Science Museum of Virginia announces $1M gift from Altria Group

The Science Museum of Virginia works to foster science learning throughout the Commonwealth. Despite growing numbers of visitors to Broad Street Station from Northern, Western, and Eastern Virginia, geographic distance remains a barrier for many.

science museumFor decades, the Museum’s approach to bridging that gap was to deploy museum educators throughout Virginia presenting science demonstrations to school-wide assemblies and classroom workshops. Increasingly, however, 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.

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.”

Science Museum of Virginia Foundation Board Member Brian Quigley, a senior executive with Altria, said, “the Museum’s and Altria’s community priorities came together just as we announced the new Success 360° initiative, which is the investment Altria’s tobacco companies make in leading national and local nonprofit organizations that serve middle school kids and their families. Success 360 helps organizations like the Science Museum deliver proven-effective programs, and it focuses on collaboration with other groups to better connect the services provided to students in and out of school.”

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.”

These programs are offered in Metro Richmond now but will be offered more broadly this spring.

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