19 February 2014
Posted in Community Impact Report
Welcome to 2014! As I look ahead to the many possibilities of the new year, I'm compelled to also look back on the achievements of the previous 12 months. We have been busy at the Orlando Science Center and the past year saw some incredible milestones.
In 2013, the Science Center was visited by over 413,000 people – the greatest attendance since the grand opening of the "new" building in 1997. Membership households swelled to over 8,000 – a record for us, encompassing over 34,000 parents, grandparents and children.
I'm thrilled by these numbers, but the figures I’m most proud of are the 70,000 individuals who enjoyed free or reduced price experiences like summer camps, field trips, family science nights or exhibit visits – thanks to our generous Community Request Fund donors.
A new addition to this effort, the "Science for All" family membership was piloted in 2013 to reach out to struggling families by providing them with 12 months of engagement at the Science Center at a greatly reduced price. Thanks to a handful of dedicated corporate partners, 140 families have now joined the Science Center family and that number continues to grow.
Growth was a hallmark in 2013 as blockbuster exhibits like Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination, Blue Man Group: Making Waves and Sesame Street Presents: The Body drove monster numbers. Over the last five years, total attendance to the Science Center has grown an average of 45% – an astounding number in an economy where "flat is the new up." This growth also allowed us to add 33 new full time equivalent positions to our staff.
New experiences like a 200 square foot immersive fossil dig pit, an area specifically devoted to colorful hands-on engineering activities, an "Imagination Playground" in the early childhood area and the eye-popping 3D visuals of the renovated Digital Adventure Theater have contributed to the surge in attendance, providing vivid opportunities for wonder and discovery.
The newly launched theater with state-of-the-art projection, Dolby sound and remarkable high definition "active" 3D was further strengthened by a partnership with National Geographic. The Digital Adventure Theater is now "A National Geographic Experience" working in tandem with one of the most trusted brands in the world when it comes to educational, family entertainment. Our theater has access to the National Geographic library and is now a regional premiere site for their newest films.
Several years of investing in our field trip program has paid off with big dividends. Our team has been dedicated to reworking our field trip experiences as focused outings that support our area school's STEM curriculum. Teachers want to make science come alive and show the relevance of STEM topics. Providing students with team-based challenges in a lab setting paired with skill-building experiences on the exhibit floor has dramatically filled that need.
Our partnerships with surrounding school districts has solidified with six STEM-specific exhibit experiences. Teachers and administrators from Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties have convened at the Science Center to review and approve these activities as essential resources for teaching concepts critical to success in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education. In 2013 more than 95,000 students were engaged in STEM learning through field trips and offsite programs.
We are working hard to establish the Science Center as a staunch advocate and the premier facilitator for STEM learning in central Florida. Joining our mission is more than 50 science teachers from elementary and middle schools throughout the area. Our founding class of "Science Ambassadors" continues to grow and provide us with valuable feedback on what teachers and students really need when it comes to success with STEM learning.
Our leadership in the museum industry is taking shape in other areas as well. In the recent months, two sister museums from other cities have visited to observe our thriving youth and volunteer programs. The Science Center is blessed to have the support of several hundred dedicated and talented volunteers, providing needed assistance in a number of areas. Lessons learned here are helping our peer organizations become more impactful in their home cities.
In 2013, we were the grateful recipient of multiple accolades, including "Best Museum" from the Orlando Sentinel, "Favorite Place for Kids" from Playground Magazine, and The National Training and Simulation Association (NTSA) award for outstanding achievement in the team creation and development of Corrosion: The Silent Menace, an interactive youth exhibit on view from 2013-14 at the Orlando Science Center. The Science Center also earned the distinction of erecting the first monument in the nation to specifically honor the Red Tail Pilots of the Tuskegee Airmen.
Success is achieved though passion, hard work and just a little bit of luck. We are building momentum for a great future. Please join me soon so I can share with you our vision for 2014 and beyond.
I wish all of you a safe and prosperous new year. We'll see you at the Science Center!
President and CEO