Growing up Great with Science

The Air and Space Museum received a two-year grant of $384,000 from the PNC Foundation to improve science education for pre-kindergarten students in District of Columbia public schools. The Grow Up Great with Science grant was announced at an educational activity day for D.C. public-school students at the museum’s Mall location on April 21. The kids also were treated to the Washington, D.C., premiere of Sesame Street’s “One World, One Sky: Big Bird’s Adventure,” a multicultural planetarium show, as part of the day’s activities.

Photo: Children from Peabody Early Childhood Center greet Elmo, in his “Elmonaut” costume, at a press conference announcing the PNC Grow up Great with Science grant award. (Photo by Mark Avino)

The grant provides additional support for the museum’s early-childhood education program established in 2008 with funds from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. The program’s goal is to improve science instruction in pre-kindergarten classrooms by providing targeted and high-quality professional development and support for pre-kindergarten teachers in Washington, D.C.

“The National Air and Space Museum’s early childhood program leverages children’s fascination with aviation and space flight to increase their interest in science and to motivate them to explore science and technology in age-appropriate, meaningful ways,” Gen. J.R. “Jack” Dailey, director of the museum, explained.

The museum will work with the District to design a professional development program of pre-kindergarten science literacy courses that is grounded in research-based best practices. This partnership will be phased in over a two-year period to include program design, curriculum development and the compilation of museum-based experiences that are central to student learning. At the end of the initiative, the project will have directly served 20 teachers, 20 teaching assistants and 600 students.

“As we continue to increase our early-childhood offerings by launching new programs and expanding successful ones, we are delighted to partner with the PNC Foundation and the National Air and Space Museum to deliver a broader-based curriculum,” Washington, D.C. schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee said. “It is our responsibility to introduce students to science at an earlier age and hopefully encourage them to explore all of their options.”

“Our support of the National Air and Space Museum is another strategic investment to help our nonprofit partners, preschools and caregivers develop stronger, smarter and healthier families and communities,” said James Rohr, chairman and CEO of The PNC Financial Services Group, the principal funding source of the PNC Foundation. “Through these grants, we expect children will enjoy meaningful experiences that would not otherwise be possible.”

On the last Saturday of the month through the summer, children and families can also enjoy free admission to “One World, One Sky: Big Bird’s Adventure.” The planetarium show follows Elmo, Big Bird and Hu Hu Zhu—a Muppet from the Chinese co-production of “Sesame Street”—as they explore each others’ cultures and travel to the moon. In addition, groups of 50 or more will be able to schedule special on-demand morning screenings of “One World, One Sky” at the Air and Space Museum at reduced costs.

Posted: 28 April 2009
About the Author:

Isabel Lara does media outreach for the Communications Office at the National Air and Space Museum. She enjoys dealing with the diverse requests the museum receives every day—from inquiries about ice on Mars and impact basins on Mercury, to satellites, spacesuits, airmail, famous aviators and even Hollywood movies.