Science Museum scores $1 million for STEM education programs

Altria Group helps the Science Museum of Virginia expand its STEM education efforts beyond Broad Street Station.

STEM. That stands for science, technology, engineering, and math, and it represents a field that, according to the STEM Education Coalition, plays a critical role “…in enabling the U.S. to remain the economic and technological leader of the global marketplace of the 21st century.”

As you can imagine, the folks at the Science Museum of Virginia are pretty amped about the world of STEM–particularly when it comes to showing kids all it has to offer through authentic, hands-on experiences. But while the museum here in Richmond welcomed over 178,000 visitors in 2012, its location can still be a barrier for some families living in other parts of the state. Although SMV works to bridge that gap by sending museum educators out to various parts of Virginia to lead assemblies and classroom workshops, “…travel and growing constraints of school time and resources limited the ability to impact Virginia’s 1.2 million public school students in a meaningful way,” according to a press release.

Well, a recent gift from the Altria Group will hopefully change that. A $1 million gift, to be more specific.

From the press release:

“A recent leadership gift of $1 million from the Altria Group will enable the museum to advance its statewide outreach strategy to engage middle-grades students in hands-on STEM learning after school.

‘Altria has been generous with both its philanthropic dollars and its intellectual capital,’ explains Museum Director/Chief Wonder Officer Richard Conti. ‘As leaders in supporting urban education in our community, our colleagues there helped us define our niche and deepen our impact. After years of supporting the Museum’s programs for youth in Central Virginia, Altria is helping us both to continue building our effectiveness with local students, and create infrastructure and partnerships to reach out beyond the metro area over the next five years.’


The program sets out to foster participants’ interest in STEM and learning, to increase awareness and perhaps set in motion academic pathways toward a STEM career. The out-of-school-time (OST) STEM project team, led by Charles English, works closely with a broad range of partners in Richmond, Petersburg, and Hopewell including the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond, 4-H, Communities in the Schools and Higher Achievement.

‘We share a commitment to empowering kids,” English explains, “particularly kids who have the least opportunity and the greatest need for experiences that give them something to build on for their future. We found in settings like the Boys & Girls Clubs and Middle School Renaissance a desire for high quality learning experiences but a need for a model that lets kids drive the learning through activities that don’t look or feel like more school. Project based learning lets kids use STEM tools and technology to solve real world problems and challenges.’

Todd McFarlane, CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond, has seen the partnership develop over the past few years. ‘Who would have thought kids would be clamoring to do science after school? The Museum has worked closely with us to develop the right mix of fun and learning. We now have kids competing for spots in this program and are looking at OST STEM as a model for how to integrate learning into the menu of offerings in our clubs.’

Read the entire press release here–and stay tuned for more on these STEM programs as the Science Museum starts to roll them out this spring.

Photo by: norfolkdistrict

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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

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