The Maryland Science Center, which turned 40 this year, is celebrating the milestone anniversary by raising millions of dollars to take its brand of science education firmly into the future.
The Inner Harbor institution announced its “Revitalization For Today — Securing Our Future Capital Campaign” on Oct. 28. The $7.5 million campaign has raised almost $4.6 million since January.
“It is a very important campaign for the Science Center,” said Van Reiner, president and CEO. “We are looking to increase the size of our endowment and upgrade some exhibits that are in need of modifications.”
Reiner explained that nearly one million children have been through the exhibits since they first were installed, which has resulted in wear and tear. For example, he cited the area of the dinosaur exhibit, where children can put on goggles and dust off fossils. The exhibit has been so popular that the coloring of the fossils have been worn away to the point that they are nearly unrecognizable. Some of the funds raised by this campaign will go toward repairing such exhibits, as well as renovating others to make them more engaging and exciting.
Another initiative will expand the water play area in which kids have a chance to splash around as well as learn about engineering and physics.
“We are looking to seriously expand it, because right now, a child coming in at 1 p.m. will not be able to get close to the exhibit because it is so popular. We want to make it more accessible,” said Reiner.
Educational exhibits such as these have created a lasting impact. Susan Ehrlich, director of global business development at W.R. Grace and a member of the Science Center’s board of trustees, points to herself as an example.
“The first time I went to the Science Center was with my dad when I was 11 years old,” she said. “It had just opened, and there was a long line of people; it was packed. But I was intrigued and amazed by all of these things, and it interested me in science.”
“There were a lot of people there answering questions, including female scientists,” she added. “It planted the seed in my head that I could be a scientist as well, back when that wasn’t a common career for women. I studied chemical engineering at Johns Hopkins, and knowing my history with the Center, I was asked by the CEO of W.R. Grace to be its representative on the board.”
While revamped exhibits are always fun and exciting, however, a majority of the funds that the campaign raises will go toward support for the Center’s education initiatives, both in-house and in the community. One of the biggest draws of the Science Center is that it underwrites free admission for Maryland students who come with school trips or outreach programs.
“We ensure that public, private, parochial and homeschooled students can enter free with reservations,” explained Reiner. “This campaign will help to provide this free admission for students. With the cost of normal admission and a bus to get here, a number of students would be unable to take advantage otherwise.”
All that remains now is for the center to keep pounding the pavement, continuing to reach out to friends, organizations and the community for help with fundraising.
“One of W.R. Grace’s missions is to help science in Maryland, and the Science Center is directly related to that core mission,” Ehrlich said. “We look for companies to help contribute money, and we have been a corporate sponsor to help drive the interest in science in our community. We were one of the first companies to donate to the Capital Campaign, and we want to encourage others to contribute.”