Donation to library sparks plans

A recent donation from Webster University to the base library has revived a once-shelved project to expand the Reading Garden Pavilion, McConnell Air Force Base, Kan.

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. - The base library recently received a $4,500 donation from Webster University, one of four colleges that offer classes here at the Robert J. Dole Community Center. The donation was provided with the intent of expanding the library and base education's science, technology, engineering and mathematics education program.

"We have seen more schools struggling in their engineering, math and science based programs," said Jacquie Crutchley, 22nd Force Support Squadron force development flight chief. "With the STEM focus it helps us drive students to be reenergized into those fields." 

The Obama Administration has been pushing STEM education to strengthen the nation's competitiveness in technology development. 

Some personnel in the education center add an "A" for aviation, making the program ASTEM. 

"One of the things we are interesting in doing," said Crutchley, "is developing the new reading area outside the library so we can actually bring our own programming to that general area."

A project to make additions to the library's Reading Garden Pavilion was put on hold until the donation helped to revive it.

"When I heard about the opening of the gazebo, I thought 'what could we do to make this educational?'" said Adrianne Churchill, Webster University community relations coordinator. "It's only limited to the creativity of the library. Having spoken with a lot of those people, I'm going to tell you it's infinite." 

Plans are underway to provide seating for an outdoor classroom and an assortment of vegetation to help create an atmosphere suited for recreation and outdoor environmental studies.

Library and education center staff are aiming to have the project supplement STEM education. The outdoor area can be used to research astronomy, agriculture, wind patterns and more, said Churchill.

"This is something that the library is going to plan," said Churchill. "We don't need to designate what the money is for. There's a lot of potential here for a myriad of projects." 

Webster has made previous donations to the library including sponsoring National Library Week.

"Because of donations and sponsorships like this," said Crutchley, "it allows us to continue to make our programs free."

Webster University is a non-profit institution and will begin its 37th year at McConnell AFB in August and is looking forward to many more, said Churchill.

"A university saying is 'be a part of what's next,'" said Churchill. "For me, it's starting this outdoor classroom with the help of Webster. We're all dreaming big. To me this is just the first step."