With a mission to “ignite and sustain lifelong science and technology learning,” the Saint Louis Science Center serves as an educational resource for current information, a public forum and a playground for the imagination. Making learning accessible through free admission, the museum is one of the top ten science centers in the United States as ranked by the Association of Science-Technology Centers. The Science Center welcomes around one million visitors annually, including over 65,000 individuals through off site community educational outreach programs. It is recognized as one of “America’s Top 25 Most Visited Museums” by Forbes Traveler Magazine, and as one of the nation’s “10 Best Science Centers for Families” by Parents magazine – the only museum in Missouri named in either list.
The Science Center’s unique 300,000 square foot complex spans Interstate 64 on the edge of Forest Park in midtown St. Louis. Visitors experience hands-on science learning through more than 700 interactive exhibits. Each day, explorers travel through space in the James S. McDonnell Planetarium, see Earth during the dinosaur era in the Environment and Ecology Past Gallery, extract DNA in the Life Science Lab, and complete a miniature Gateway Arch in Structures. Current documentary films run in the OMNIMAX® Theater, and national touring exhibitions share the latest scientific discoveries. EVie, the Electric Vehicle, travels the region with interactive exhibits on energy and the environment from her home base at the center.
The Saint Louis Science Center offers educational programs for learners of all ages, both on site and off site. Its signature youth development program, Youth Exploring Science (YES), encourages teens with multiple risk factors to set and achieve educational and career goals. School programs, camps, and scout events get young visitors excited about doing science. As a regional sponsor for the FIRST Robotics Competition, the Science Center hosts events and coach workshops, involving more than 3,800 local students in grades 3-12 each year. Adults gain an understanding of current science developments through science cafés, discussions with scientists, and travel programs. The Science Center’s educational programs engage people of all ages in lifelong learning – strengthening the region’s workforce and economic stability.
The public advancement of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is made possible by the time, talent, and financial contributions of individuals, foundations, and corporations that share our commitment to the community. This support enhances technology, drives innovation, and creates sustained impact in the St. Louis community.
The Saint Louis Science Center, in collaboration with Saint Louis University Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and the Missouri Botanical Garden, established an Ozone Garden just outside the James S. McDonnell Planetarium in Forest Park. Now in its third year, the demonstration garden is the first of a network of such gardens in the St. Louis region and beyond that provides the general public with information about the health and cleanliness of the air around us. The snap bean, cone flower, milkweed, and other plants growing in the garden are “bio-indicator plants” that readily show signs of damage when something in their environment is not right. In the case of the plants in the Ozone Garden, it is the presence of ozone that causes injury to the plants’ leaves.
Visitors to the Ozone Garden learn about ozone and its effects on the environment. Most people familiar with ozone know that it is a gas that is found high in the Earth’s atmosphere that protects us from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. However, ozone found in the troposphere, the layer of the atmosphere closest to Earth, is harmful. This “bad ozone” is the main component of air pollution or “smog,” and is formed from automobile exhaust, the burning of fossil fuels, and the use of volatile chemicals. “Bad ozone” not only causes breathing problems, but also damages plants, including those that we depend on for our food. When crop plants are damaged, the production of vegetables and fruits for our consumption is significantly reduced.
Visitors to the Ozone Garden learn about the relationship of ozone and air quality and its effects on living things on the planet. More importantly, visitors learn ways to help decrease the amount of “bad ozone” in the air, such as reducing the use of fossil fuels and products that contain volatile organic compounds (e.g., paints, glues, and sprays), to ultimately reduce human impact on the planet.
On several occasions, visitors will encounter Saint Louis University staff and high school students from the Science Center’s Youth Exploring Science (YES) program working in the garden throughout the growing season. These YES students are scientists-in-training who monitor the daily averages of ozone, and observe and collect data pertaining to damage to the plants caused by ozone. The data collected provide valuable scientific information to climate scientists. The Ozone Garden also provides young, motivated students an opportunity to be involved in a scientific project of current and immediate relevance. The annual staff selection process identifies students who are especially interested in issues about environmental science and climate change, and in pursuing a career in science.
The Ozone Garden is free and open to visitors daily during the plant growing season (typically May through October). The project was made possible through funding by NASA, Saint Louis University, and the American Lung Association.