The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and A Time For Science are 84 miles apart. But the two are working together to bring science education within reach of people in northeastern North Carolina.
In a partnership announced Tuesday, A Time For Science has been named an official branch of the state museum. When the Greenville science museum reopens this summer following renovations, it will be renamed The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences at Greenville. For continuity, the name A Time For Science will serve as a tag line underneath the new logo.
“This is a new kind of partnership for the state museum,” ATFS Executive Director Emily Jarvis said in an earlier interview.
Jarvis spoke Tuesday with dozens of state and local officials who were invited to tour the museum’s expansion on Dickinson Avenue.
“It’s an exciting time for Greenville and Pitt County and really eastern North Carolina when it comes to science education and literacy,” she said.
“For many years A Time For Science has been striving to enhance science education and literacy, but most importantly beyond that to ignite a love of science and nature in our younger generations,” Jarvis said. “This partnership with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences only increases our capacity to do just that for our region.”
A Time For Science, which has occupied the former Pugh’s service station building for three years, has renovated about 3,500 square feet of adjoining warehouse space. The expansion, which will more than double to size of the museum, will include additional exhibit space, a discovery area for the museum’s youngest visitors, a naturalist center and a weather center.
Under the partnership, A Time For Science centers in Greenville and Grifton become the fourth and fifth branch locations of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. The state museum, located on Jones Street in downtown Raleigh, also operates Prairie Ridge Ecostation in Wake County. It opened a branch in Whiteville in Columbus County in 2015.
“We have a statewide mandate to serve everyone in North Carolina,” said Charles Yelton, the state museum’s regional network chief. “As you can imagine, it can be challenging to do that from Raleigh, to reach everyone.
“The goal is to increase science literacy statewide to give all North Carolinians the benefit of sound science education,” he said. “Regional branches are designed to provide services to folks that might not receive those services from other institutions.”
Unlike the branch in Whiteville, which is a state-owned facility, A Time For Science locations will continue to be owned by the Bray Hollow Foundation, which also will retain the responsibility for fundraising.
“We’re not going to get state support like a state institution, but it’s going to present a lot more opportunity for fundraising and recognition,” said John Bray, who founded A Time For Science in 2009 with his wife, Nancy.
Today, the A Time For Science nature center in Grifton serves as many as 30,000 students a year through field trips and school outreach programs.
“It (the partnership with the state museum) is just a great combination with what we’re doing,” Bray said. “This will allow us more visibility.”
In 2017, A Time For Science merged with Go-Science in Greenville, taking over management of the science museum on Dickinson Avenue, which was being leased for $1 a year from the city’s Redevelopment Commission. Last week, the commission renewed A Time For Science’s lease, extending it from a three-year lease to three, 10-year leases.
Jarvis said that the expansion and partnership will help to make the museum a destination for families. She anticipates that after renovations, which are expected to be completed by June, the museum will be able to draw about 15,000 visitors a year, about twice the number from the previous year.
Renovations, which began in October and included the installation of a new roof, were funded through a partnership with the city and Greenville Utilities Commission at an estimated cost of $250,000. In addition,Jarvis said, the museum has secured donations from the Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Family Foundation and the Perkins, West and Wells Fund to help pay for the construction of the first exhibits.
Some of the features of the renovated museum will replicate the design of areas of the state museum. But the branch location is not designed to be a carbon copy or a smaller version of the Raleigh museum, the state’s most visited museum and the largest of its kind in the Southeast.
Instead, A Time For Science Education and Program Director Maria McDaniel said the local museum will focus on eastern North Carolina. Even the Discovery Forest, a children’s exploration area modeled after one at the state museum, will have characteristics of an eastern North Carolina cypress swamp.
“The idea behind this is what is in your back yard,” McDaniel said. “It’s about North Carolina and eastern North Carolina specifically. We’re teaching you about things that are not a million miles away that you’ll never see.”
Two of the early exhibits planned for the museum focus on pirates and pollinators and will include resources from East Carolina University.
“We want to be able to get what they’re doing out to the public,” McDaniel said. “There are so many exciting things that they do there that the public doesn’t know about.”
A Time For Science, which is serving more than 20 counties, is counting on the branch designation to help expand that reach.
“We were already reaching pretty far, especially into the northeast counties that are so underserved,” McDaniel said. “So now those kids that can’t go to Raleigh can come here and hopefully get just as good a quality of a program, see just as nice of an exhibit as they could if they went all the way to Raleigh.”
The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences at Greenville, set to open this summer, is located at 729 Dickinson Ave. Admission will be free. Hours of operation will be announced. Grifton Nature & Science Center, 949 Contentnea Lane, Grifton, remains open during its transition to becoming North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences at Contentnea Creek. Visit atimeforscience.org.