Education Green

Mill River Park Collaborative Set to Open Discovery Center

Whittingham Discovery Center

Stamford, CT – Mill River Park Collaborative, in conjunction with the City of Stamford, is set to open its brand-new Whittingham Discovery Center to the public in June. The center broke ground over two years ago.

The center will be a state-of-the-art visitor and environmental education center that teaches visitors, campers, and school groups about the park’s history and individual connection to nature. Under the guidance of Michael Stake, Mill River Park Collaborative’s director of capital planning, Montagno Construction of Waterbury, Conn. brought the Whittingham Discovery Center to life based off the designs from Centerbrook Architects and Planners.

On May 5, Michael Stake (in grey suit) delivered opening remarks on the Whittingham Discovery Center before giving a tour. Attendees of the tour included (l-r) Robyn Whittingham; Nette Compton, CEO of Mill River Park Collaborative; Catalina Whittingham; Adam Whittingham; Jay Sandak; Mary Sommers; Kristia Janowski, director of education and sustainability for Mill River Park Collaborative; Juanita James; Brian Heindl, director of public affairs & government relations for Henkel; Alex and Patti Velaj; and Arthur Selkowitz, chairman of the Mill River Park Collaborative Board.

The goal for the center is to achieve at least LEED Silver certification by using biophilic design principles, which emphasize the importance of connecting people to the natural world around them. There are expansive double-height windows on the north side of the building. Standing on the green roof and deck, visitors can see the full panoramic view of Mill River Park. Solar panels cover the roof, providing 85% of the building’s energy.

The inside of the center brings in the natural elements of the park, such as wood, water, and biomorphic designs. Millwork throughout the center ties in the Mill River Park to the urban environment of downtown Stamford.  The north-facing wall opens to view the sweeping vista of Mill River Park through the glazing.

In the middle of the center, there is an interactive exhibition space that highlights how nature and ecosystem functions make the city more resilient. This space will supplement the teachings in the environmental science labs on the history of the Mill River, the local environment, and other STEAM topics. The labs are used to expand the Mill River Park Collaborative’s fourth grade program into other grade levels in Stamford, with a curriculum that is based on best practices for supporting STEAM and environmental science.

The Whittingham Discovery Center is part of an extensive effort by the City of Stamford and Mill River Park Collaborative to create an ambitious master plan connecting the heart of Stamford to the Long Island Sound. This work goes beyond physical improvements to extend into programming and environmental education.