Motivated by the lack of a children’s museum or science center to serve the half million children in Northern Virginia, a group of community leaders founded the Children’s Museum of Northern Virginia as a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization over a decade ago. Northern Virginia was the largest metropolitan region in the state, and nation, without a museum designed for and dedicated to children, but not for long.
The women’s volunteer organization, Junior League of Northern Virginia, chose the museum as their signature project in 2006. The organization’s contributions were essential to the early success of the museum. They raised over $250,000 in funds and contributed thousands of volunteer hours to support its development.
Community feedback identified a need to build greater interest and aptitude in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects among regional students, to fuel our future workforce. The demand to meet this need was so strong that in 2008 the museum turned its focus to STEM learning and changed its name to the Children’s Science Center.
In 2010, experienced non-profit leaders and fundraisers joined the Board of Directors and helped the Center make significant strides towards its goals. The museum’s education programs and fundraising grew by 600% in just four years. The Center operated as a Museum without Walls traveling to schools, libraries and science festivals across the region. The Center strived to serve every child, including the most vulnerable by writing grants to enable serving Title 1 elementary schools at no charge. The Center’s Museum Without Walls was in high demand with programs like Family Science Night requiring a lottery and waitlist year over year. In order to support its growing programs, the Center established its own office and began building its team of support staff and educational personnel in late 2013.
Following an extensive site search, the Center secured two museum locations in 2014 in the Northern Virginia area: in Fairfax and in Dulles. The Fairfax location provided an immediate opportunity to open Northern Virginia’s first interactive museum. The Dulles location on Route 28 is land that was donated by the Kincora development, where there is sufficient space to construct a full-scale science center, with the amenities of a mixed-use development and a large nature preserve. Here the vision of a world-class children’s science museum will be fully realized.
In 2015 the Children’s Science Center Lab opened Northern Virginia’s first interactive children’s science museum in a prominent retail spot at Fair Oaks Mall and the organization grew to include over 30 employees. Today, with the help of over 600 volunteers, the Children’s Science Center serves over 70,000 visitors a year at the Lab and through community programs across the region. Nearly 10,000 of those served are at-risk populations. Growing demand and limited capacity at the Lab continue to drive the need for a larger museum to better serve the region.
In 2016, we began working with the Science Museum of Virginia to explore a partnership to develop a regional science center on donated land at Kincora. Our goal was to develop a public-private partnership to bring expertise as well as local and state resources to enable significant growth and long-term sustainability. The partnership enables the future science center to be part of a state-wide network of science centers, serving as the northern division of the Science Museum of Virginia and sharing resources across the network. This partnership leverages the Children’s Science Center’s local knowledge and resources, with the Museum’s four decades of experience in providing informal STEM learning experiences at two existing museums in Richmond and Danville Virginia to over 450,000 visitors annually.
In February 2019, the state’s General Assembly and the Loudoun County Board Supervisors committed to supporting this public-private partnership that will ultimately provide two-thirds of the funds needed for the over $70M project to build a regional science center at Kincora. The remaining funds will be raised via a campaign that engages private supporters including families, foundations and corporations.
Thanks to countless volunteers, dedicated leadership, committed partners, and generous donors, the Children’s Science Center is ensuring that all of our region’s children, families, and educators have a place to explore, create and be inspired through hands-on learning in STEM.
Learn more about our mission-driven community programs.
Learn more about our vision for the future science center.
Learn more about the Science Museum of Virginia.
Join an upcoming Inspiration Tour to learn more about our work today, our vision for the future, and how you can help!