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Science World branches out to Abbotsford

Bakerview EcoDairy president Bill Vanderkooi holds the plans for a new interactive sounds and smells exhibit, which will replace existing information boards such as this one about the milk production process. - ALINA KONEVSKI / ABBOTSFORD NEWS
Bakerview EcoDairy president Bill Vanderkooi holds the plans for a new interactive sounds and smells exhibit, which will replace existing information boards such as this one about the milk production process.
— image credit: ALINA KONEVSKI / ABBOTSFORD NEWS

In a bold move to expand beyond Vancouver's borders, Science World B.C. has partnered with Abbotsford's Bakerview EcoDairy to bring the local agricultural learning centre to the next level.

Once the transformation is complete, the static information boards inside the EcoDairy on Sumas Way will become interactive activities to teach schoolchildren - and curious adults - about dairy and other types of farming.

On the outside, the main change will be a new Science World logo beside EcoDairy's name.

On the inside, the 4,500 square-foot presentation centre will be fully transformed into hands-on exhibits.

"There will be interactive games, where there's electronic and very tactile things. Especially for kids, it will be stimulating and fun and exciting," said Bill Vanderkooi, president of Bakerview EcoDairy, the first demonstration farm of its kind in Canada.

The current display board explaining a dairy cow's anatomy will transform into a full-sized plastic cow with the organs visible and touchable. A board explaining the milking process will become a demonstration milking machine. Another board about the cow's digestive system will become an activity where visitors guide small balls through a model of a digestive tract.

One exhibit that has worked well in Vancouver will be reinvented with an ag flavour at the EcoDairy: a big scale will allow visitors to figure out how many human bodies equate to one cow, or one chicken, in weight.

Using digital technology, the EcoDairy will be able to update certain exhibits easily and offer something new to returning visitors.

"That's the beautiful thing about this, is that it gives us the opportunity to be very flexible and constantly change the content," said Vanderkooi, a farmer himself.

Since opening in 2010, the EcoDairy already receives about 6,000 visitors annually, most of them kids with school groups or families. Vanderkooi expects visits to more than double once the Science World upgrades are completed sometime around June 2014.

Science World is providing design expertise in kind, while the EcoDairy's sponsors will cover the approximate $125,000 in costs.

"For us, it was a great opportunity because we feel we have a really great foundation. We have a nice facility, great location, and they (Science World) can really take what we've got and enhance it with interactivity and games. They're the best in the world at what they do," said Vanderkooi.

Funding for upgrades will be provided by the Abbotsford Community Foundation ($50,000), Vedder Transport ($40,000), Nutriva Group ($20,000), and WestGen ($15,000).

"We are very enthused to be working with the EcoDairy," said Science World's president and CEO Bryan Tisdall in a release. "Our priority is on exciting British Columbians about the importance of science and technology in our daily lives and the prosperity of our communities, and the EcoDairy is a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate the importance of agriculture to our future."

Vanderkooi believes the project will become a landmark destination in Abbotsford, reinforcing its "city in the country" aspect.

Already known for its food production expertise, the Fraser Valley is stepping onto the agricultural training arena ever more forcefully. EcoDairy's effort to educate the youngest generation about agriculture comes at the same time as a major initiative by the University of the Fraser Valley to open a B.C. School of Agriculture at the Chilliwack campus. The multi-million dollar project currently under construction will pinpoint the Fraser Valley as an agricultural research hub in Canada.

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