Discovery Center on the road with new outreach van

Staff Report

Discovery Center Museum Executive Director Sarah Wolf recently announced that the “Discovery Center Museum has been awarded a grant of $5,000 by the Community Needs Fund of the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois.”

According to Wolf, the grant is being used to purchase a new van to use for outreach programming.

The demand for our outreach programs has increased significantly, and we’ve gone from serving 14,000 people in 2001 to an average of 38,000 people each of the last three years,” Wolf said. “The organizations we serve, primarily schools, libraries, daycare facilities and camps, have a need for the high-quality, cost-effective educational programs we provide, and our old van was becoming increasingly unreliable.”

In recent years, the media have reported how American school children are falling behind those in many other countries in the subject areas of science and math. This has led to an emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education at the national level. Improving and reinforcing STEM education is one of the reasons Discovery Center was established 30 years ago. The need for fun, hands-on science education, especially through outreach programs, continues even more so today.

Discovery Center offers an array of outreach programs about a variety of topics. Some programs are designed for specific ages, while others are created to be adaptable to different age groups.

These outreach programs use a fun approach to reinforce what students learn in the classroom. And they are affordable for the groups scheduling them. Transportation costs, especially buses for field trips, makes outreach programs a popular choice for organizations that want to provide added educational experiences for the children they serve.

Outreach programs offered in places many children and families already go, like libraries and county fairs, are also more affordable for families, especially for low-income families and those living in rural areas. The price of gas makes travel to Discovery Center in Rockford more of a consideration for these groups.

With the educational and economic need for Discovery Center outreach programs, it is no surprise the demand for the museum’s outreach services has continued to increase over the course of the past 10 years. Discovery Center anticipates this demand continuing to grow. Thanks to the Community Foundation, Discovery Center can continue to provide outreach programs and educate the region.

The Community Foundation of Northern Illinois is the area’s largest provider of grants and scholarships. Its mission is to attract, grow, and preserve an endowment for the needs of the people of northern Illinois.

Discovery Center Museum is a non-profit organization providing hands-on math, science and art experiences for all ages with more than 250 hand-on exhibits, planetarium, special area for children younger than 5, and an outdoor science park. Discovery Center is rated the No. 4 children’s museum in the nation by Child magazine.

The museum is inside Riverfront Museum Park, 711 N. Main St., Rockford. General admission is $7 adults, $7 children (ages 2 to 17) and free to museum members and children age 1 and younger.

For more details, call (815) 963-6769 or visit

From the Nov. 23-29, 2011, issue

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