The Children's Science Center | Future Center


Jill McNabb chuckled while mentioning that the acronym “STEM” had to be defined in conversations.

After all, studies into science, technology, engineering and math – or STEM – have come a long way, and the demand for those skill sets in the workforce continues to grow.

This is one reason why Virginia and Loudoun County are investing in the first regional science center – to spark opportunities for children and adults.

“It’s solving real-world solutions and not just problems on a page ... and I hope that is what happens with the science center,” said McNabb, chair of the Children’s Science Center Board of Directors.

On April 2, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors took another step toward establishing the proposed Northern Virginia Regional Science Center near Dulles by committing $15 million toward the estimated $70 million project. The $15 million was part of the county's finalized fiscal 2020 budget.

The local contribution comes after the General Assembly included in the commonwealth's fiscal 2020 budget $2.3 million to initiate designs of the center, which will be established in partnership with the Fairfax-based Children’s Science Center and an extension of the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond.

Located on donated land at the Kincora development in Sterling just off Route 28, the proposed center is expected to be 10 times the size of the Fairfax Children’s Science Center in Fair Oaks Mall.

“By making this approval, I think Loudoun County will be making a fantastic step into the future of STEM, and they will look back on it as something well done,” Unanet CEO Fran Craig said.

Project officials estimate the STEM-focused center will serve 300,000 guests annually.

Additionally, the facility is expected to expand access to STEM education to 600,000 children in the region and be part of a statewide network of science centers, with access to industry partners in northern Virginia and the District of Columbia.

STEM jobs – such as mathematicians, software developers and statisticians – are among the top 20 fastest-growing occupations, according to a 2018 study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But the study indicated that there is a lack of gender diversity in the science and engineering workforce. While 47 percent of women make up the nation's workforce, only 28 percent are in science and engineering fields, according to 2018 study by the National Science Foundation.

“My specific vent in addition to STEM in general is girls. Girls in technology, girls in STEM, making sure they stay in STEM and finding out how we can do that and support other women in tech industry,” Craig said.

Children's Science Center | Site plan

The future northern Virginia regional science center received $2.3 million in funding from the state.

Companies like Unanet, a cloud database firm, have long contributed to the Children’s Science Center, formally named the Children’s Museum of Northern Virginia.

In 2006, the Junior League of Northern Virginia joined the museum’s fundraising efforts, helping to rack up over $250,000 in funds and volunteer hours towards development.

Growth has continued for the museum, with nonprofit leaders and professional fundraisers leading to the Board of Directors.

Additionally, the center has been able to travel to schools, libraries and festivals across the region to showcase its offerings. In 2014, the center secured two museum locations leading to the interactive lab in Fairfax County and plans for the full-scale science center in Loudoun, with the amenities of a mixed-use development and a large nature preserve.

A economic impact study forecasts $121 million in benefits in the short term and $9 million annually from the science center, according to officials.

Broad Run Supervisor Ron Meyer (R) believes dedicating $15 million to the science center is the least the board can do compared to the millions the board is investing in infrastructure projects.

“It’s a modest price tag for the benefit it’s going to give to our young children in terms of inspiring them to learn about science and innovation,” Meyer said. “That value is priceless. We can’t just invest in transportation and traditional infrastructure. We can’t just invest in park infrastructure. We have to invest beyond school buildings and into hands-on learning, and that’s what this investment does.”

Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large), a vocal supporter of the center, said she's not concerned about the price tag.

"The children's science center is not going to be a cash positive endeavor, but there are some things that are more important than revenue, and what I believe this will bring – not just to educators and students in Loudoun – but for the whole region is going to be invaluable,” Randall said.

The total cost of the science center is projected to be over $70 million with the state and county supporting approximately two-thirds of the funding, officials said. The remaining funds will be secured through private donations as required to match the state’s contribution.

The next phase will include architects and engineers designing the facilities and exhibits. A new name and brand identity will also be explored. Science center developers have yet to announce an anticipated opening date.

(15) comments

More Cowbell

And this is the reason our rate isn't below $1 in Loudoun. Our corrupt BOS wastes money.


It's because you live in a metropolis not some back woods area of Virginia. Taxes throughout Virginia are below the national average. We are still less than Fairfax, Vienna, Falls Church, Arlington etc. and considering that we are still the fastest growing county in the entire US they need to be able to plan for a greater population every year. You don’t seem to understand that if you lived in a section of VA that was very rural, didn’t have the conveniences you have here like nearby grocery stores, doctors and medical facilities you would pay a much smaller rate. But you property would also not be worth as much. In Buchanan County you can get a 3-bedroom home for $30K, try doing that around here. Our school system is the second best in Virginia after Arlington, I doubt you would even want your kids educated in some of these rural area schools. You pay for what you get.

More Cowbell

@amerigirl, My property taxes went up again because my assessment was up $50K from last year. Too much waste in Loudoun govt and school system. We're always compared to Fairfax schools, think we're 1/3 the size yet our school budget is very high. Smartboards, empty buses, bloated support staff, especially at Taj Mahal(that was voted down but still built).


Its not that this isn't a valid project which deserves support but don't you (BOS Members) realize precisely because the state thinks we don't need our fair share of sales taxes collected statewide to support schools they use the composite index to TAKE hundreds of millions every year Loudoun should get and re-distribute it to other counties who don't even have half our property tax rate? If our current property tax rate was at the state average of 79 cents and we didn't have a 4.2% personal property tax rate on our vehicles and still had a surplus after supporting our schools then OK - spread the wealth for the benefit of the community but right now the tax rate is too high, developers are getting too much and large entities in Loudoun are paying too little into the pot. November 5th is coming!


The republicans in Richmond want it that way, they are very comfortable living off us in NOVA and don't want to give up their cash cow. I think the best thing would be for NOVA to become it's own state. We would be able to keep and probably lower our taxes and reap the benefits from it.

Virginia SGP

The BOS also funded LCPS so it could increase expenditures by 11% despite only 0.8% enrollment growth. Why not take some of that $125M in new expenditures by LCPS and route it to the science center. Surely teachers could live with only a 10% raise instead of a 14% raise when we have enough applicants each year to replace 60%+ of the entire teacher workforce.

But these Supervisors couldn't care less how they spend your money. They give it to their friends and generally waste it. It's disrespectful to hard-working middle-upper class families. But it's downright despicable to make single disadvantaged parents struggling to survey pay $100's extra every year to give $15M handouts and $19K raises to teacher families.


Teachers are universally the lowest paid professionals for their level of REQUIRED educational degrees. A single teacher coming into this county could not afford to live on the salary provided given our sky-high (and climbing) rents and housing costs. This is a vastly rich county and people like you that want to pinch every penny should go to live in the deep south where taxes are lower and education spending is choked until gasping for breath. We get good value for our money with LCPS. The educational outcomes are well above average. 

(Edited by staff.)

Virginia SGP

Teachers are among the HIGHEST paid in the county. They earn more than the median worker. They can retire at the ripe ol age of 52 with a $50K/year pension for life. When (very low paid) teachers in West Virginia and Oklahoma went on strike, they got a windfall of ~5% raises. When teachers in LCPS have the LOWEST vacancy rate and attrition rate of any district in Virginia (but receive $20Kyear more than other affluent areas like Virginia Beach), they got raises of ..... wait for it ..... 7% on average (up to 14% for mid-career teachers) all because many of their spouses sit on the school board.

Virtually no money goes to help give students more options. $75M goes to give highly paid teachers who virtually never leave LCPS $9.5K/year raises. That's called nepotism and corruption in any other location.


VA SGP writes that teachers are among the HIGHEST (his capitalization, not mine) paid in the county - this is such a preposterous statement. Not sure how he can claim this when most teachers earn half of the median income in the county. In reality, the IT sector and government contract firms pay twice what teachers earn. His numbers are simply wrong.

Virginia SGP

DavisB, you are simply wrong. The median pay for a female worker in Loudoun is $66K (a large majority of teachers are female seeking a job with the ultimate job security that easily lets them come into and out of the workforce as they please without any retraining or reduction in pay). Step 1 teachers in Loudoun, including the 16%+ pension contribution by their employers which allow them to retire at the ripe ol age of 52 with a $50K/year pension for life, earn more than that. Let me repeat. Step 1 teachers earn MORE than the median individual female pay in Loudoun at age 23. When broadened out to overall workers, they earn more than the median worker pay by about 10 years or age 33. That median Loudoun pay is not earned by 20-somethings. It's earned no earlier than late 30's or 40's at the earliest. Thus, LoCo teachers are among the HIGHEST paid in LoCo.

When you add in they work 180 days year (which averages to less than 30 hrs/week over 52 weeks), they earn more than the median workers in LoCo while working a part-time employee schedule.

You are simply wrong on everything you write. Facts are mere inconveniences to you when trying to defend the indefensible.


Yes we get great teachers for our money, however the starting salary for teachers is higher than for techs with the same degrees in this area. Then you have to look at the time spent on the job. Teachers have a week off at Xmas, another in the spring and 8 more in the summer. Most techs have 2 weeks and have to work however many hours it takes to get a project done, which could be 10-12 hour days for days to weeks. The county also provides a choice of 4 different medical plans, including RX's, vision and dental, a pension plan, Virginia Retirement System (VRS).which provides pension benefits as well as basic life and accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) benefits.No companies that I know of are willing to start you out with those types of benefits.


so, VA SGP - let me get this straight - you want to add in benefits to teacher salaries and then compare to the salaries of everyone else without benefits - wow, that one actually made me chortle

Virginia SGP

DavisB, private sector = salary + (standard benefits) Teachers = salary + (standard benefits) + pension (16%+) To compare, we ignore the standard benefits of both (this is generous to teachers because LCPS health plan provides $5K/year more coverage than private sectors OR other school districts). But you can't ignore the massive 16% (of salary) benefit. Now any normal employer (private sector, military, etc.) would market the heck out of the added pension benefit. It makes no sense to not publicize extra benefits teachers get compared to the private sector in order to better recruit them. The ONLY reason an organization would not publicize those extra benefits is because they have more candidates than they could possibly handle AND LCPS doesn't want the public to know how much total compensation teachers receive. 

(Edited by staff.)


Sorry SGP, but if you want to add in the retirement plan to teacher salary, you have to add in 401k matching, pensions, bonuses, stock plans, profit sharing, tuition reimbursement, cell phone allowance, travel allowance and all the other tangible benefits to private sector jobs. Don't forget that many of us in the private sector also have break rooms filled with snacks and coffee, 4 weeks of paid vacation (teachers don't get paid for the summer, remember), overtime pay, office supplies (how many pencils has your children gotten from their teachers), award trips, and so much more. Amazon is bringing how many high paying jobs the area and look at their benefit packages that include employee discounts. So, if you want an honest discussion about compensation, you have to be honest with your comparisons.


You know what might be more important--stop the systematic polluting of the land, air and water. Illegal landfills, sewage sludge and a superfund site--it is all an absolute disgrace.

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