The Rome-Floyd ECO River Education Center will celebrate a major milestone Wednesday for hosting 10,000 students during the calendar year.

"We're very proud of that number," said ECO Center Director Ben Winkelman. "Are we going to try to do that year-in and year-out? Realistically 8,500 is a great number."

The ECO Center is encouraging people to drop by between 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Wednesday to enjoy a hot chocolate and coffee bar to help celebrate the 10,000 student milestone.

"The educational value and the philosophical benefit of having these students engaged in an understanding of natural resources is huge," said Winkelman. The goal was to reach at least 2,500 students each year. He said the Georgia Environmental Protection Division has been very excited with the numbers that are coming through the center each year.

Mike Hackett, director of the Rome water and sewer department said the ECO Center was instrumental in allowing Rome to meet the educational requirements for being designated a Water First community.

"If we apply for a Georgia Environmental Finance Authority loan we get a one percent reduction on the interest rate," Hackett said.

"The ECO Center helps the public understand the value of maintaining clean water system and protecting the watershed."

Winkelman said the numbers are great but he is even more proud of the quality of education and field trip experience that is very tangible for the children.

The ECO Center has a regular program that is tied to Georgia Performance Standards. The center work closely with the STEM program, making sure that as a third grader grows and develops into a fifth grader they are getting grade level appropriate programming.

"The older they get the more in-depth we can get as far as conservation and ecology," Winkelman said.