Home » Children’s Science Center Plants Roots in Loudoun County
The Children’s Science Center began as just a spark of an idea in 2004 with the dream of bringing a museum focused on experiential learning to Northern Virginia. Well, with the support of a small village, and under the executive leadership of one determined, self-professed science nerd, that dream has grown into so much more – and its future home will be right here in Loudoun County.
“We have been planting the seeds for years across the region, through our mobile programs and our Lab, and now we are growing the tree in Loudoun,” says Nene Spivy, Executive Director of the Children’s Science Center.
Spivy has been involved with the project since its inception when she served as a board member of the Junior League of Northern Virginia. The organization made an unprecedented decision to support the initiative through a $250,000 grant and 5000 volunteer hours. That initial investment led Spivy to become involved with the project on a more personal level, beginning as a volunteer with the Center and ultimately leading her to assume a leadership role and become a driving force behind its development.
With a background in science as an industrial engineer, as well as an MBA from the University of Virginia, Spivy was well equipped to take this on. She also had a real passion that stemmed from childhood and wanted to share that with young people through science exploration and STEM-based learning.
“I remember how much I loved astronomy, physiology, genetics, architecture, and more. I never dreamed I’d be running a science center as a career. Yet, in many ways, it fulfills all of my childhood dreams because our organization helps children and people of all ages fall in love with all of these subjects of my early inspiration,” Spivy says.
Initially established as the Children’s Museum of Northern Virginia, it soon became clear there was a real hunger for STEMbased learning specifically, and the Center was renamed The Children’s Science Center. Providing schools, libraries, local events, and venues with on-site programs and experiential learning, the Center operated as a “Museum without Walls” serving over 24,000 annually. In 2015, the Children’s Science Center Lab opened its doors in Fair Oaks Mall, and since that time, the Lab has served over 50,000 visitors per year, with the Lab’s traveling, remote learning opportunities reaching an additional 20,000. The numbers were talking, and it became more and more evident there was a real need for STEM programming on an even larger scale: a science center that would serve all of Northern Virginia.
As the attendance grew, so did the level of support and awareness. In 2016, the Children’s Science Center joined an impressive network of experiential science museums across Virginia, which include the Science Museum of Virginia and the Danville Science Center. This beneficial partnership was shortly followed by several sizeable donations at the state and local level. The large majority of the funding came through the Commonwealth of Virginia, Loudoun County, Northwest Federal Credit Union, Kincora, and other local and regional foundations, families, and corporations. Land donated by Kincora, at the intersection of routes 28 and 7 in Loudoun County, was a critical piece of the puzzle, and plans began to come together for the design and development of the region’s first world-class, interactive science museum.
Under the working name of “Northern Virginia’s Science Center,” the new building will serve as a regional resource for science education and an integral part of the greater network of science centers in Virginia. The master plan includes a 70,000 square foot museum facility nestled into over 300 acres of parkland and nature trails, which will foster learning opportunities and field trips both in- and out-of-doors.
The Children’s Science Center currently offers a wide array of programs and events, from hands-on experimentation and interactive displays to Girl Scout programs, camps, and Family Science Nights. Even throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lab has adapted its curriculum in order to offer virtual camps and field trips. The construction of this new facility will not only expand the current offerings but bring new opportunities to promote STEM learning for all ages.
While many of the programs at the Lab are geared towards younger children, there are plenty of opportunities for those in middle and high school as well. The Children’s Science Center offers volunteer opportunities, internships and always has a need for students interested in helping facilitate STEM content. The Center also has an extremely committed group who serve on its Youth Advisory Board. The new space will bring even greater opportunities for young people to get involved in these areas.
Northern Virginia’s Science Center will become a gathering place for people from all walks of life and of every age and will bring a sense of pride to our community. It will also serve as a place where young people – some of whom may have never considered a career in the STEM fields – will be encouraged to explore science and develop a lifelong love of learning.
The Children Science Center hosts an “Inspiration Tour” every other month, where members of the community are invited to meet the rest of the amazing team behind this monumental project and learn more about plans. There are also a host of ways to get involved, from making a financial contribution to Northern Virginia’s Science Center or volunteering your time.
To learn about and register for an Inspiration Tour, please visit: www.childsci.org/get-involved/inspiration-tours or email [email protected].
To learn about volunteering opportunities with the Children’s Science Center, please visit www.childsci.org/get-involved/volunteer
If you wish to donate to the future development of “Northern Virginia’s Science Center,” please visit www.childsci.org/give
Emily Cook is a Northern Virginia freelance writer with a professional background in public relations and marketing. Her writing focuses on travel, wildlife, the environment, and the arts. She also dabbles a bit in painting, children’s lit and adult fiction.