Bringing STEAM education to more families
National Children's Museum in Washington D.C. is undergoing a huge makeover right now. Founded in 1974, the Congressionally-designated museum has served the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia areas, in addition to tourists from all over the world, for more than 45 years.
In the spirit of our Amazon Future Engineer program, which aims to increase access to computer science education for millions of students from underserved communities, Amazon is excited to support the National Children’s Museum leading up to its grand re-opening late this fall. Amazon is providing a $250,000 gift to help fund the fabrication and installation of Data Science Alley – an exhibit making data literacy accessible and fun—as well as helping to provide free museum access for more than 200,000 visitors in part through the new Virginia Access Program supported by Amazon.
We talked to Crystal Bowyer, President and CEO of National Children’s Museum, about how Amazon’s donation will support two unique features coming to the museum—a state-of-the-art data literacy exhibit and the Virginia Access Program.
Tell us about National Children’s Museum in Washington, D.C. What makes it unique?
We had the unique opportunity to start from scratch to rebuild and redesign this museum in one of the richest cultural landscapes in the world. It will be a modern, hands-on museum built for our next generation of learners. It’s unique because most children’s museums are for young kids, under 8 years old, but we made sure to program this museum for kids up to 12 years old.
When families and students visit, they should look forward to an interactive experience with cutting edge programming. We have a science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) focus, which means that we take an interdisciplinary approach to everything, to keep things playful and creative.
With a magical "slide" entrance, we want kids to come into this museum and feel like they’re in a dream-like world, where they can imagine anything is possible! While we pay tribute to Washington, D.C. favorites (like the Washington Nationals baseball team!) this really will be America’s children’s museum.
A focus for Amazon right now is to bring more resources to children and young adults so they can build their best future and our gift reflects that mission. Tell us about the one-of-a-kind data literacy exhibit Amazon is supporting?
We’re very excited to be working with Amazon, our new neighbors in Northern Virginia. Amazon’s donation will support our new data literacy exhibit which is truly ground-breaking for any museum—especially a children’s museum.
In this exhibit, we will have age appropriate, tactile content for all kids. In one of the experiences they will connect dots on a cloud with yarn, to represent their data footprint, and to see how the data created through their preferences connects them to other visitors. It will help them understand a network diagram while also being fun.
Data literacy is relevant for young kids—we need them to understand the critical roles that data plays, and investigate how data is created, manipulated, and analyzed to drive daily decisions and connections.
It is similarly important that kids reflect on the decisions they make on social media and with their technology and explore how those decisions are going to stick with them. Through this experience, we hope to encourage kids to take a greater interest in how data intersects with their lives.
Amazon’s support will also go towards the Virginia Access Program. What is that and why is it important?
Amazon is enabling us to provide museum access to low-income families via a network of community organizations throughout Northern Virginia. While National Children’s Museum will be a destination for families traveling on vacation with their kids from all over the world, we want to make sure that the cost of entry of our museum is not a barrier for any family.
We want the educational opportunities our museum will provide to be available to our entire community, and want families who live in Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Maryland metro areas to feel like this is their hometown museum. Amazon’s support will ensure even more families can experience this special museum.