Foundation for Roanoke Valley Awards Challenge Grant to the Science Museum of Western Virginia
Roanoke, VA (May 27, 2010) – Foundation for Roanoke Valley has awarded a $13,150 challenge grant to the Science Museum of Western Virginia, allowing the Museum to take its education discovery programs on the road to bring hands-on science learning activities to low-income preschoolers throughout the Roanoke Valley.
The grant was awarded from the Foundation’s Unrestricted Funds and challenged the Museum to match funds 1:1. The Museum successfully acquired new gifts from local donors to match the full grant amount. According to Nancy McCrickard, Executive Director of the Science Museum of Western Virginia, the grant will enhance efforts to reach children early about science and its implications for daily life and future career possibilities.
“A recent UVA study* showed that 65 percent of children who make the decision to enter a science-oriented career do so before middle school,” says McCrickard. “Unfortunately, studies also show that as a nation, our children are losing interest in science as early as the third grade. So, while this decision is made early-on, fewer children are actually making that choice. Unless we concentrate efforts to engage today’s youngsters early, we will miss out on their bright ideas, ideas which could solve many current local, national, and world challenges.”
The Science Museum launched the Preschool Outreach Program in 2008 as part of its UP! (Unlocking Potential) Program and has already served more than 400 preschoolers in the Roanoke Valley through early piloted programs. With the Foundation’s grant, the Museum will be able to expand the program to provide underserved and disadvantaged preschoolers the chance to explore and develop their investigative and problem-solving skills.
“With our specially designed ‘hands-on’ programs on matter and life processes, children can explore science with their hands and minds,” says Courtney Carter Plaster, Education Manager of the Science Museum of Western Virginia. “An activity might include using magnifying lenses to examine real insects to study body parts and how they move. One of the most exciting and fun activities is mixing kitchen chemicals like vinegar and baking soda to create a gas that makes a cool bubbly mess – a lot of learning happens when kids make messes!”
The Museum expects to deliver the interactive learning program to nearly 1,000 low-income preschoolers each month, targeting children enrolled in Total Action Against Poverty (TAP) Head Start Centers, CHIP and Greenvale School. These children and their families will also receive free admission to the Science Museum for one year.
“Education is one of the Foundation’s primary grant focus areas, and science education is particularly important to being competitive in a global society,” says Alan Ronk, Executive Director of Foundation for Roanoke Valley. “We are glad we can take a proactive role in building an early interest in the sciences among local children. We are also very heartened that the community generously stepped forward in support of the Museum to meet the Foundation’s challenge.”
Foundation for Roanoke Valley, the region’s community foundation, has served the Roanoke Valley for more than 20 years and currently administers over 240 named endowment funds on behalf of the community. For more information about Foundation for Roanoke Valley, visit www.foundationforroanokevalley.org
* “Eyeballs in the Fridge: Sources of Early Interest in Science,” published in the International Journal of Science Education in March 2010. Author Robert H. Tai, associate professor of science education at UVA.’s Curry School, produced the report with Adam V. Maltese, assistant professor of science education and adjunct faculty in Indiana University’s Geological Sciences program.