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 Science Center 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 Center. They raised over $250,000 in funds and contributed thousands of volunteer hours to support the Center’s development.
Community feedback identified a need to build greater interest and aptitude in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects among regional students, who will become our future workforce. Success in STEM subjects is the building block for future accomplishments, so the Center turned its focus to STEM learning and changed its name to the Children’s Science Center in 2008.
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 programs and fundraising grew by 600% in just four years, while the Center’s museum without walls programs served 60,000 visitors in the same time frame. 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. On June 20, 2015, the Children’s Science Center Lab opened in a prominent retail spot at Fair Oaks Mall. Growing demand and limited capacity at the “Lab” continue to drive the need for a larger museum to better serve the region. 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.
Thanks to countless volunteers, dedicated leadership and generous donors, the Children’s Science Center is filling a gap in the Northern Virginia area and ensuring that all children, families, and educators have a place to explore, create and be inspired through hands-on learning in STEM.