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Published: Monday, 7/18/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Science Society seeks 'wow'-inducing exhibit

Imagination Station group targets kids' interests

BY SARA FELSENSTEIN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Dan LaValley, from left, Toni LaValley, and Kris LaValley look over an exhibit at Bodies Revealed at Imagination Station. The LaValley Foundation jump-started fund-raising with a $100,000 donation. Dan LaValley, from left, Toni LaValley, and Kris LaValley look over an exhibit at Bodies Revealed at Imagination Station. The LaValley Foundation jump-started fund-raising with a $100,000 donation.
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The Imagination Station's newly created Science Society took its first step Sunday toward building an exhibit that is not only interesting, but has a "wow" factor, said Robert Savage, vice chairman of the science center board.

Formed in November to help spark children's interest in math and science, the Science Society has since raised $387,000, said Mr. Savage, who is also president of the society.

"We have enough money for operating but do not have the ability to build something that's a 'wow,' " he said. "That's the issue. It's going to take some outside force."

He anticipates the new exhibit to cost at least $1 million.

At its first meeting Sunday, the Science Society celebrated local donors' contributions and discussed future initiatives. The subject of Imagination Station's new exhibit is not yet known, and Mr. Savage said a year from now is the earliest it would be decided upon.

Regardless of membership level, each society member will have one vote to help choose that new exhibit.

"We're trying to make sure kids have every opportunity to fall in love with math and science," he said.

Individuals can join the Science Society at one of four membership levels, ranging from the $2,500 silver level to the $15,000 diamond membership. Currently there are 56 charter members of the society, 33 silver members, 16 gold members, 5 platinum members, and 2 diamond members.

Mr. Savage said the number of people who have contributed to an idea that's "brand new" is "unbelievable."

However, he said his goal is to reach 70 members by the end of the year.

"This is only the beginning -- if you think we're satisfied, we're not," he said.

The Science Society will be modeled after the Toledo Museum of Art's Apollo Society, Mr. Savage said, and meetings are scheduled to be held twice a year.

Mr. Savage asked members to explore exhibits in other cities when they travel, reporting back to the society on exhibits they found particularly attractive and intriguing.

Within a year, he said he hopes to have four developed ideas to discuss and ultimately vote upon.

When it was first created, the Science Society was issued a challenge by three major institutions -- the LaValley Foundation, Owens Corning, and HealthCare REIT -- to raise $145,000. If the society reached that amount, it would receive a 1-1 match by the group.

The Science Society exceeded its goal of donations, raising more than double the amount it had hoped for.

With its $100,000 donation, the LaValley Foundation was the first company to step up at the end of December, Mr. Savage said, giving the society the jump start it needed.

The Owens Corning Foundation donated $25,000 and HealthCare Reit donated $20,000.

Mr. Savage said that funds the Science Society raises will be used solely for the purchase of new experiences, not for salaries or operating expenses.

Following the society's meeting, members had a chance to tour the Bodies Revealed exhibition. Dr. Roy Glover, the chief medical officer of the exhibition, was available for questions.

"We are really excited to be partnering with Imagination Station to bring Bodies to northwest Ohio," Dr. Glover said. He taught anatomy for more than 30 years at the University of Michigan medical school. "It's unfortunate that so many people know so little about [our bodies.]"

Imagination Station has already been successful in its short existence, but the contributions of the Science Society would only enhance that success, Mr. Savage said.

Lori Hauser, executive director of Imagination Station, said 400,000 people have visited in its 18 months of operation.

"We're small but mighty," she said. "We are a community resource."

Contact Sara Felsenstein at: sfelsenstein@theblade.com or 419-724-6050.



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