LAWTON, OK_The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation has awarded more than $7 million to an innovative museum collaborative that will tour high-quality museum exhibits throughout Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Museum Network is set to launch and will present its first hands-on science and discovery-learning exhibits within a year. By combining their resources and dramatically improving those "ah-ha" learning moments for children at Oklahoma museums, the network's five museum partners will improve educational opportunities for Oklahoma's 624,875 elementary school children and their families, including those in rural areas.
The five-year grant, totaling $7,232,859 million, is the result of a four-year planning process that involved the nation's top discovery-learning and museum experts as well as in-depth conversations with Oklahoma educators, students, families and staff at each museum to determine the needs of Oklahomans for improving science education experiences.
"Too many children in Oklahoma, especially the most rural areas, never have the opportunity to engage in the exciting experiential learning that comes from visiting first-rate discovery museums," says Fred W. Smith, Chairman of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation. "This network of science and discovery museums will allow children in the most remote parts of the state to share in the hands-on learning and the sheer fun that comes from experiencing wonderful museum exhibits."
In the first year alone, five engaging hands-on exhibits will be developed. These exhibits will tour among the partner museums. Additionally, network museums will participate in nationally-recognized training programs designed to advance museum programs, fundraising and strategic planning efforts. Oklahoma's teachers will have opportunities to attend learning programs through the network as well. These will be aimed at improving the hands-on science learning experiences within Oklahoma's classrooms. Also, a "museum on wheels" housing an immersive, interactive science experience will be developed for travel to rural areas engaging students in the outer most regions of the state.
The five network members include Omniplex Science Museum in Oklahoma City, Jasmine Moran Children's Museum in Seminole, Leonardo's Discovery Warehouse in Enid, Museum of the Great Plains in Lawton and Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium in Tulsa. Each museum is committed to providing hands-on discovery learning to Oklahoma families, students and educators.
"Our primary goal in funding this initiative is to touch as many rural children as possible in the state. Secondly, we hope the program will strengthen the individual network museums by providing access to national resources, professional development and mutual support that they may never have had access to individually," said Steven L. Anderson, president of the Foundation.
Omniplex Science Museum is the "hub" for the statewide network and will serve as the fiscal agent for the grant.
"There is no better way to celebrate Oklahoma's Centennial than to provide more opportunities for scientists, young and old, in our state than ever before," said Sherry Marshall, director for the Oklahoma Museum Network. "Our ultimate goal is to work with Oklahoma teachers and top experts to give each museum's visitors a new experience every six months and, of course, hear our kids say 'Hey, learning science is fun.'"