Hands-on education at Science Central

Northeast Indiana is home to many great nonprofits that engage with the community at-large to address issues vital to making Fort Wayne a desirable place to live, work, learn, and play. We start off this week with one of Fort Wayne’s most visible institutions, Science Central, “a regional resource that provides inspiring and hands-on science education for people of all ages.”

A highly visible part of the gateway to Downtown Fort Wayne - Science Central is located in the former City Power & Light building on North Clinton Street. (Photo/Tim Zink)

A highly visible part of the gateway to Downtown Fort Wayne – Science Central is located in the former City Power & Light building on North Clinton Street. (Photo/Tim Zink)

Background

Although Science Central opened in 1995, its story as a nonprofit organization actually begins earlier than that. In 1987, community leaders came together to start working towards the goal of developing a hands-on science center for northeast Indiana. As the Science Collective of Northeast Indiana, the organization developed a presence in the community by developing off-site programming at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo and with schools across the area.

Innovative programming, community engagement, and outreach continue to play significant roles in Science Central’s operations as a nonprofit. The organization is currently in the first year of its new three-year strategic plan, which includes infrastructure improvements, plans for new permanent exhibits, and a possible goal to soon initiate a silent fundraising campaign to develop and install a new $1-1.5 million exhibit in a now undeveloped part of the building.

The science of storytelling

Two successful recent developments have enhanced the organization’s ability to share its mission. The organization’s new logo and marketing materials and the Science On a Sphere exhibit, which features a three dimensional research tool designed to educate visitors about earth and space systems have both received positive feedback from the community.

The Science On a Sphere exhibit is designed to appear to be rotating and floating in mid-air, providing a highly visual experience for visitors of all ages. (Photo/Tim Zink)

The Science On a Sphere exhibit is designed to appear to be rotating and floating in mid air, providing a highly visual experience for visitors of all ages. (Photo/Tim Zink)

Science Central plans to have two-to-four traveling exhibits per year with the next one being Marvelous Molecules: The Secret of Life, tentatively scheduled for September 20, 2014 – January 4, 2015. The exhibit will feature a series of stations, computer interactives, and hands-on models for visitors to learn about the similarities and differences among molecules of different species.

In addition to this, Science Central continues to offer traveling labs, demonstrations, assemblies, and festivals at schools and other off site locations via The Outreach (Science4U) program.

Getting involved

As a nonprofit organization, funding for operations is an expected challenge. Eighty-five percent of similar science institutions receive annual public/government funds for general operations, but Science Central does not and relies on funds, grants, and the generosity of the community to fund its growth.

If you or your organization are interested in getting involved with Science Central, there are numerous ways to do so through the organization’s ongoing membership, volunteering, sponsorship, community partnership, and fundraising opportunities.

Individual and corporate memberships are available on their website. Basic individual membership provides numerous benefits such as free admission for two adults at the same address and any six children, free or reduced admission to over 300 Association of Science – Technology Centers, discounts, and more. For more information about individual memberships and corporate members, visit their website for details.

The 11th Annual Golf Classic fundraiser for the organization sold out of all 100 slots in 2014. The event at the Pine Valley Country Club consisted of 25 teams of four people from organizations and the community at large. Science Central recommends booking as early as possible for participating in the 2015 event. Sponsorship opportunities are also available for companies and businesses with varying levels of support.

The Gala Event Mixology 401: The Science of Cocktails is another annual fundraiser that is upcoming on Friday, November 7. At this event, attendees will get “an in depth look at the physics, chemistry and biology behind lovingly prepared spirits, cocktails, and food.” Tickets are available online along with a listing of sponsorship opportunities.

Science Central has partnered with educational institutions (e.g. IPFW’s NISTEM program), corporations, media outlets (e.g. Northeast Indiana Public Radio and Indiana's NewsCenter), and other nonprofit organizations (e.g. The History Center, Botanical Conservatory, and McMillen Health Center) to help people of all ages to learn about science in new and exciting ways. (Photo/Tim Zink)

Science Central has partnered with educational institutions (e.g. IPFW’s NISTEM program), corporations, media outlets (e.g. Northeast Indiana Public Radio and Indiana’s NewsCenter), and other nonprofit organizations (e.g. The History Center, Botanical Conservatory, and McMillen Health Center) to help people of all ages to learn about science in new and exciting ways. (Photo/Tim Zink)

Volunteers play a large role in the organization’s day-to-day activities and perform a variety of tasks from assisting at the admissions desk, gift store, and education exhibits to performing office or maintenance duties.

If you are interested in giving your time in a strategic role, there are multiple committees that meet monthly to plan and discuss issues and initiatives. If you have expertise in anything from finance, information technology, event planning, education, marketing, and more, contact Martin Fisher, Executive Director, at martin@sciencecentral.org, to discuss your options for joining a committee.

Visit Science Central at 1950 N. Clinton St., Fort Wayne, Indiana 46805. For more information, visit their website at www.sciencecentral.org or call them at (260) 424-2400.

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Tim Zink

Author: Tim Zink

Director-at-Large of Communications for Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana. Adviser to current Living Fort Wayne leadership team. Contributor to Living Fort Wayne since April 2014.

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