper or take docent-led tour and classroom safari with topics offered according to grade level. Kids of different ages can also do a zoo sleepover, meet wildlife in exciting ways with the summer camp, school break camp or the Animal 101 class that teaches students how to take care of animals.
The Pikes Peak region has two dinosaur museums. The Dinosaur Resource Center in Woodland Park features displays of dinosaurs, prehistoric marine reptiles and fish of the late Cretaceous period.
Students can also see a working fossil laboratory. Southwest of Colorado Springs is the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience. In addition to the 10,000 sq. ft. exhibition space dedicated to dinosaurs that once lived in Colorado, students can also enjoy a ropes course to come face-to-face with a T-Rex as well as the Dinosaur Wild Walk to see life-size, animatronic creatures.