A new children’s science museum plans to debut a hands-on learning space in Fair Oaks Mall by spring 2015, its organizers announced Tuesday.
The Children’s Science Center will host interactive exhibits and experiments in a mall storefront as a leadup to a full-scale museum in Loudoun County, projected to open in 2019.
The center looks to fill a hole in Northern Virginia, which is the largest metropolitan area in the country without its own dedicated children’s museum, said Nene Spivy, the museum’s executive director.
Both the Fair Oaks Mall space and the full museum will target children ages 2-12, Spivy said, and encourage their exploration of STEM subjects--science, technology, engineering and math.
The mall location, dubbed “The Lab,” will take over a 5,400-square-foot space previously occupied by an Uno Pizzeria. It is located at an outside entrance to the mall between the Sears and Lord and Taylor anchor stores.
“It makes all the sense in the world, really,” Spivy said. “Fair Oaks is such a family-oriented mall, and we’re reaching out to the same audience.”
The Children’s Science Center expects to receive more than 60,000 people annually at Fair Oaks. Visitors will be treated to an “experiment bar,” which will allow children to take part in labs on rotating subjects, as well as a building space, rotating exhibits and play areas for younger children.
There will be an admission charge, though it is not set yet.
The Children’s Science Center holds a three-year lease at Fair Oaks Mall, with the option to renew for another three years.
“We’re really excited to have the opportunity to reach kids sooner,” Spivy said. “We don’t want to wait. So this is what we can do now, this is what we can do first, and at the same time we can actively prototype exhibits for the full-scale museum.”
The center already serves children through its Museum Without Walls program, which visits schools, libraries and other locations to host science demonstrations.
Often, parent-teacher organizations will sponsor the activities for their schools. Title I schools, with a high percentage of low-income students, can apply to receive programs free of cost thanks to business sponsorships with the Children’s Science Center. So far this school year, the Museum Without Walls has reached more than 14,500 people.
“The way we’ve reached our audience so far has been very grassroots, very word-of-mouth, and I think that’s a testament to how hungry our families, our educators, our kids are for these kinds of opportunities,” Spivy said.
The full museum will be located in Loudoun County near the intersection of Route 28 and Route 7, as part of a larger mixed-use development. The developer, Kincora, donated a 53,000-square-foot space. The museum is expected to cost $40 million.