The project would fund the detailed planning for the construction of a regional science center to serve citizens, families and schools in Northern Virginia. Delivered through a partnership between the Science Museum of Virginia and the Children’s Science Center (www.childsci.org), a Fairfax based 501(c)3 non-profit organization, the project would advance the Science Museum’s mission to inspire Virginians to enrich their lives through science, in alignment with the Center’s mission to instill a love of learning science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The partnership leverages the Science Museum’s four decades of expertise in informal science learning and museum operations at their Richmond and Danville museums which presently serve more than 400,000 guests each year. The two organizations signed an MOU and worked together with outside experts to develop a master plan for the future science center in Northern Virginia, engaging broad community input. This request for detailed planning funds is critical in FY 2020 to enable the next phase of architecture, exhibit and construction planning and to take advantage of this time-limited land donation.
The Children’s Science Center acquired a donation of land via proffer from the Kincora development located on Route 28 in the Dulles area of Loudoun County, near the border of Fairfax County. It’s accessible via major transportation routes from several additional counties including Prince William, Arlington, and Fauquier. There are two million people living within a 20-mile radius of the site. Loudoun County is the fastest growing locality in the state, with a population of over 380,000, 29 percent of whom are children. Kincora’s 424 acre mixed use development also includes 150 acres of parkland along the Broad Run stream valley enabling the regional science center to offer unique outdoor education experiences to schools and families.
In addition to education and workforce impacts, the project has valuable economic benefits for the Commonwealth and region. An economic analysis by Dr. Steve Fuller of George Mason University estimates the regional science center will generate economic impact of $118M in the short-term and $11M annually.
Currently, the Center serves 70,000 visitors a year at its interactive Lab, a STEM museum based in Fairfax, and in outreach programs at over 70 schools, libraries and other venues across five jurisdictions. Before the Lab opened in 2015, Northern Virginia was the largest metro area in the U.S. without a children’s museum or interactive science center. However, the 5,400 sq. ft. Lab facility is too small to accommodate the demand of the large regional population. It operates at 2.5 times industry average capacity, regularly sells out of field trips and youth programs, has families waiting in line to enter on high volume days, and requires a lottery and waitlist for its off-site school programs. The Center prioritizes reaching underrepresented and economically disadvantaged children. With the significant support of businesses, private foundations, and individuals from across the region, the Center offers free field trips and Latina Sci Girls programs at the Lab and school-wide programs to nearly 40% of the region’s 107 Title I elementary schools annually. Over one third of the child population in the Northern Virginia region qualifies for free and reduced meals. Several of the Title 1 schools the Center serves today are in close proximity to the future site.
With a larger regional science center that leverages the capabilities of the Science Museum of Virginia, we can inspire hundreds of thousands more students in STEM learning, fueling future growth in the Commonwealth’s technology workforce. This budget request is critical for FY2020 in order for the Science Museum to take advantage of the tremendous and time-limited opportunity to create this much-needed flagship community resource for the Commonwealth within Northern Virginia.