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Kansas City’s Science City Announces Plans to Expand Impact by Adding Dedicated Early Childhood Programming

December 15, 2016

Kansas City’s Science City Announces Plans to Expand Impact by Adding Dedicated Early Childhood Programming

Hall Family Foundation Grant To Fund Planning Phase By Internationally-Acclaimed Boston Children’s Museum 

KANSAS CITY, MO  (December 15, 2016)  Union Station’s Board announced plans today to develop blueprint and scope for interactive science learning experiences for children age 0 - 7 years old.

The first step toward this ambitious goal has been initiated by retaining the renowned Boston Children's Museum to conduct a 3-month planning phase – beginning in 1st Quarter, 2017 -- that will result in specific recommendations regarding new exhibition and programming spaces for early childhood development.

“As one of the largest and oldest children’s museums in the world, Boston Children’s
Museum is also one of the most influential,” George Guastello, president and CEO of Union Station, said.  “They have earned a celebrated status for engaging children in discovery experiences that develop foundational skills and spark a lifelong love of learning.  To extend their expertise, Boston Children’s Museum also provides highly-regarded museum consulting services to other category leaders, such as Kansas City’s Science City.  We could not have made a better choice in this early planning phase.”

Phase One of the planning will be fully-funded through the generous support of the Hall Family Foundation.  

The Hall Family Foundation is pleased to support Union Station’s Science City with this important planning phase,” Rebecca Hall, program officer at Hall Family Foundation, said. “As one of our areas of focus is Pre-K through 12 education, we appreciate the impact these types of initiatives can have in stimulating imagination and encouraging early learning.”

The collaboration between Boston Children's Museum and Science City's professional staff is expected to produce a detailed roadmap to dynamic new programmatic offerings.  Specific deliverables of the initial effort will be informed diagrams of exhibit zones and areas as they relate to existing as well as newly purposed architectural space.  Specific exhibit modules for these early learning spaces will also be brainstormed and conceptually designed.

An Early Childhood Center as part of Kansas City's award-winning Science Center, Science City is a natural extension of the current Union Station core mission: “To serve as a scientific, educational and cultural resource to the community, dedicated to inspiring a lifelong love of science, learning and discovery." 

“Science City, recently recognized and awarded on the world stage, has evolved in dramatic fashion in the last four years with specific focus on rotating programming and updated exhibits,” Jerry Baber, executive vice president and COO of Union Station, said.  “Significant and strategic investments in new and existing infrastructure, hands-on exhibitions and high-quality programming have resulted in increased attendance, guest satisfaction and membership growth.  In fact, over the last four years, attendance has been up over 50%.  That same focus on highest-quality experiences will soon extend to families with younger children as they seek world-class resources here in our community.  Early estimates to bring this new addition to Kansas City's Science Center range from $4M to $7M.”

Pulling from all major residential neighborhoods in the metropolitan area and centrally located, Science City successfully serves the broader Kansas City community with its current programming focused on ages 5-12.  Science City also offers convenient access to underserved neighborhoods along with low cost public transit options already in place.

With this undertaking, Science City will expand its impact on science learning by reaching children during a critical developmental phase.  As well, parents and caregivers will be exposed to and given the essential skills to participate in their child's early childhood development and

Kliff Kuehl, president and CEO of KCPT was quick to endorse the notion of a community collaboration in establishing the kind of children's museum envisioned by Union Station's Science Center.  

"Children's programming that challenges and builds young minds should be a community priority,” Kuehl said.  “That's what motivated KCPT to recently announce our 24 hour KCPT Kids channel.  We know from our own work that there are few other priorities that hold the promise of long-term community success than investing in early childhood learning.  We applaud this bold step by the leadership of Union Station.  They've proven their ability to bring partners, resources and programming together for the greater good of Kansas City with a particular emphasis on families and children.  KCPT looks forward to collaborating early and often in this new and additional Science City focus."

As well, Joe Reardon, president and CEO of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce also commented on Union Station's latest announcement and immediate plan.  

"The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce is committed to improving early childhood education throughout our region as one of our Big 5 initiatives,” Reardon said.  “Growing Kansas City's workforce of tomorrow through the type of investment Union Station plans is a wonderful, new opportunity for the very youngest in our community.  Science City is already a top-ranked science museum and an educational asset to Greater Kansas City.  Extending their reach to our youngest learners is a natural next step, and, as a tenant of Union Station and a father, I’m excited to watch it come to life.”

Jeff Rosenblatt, director of exhibits, Science City, and author of the internal position paper which overviews this early learning initiative, also commented on the importance of early childhood learning.

“Learning opportunities specifically designed for children play an important role for most modern science centers,” Rosenblatt said. “Research increasingly points to the significance of positive, early learning experiences during the pivotal ages of 0-7, both through direct hands-on activities with exhibits and programs and through interactions with parents and caregivers. We can directly contribute to the development of engaged science learners of the future by creating exhibit spaces that promote the power of play, inspire critical thinking skills, foster natural curiosity, and support learning and discovery for children. And in the broadest terms, that type of experience for children is a critical contribution for a successful community of learners in Kansas City.”

With the anticipated opening of the first-time Science City outdoor exhibit area created by the winners of the most recent Burns & McDonnell Battle of the Brains competition, community enthusiasm for this next significant early learning step is expected to also be high.

"This is an important vision for our entire community," George Guastello, president and CEO of Union Station, said.  "We are uniquely qualified and situated to make this happen with a keen focus on quality and long-term community engagement.  Executing on our long-term strategic plan has brought us to this point.  With the encouragement of business leaders, educators and early childhood advocates, our confidence in timing, existing infrastructure and ability to deliver is extremely high.  We'll soon be engaging with many others across Kansas City for support and partnership in order to ensure a collaborative and dramatic success.”

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About Union Station Kansas City, Inc.

Union Station Kansas City -- a 501(c)3 non-profit organization -- is a 100-year-old historical landmark and celebrated civic asset renovated and reopened to the public in 1999. The organization -- dedicated to science education, celebration of community and preservation of history -- is home to Kansas City’s internationally-awarded Science Center; the popular Model Railroad Experience; the Arvin Gottlieb Planetarium; the Regnier Extreme Screen Theatre, H&R Block City Stage featuring live theater, and a selection of unique shops and restaurants. Union Station is also home to prominent area civic organizations and businesses, and regularly hosts world-class traveling exhibitions. Awarded “Top Banquet Facilities in KC” by KC Business Journal, the facility regularly hosts community events and private celebrations of all sizes. Visit WWW.UNIONSTATION.ORG for details. Also, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

About Science City, Kansas City’s Science Center
Internationally awarded for “Visitor Experience” by ASTC and named one of the country’s TOP 25 science centers, Science City annually educates and entertains hundreds of thousands of science-thirsty children of all ages.  Kansas City’s Science Center, Science City, is THE place for inquisitive young minds to create, explore, and experiment with the BIG world of science through hands-on learning and non-stop fun. 

For Immediate Release

Contacts:  Michael Tritt, Union Station | 816-460-2278
                 Nancy Chartrand Besa, Besa PR | 816-674-4775