KC’s Science City receives $1 million grant to reach even more metro kids

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It's a gift that fits most every need. Science City unwrapped a generous $1 million grant from PNC Foundation on Wednesday.

The granted money will allow the interactive science museum inside Union Station -- known for bringing classroom science to life for local students -- to involve even more local kids.

They may be young, but their minds are growing. That, in a sense, is Science City's mission. The grant from PNC Bank ensures Science City's commitment to kids in the metro.

Financial leaders and Kansas City Mayor Sly James cheered from a small stage Wednesday as the amount of the donation was unveiled. Science City organizers said students from three different Head Start centers in the metro will now send their students, ages three to five, on free field trips to the museum.

"I was beyond excited," Christy Nitsche, Science City's director of advancement, told FOX4.

"The little ones get it. They want to learn more. They want to get in the middle of it with their hands. This curriculum is going to embrace that," she said.

Educators, especially those in the preschool world, are pumped about PNC's generosity. Deidre Anderson leads St. Mark's Center, one of the trio of Head Start centers on the receiving end of the grant dollars. The amount of the donation was even a surprise to her.

Anderson, who has spent 25 years managing early education centers in the inner city, said these cost-free field trips will be appreciated by kids from low-income homes.

"It's huge," Anderson said Wednesday. "The younger you're exposing a child to hands on science, making and experimenting, that's only going to have a return that's positive."

Once those students establish their love for science and mathematics, their minds can grow freely within the disciplines. Anderson said child development data that shows children develop 90 percent of their brains by age three.

"It is always great to be in a dedicated community like Kansas City where people have learned very well what it means to work together and celebrate the power of early learning," James told the assembled crowd in Union Station's lower level.

On Wednesday, Union Station also hosted the 52nd Annual Greater Kansas City Science and Engineering Fair, where hundreds of elementary-aged students set up displays that applied classroom lessons they've learned.

"The elasticity of the slime is how far it stretches," Addy Kincaid-Chilcutt, a fifth-grade student from John Nowlin Elementary School in Blue Springs, said while demonstrating her experiments in using homemade glues to make a fun, slimy substance.

"You're having fun but you're also being taught," Kincaid-Chilcutt said. "Some people hate school, but Science City is like school, just fun."

The grant also allows Science City to use a new curriculum that's been developed by the U.S. Department of Education, which is designed to captivate young minds, get them interested in science and give them a leg up as they look ahead to kindergarten.

Science City leaders said they'll begin use of the grant money right away, allowing them to offer free field trips to Head Start students late next year.