Little did we know what the future might hold for EdVenture when we opened our doors 10 years ago to the children and families of South Carolina. Now, a decade later, those children who were the first to walk through our doors to experience EdVenture are in high school, attending college or in the workplace. A new generation of children has never known life without EdVenture.
Our early mandate was simple and ambitious — give South Carolina something we didn’t already have. While it might be easy to say that we did this with the creation of EDDIE — our towering, 17-ton boy who invites children to climb inside to explore systems of the human body — our ultimate goal was to create the new generation of lifelong learners through exciting and engaging hands-on experiences.
Many questioned what a children’s museum was and what value would it bring to our community. We stayed focused on our mission of inspiring children to experience the joy of learning through world-class exhibits and programs. Through this process, the EdVenture board and staff broke new ground and built a model children’s museum that quickly gained state and national recognition for the community impact and quality of our educational experiences and resources.
EdVenture’s focus always has been directed by the needs of the communities we serve, and from the start, we tackled key issues affecting the learning success of South Carolina’s children. From the development of afterschool programs in 2004 that now serve more than 800 elementary and middle school students every school day to the creation of the Hands-on Minds-on Summer Institute to strengthen science instruction in the elementary grades, EdVenture’s commitment to improving the learning experiences of our children has always been our charge.
We forged an early partnership with First Steps to launch the Countdown to Kindergarten initiative to focus on the school-readiness skills for thousands of 5-year-olds, to give them an added boost before entering kindergarten. This focus on early childhood has grown to include collaborations with school districts, United Way of the Midlands and many other partners and soon will reach Hispanic families through a grant from the Institute of Museum of Library Services. And we have developed a multi-year partnership with four other children’s museums in South Carolina to support their community impact in serving early learners, also supported by the institute.
Obesity prevention and education has been one of our cornerstone issues since inception, and today, we are one of the nation’s leading museums addressing both the science and the lifestyle issues that support families in becoming healthier. From new exhibits and labs to family and school programs and workforce development experiences for youth, EdVenture’s health initiative helped us receive the National Medal for Museum Service in 2011.
The true measure of our impact, however, was an expanded commitment to accessibility. Today, any day, any hour, EdVenture has reduced the cost of admission to only $1 for families on SNAP, WIC and Medicaid. This commitment to Yes, Every Child also includes expanded community outreach in health and literacy education.
Who would have dreamed that all of this and more could have happened? When our doors opened to welcome the public a decade ago, the bright eyes and big smiles told us we had created a special place for families to learn and grow together. Through the years, our mission has extended far beyond the museum walls. Today, EdVenture is much more than a great place to visit. It has become a catalyst for enhancing educational success, building stronger communities and improving the health and well-being of children and families of South Carolina.
As we begin our second decade, we thank you for your support of our mission and invite you to be a part of new dreams and new possibilities for South Carolina’s children.
Ms. Horne is president and CEO and Mr. Amaker chairs the board of trustees of EdVenture. Contact them at CHORNE@edventure.org or CAmaker@bbandt.com.