Michael David Family to Donate Matching Grant Up to $50,000 to Kick Off World of Wonders Expansion

Readers, I have exciting news- Lodi is upping their kid game. One of the most common complaints about Lodi is that there isn’t much here for kids. Yes there are things (don’t believe me, check out this resource) but it’s not well integrated into our city’s infrastructure. Wouldn’t it be great if Lodi had ways to serve young families in the same great way they have options to serve wine drinkers? Well ladies and gentlemen, hold on to your horses because the Lodi leaders have heard our cries, and changes are coming! Lodi’s downtown is expanding and what used to be abandoned lots and buildings on Sacramento Street within a few years will soon be the place to go for youth in Lodi. Construction has started on a bowling alley on the corner of Sacramento St. and Lockeford St., and, what I am here to talk to you about today, is the expansion of the World of Wonders Science Museum (WOW). The WOW Museum is in the process of going from a museum to a science plaza and making the entire block of Sacramento Street, between Elm St. and Pine St., a block dedicated to families, science, the arts, and even a little natural history. So why should you care, and why is this great? Well, besides the potential benefit this could be to Lodi families and downtown businesses, the WOW is kicking off their expansion efforts across the street with a generous donation from the Michael David Family Foundation of a matching grant of up to $50,000! How’s that for good news?

So let’s back up a bit. You probably are wondering what a science plaza entails. Sally Snyde is the Director and CEO of the WOW she sent pictures of the expansion you can look at in the pictures above. She also explained what community members can look forward to in the not so distant future. “We’re creating the WOW Science Plaza. It’ll be like an urban park in the downtown,” shared Sally. “The street will be closed between Pine and Elm. We will have four times the amount of exhibit space that we currently have in the museum. We will have a room for at least four more classes each day for our field study trips and also for use by the community, other scientists, grape growers, whoever. We’ll also have an outdoor amphitheater that we can use for community lectures and classes. We’ll also have a hand-carved, hand-painted carousel of indigenous animals which is our art and natural history part of the expansion. There will be a planetarium that will have approximately 150 seats. That’ll be a multimedia planetarium so it’s not just about the stars and the universe. It can be for laser shows and even for things like a Pink Floyd concert,” she chuckled. “There will be a lot of outdoor science exhibits and we’re planning for water exhibits. There will be stuff for the whole community to enjoy. And of course a cafe for families and a science store.”

Have you been to the WOW museum? You probably have, but in case you haven’t visited let me briefly explain. The World of Wonders opened in 2009 with the goal of inspiring hands-on, science-based education. Dan Ingrum, founder of Danz Jewelers, went on a trip to the Exploratorium with his son and decided Lodi needed a local place like that to inspire families. He brought that idea to a group of leaders, who loved the concept, and the WOW was born. Today the museum is open 6 days a week (every day but Tuesday) and always has something going on. The main building is filled with hands-on science exhibits and a science store filled with unique goodies. About 5 years ago they expanded and built a beautiful classroom for field study trips, birthday parties, meetings, or whatever (even baby showers!). During the week the museum is hopping with field study trips, after school programs, toddler classes, and outreach programs. On the weekends the museum is busy with birthday parties and special events. In addition to all of this, the museum floor is always open to visitors looking for a little “edu-tainment” (educational entertainment). No matter how hard the WOW tries though, they just cannot keep up with the demand. They are at their limit. There’s not enough physical space to serve everyone who wants to be part of the WOW.

“When we started the museum we never thought about an expansion, but the museum is popular and there’s just so much demand,” said Sally. According to Sally, the WOW can only serve about 5% of students in the Central Valley. That’s it. The WOW  has already expanded as far as they can in their current space under the parking structure, and they even have the WOW on Wheels that goes to classrooms, but that isn’t enough. There is so much demand for the services the WOW offers that by March they’re totally booked for the rest of the year and they’re saying no to teachers and students and turning them away because they just don’t have enough physical space. There’s only one classroom. If they don’t expand, and our student population continues to grow (which it will), that percentage of students who they can serve is going to drop. Sally continued, “Once we expand, we’ll be able to reach about 20% to 25% of the student population and we won't have to turn schools away. We don’t have a choice. We have to expand.”

It’s not just the WOW board who thinks it’s important to serve a bigger audience. Leaders in the community are also on board with the expansion.  Believe it or not, this expansion has already been in the works for about five years. They’ve been doing the major work with real estate and government. They’ve been looking at their organization and crossing their “T”s and dotting their  “I”s to make sure they stand out on grants. They’ve got a phenomenal group of leaders who are invested in Lodi’s success on the board to make this plaza a reality. This project is in the final stretch. This plaza isn’t just one CEO’s dream, this plaza has a team of supporters who are the type of people who make change happen. Recently Sally got a call from Dave Phillips of Michael David Winery saying the family would be donating a matching grant of up to $50,000 to kickstart this community plaza campaign. This campaign runs through the end of March.

If you’re wondering why all the local leaders are on board with the expansion, Dave Phillips says it best: “Our family is very excited about the WOW museum expansion and we want to do everything we can to bring the dream to reality.  We are dedicated to helping the youth of our community to increase their education levels and to get more local kids going to college.  We especially need more kids going into agricultural science and STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math] programs. Our local industry needs the talent!  The WOW museum fits right in to this mission by getting kids, especially girls, more interested in STEM. We desperately need to get more kids to be the first in their family to go to college.  We [the Michael David Family Foundation] offer $30,000 in local scholarship every year also to local students. The WOW also brings more tourists to Lodi which helps us all economically, and I hope the museum will also help the redevelopment of the downtown core. My kids grew up going to the WOW and then volunteered there in High school.”

It’s such good news to see Lodi leaders investing in our community through this amazing plaza. The donation from the Phillips family is a matching grant. Whatever the community donates towards the project’s expansion (through the end of March), the Phillips family will match (up to $50,000). If the community donates $100, the Phillips family will only donate $100, and $200 will be raised. But if the community donates $50,000 then the Phillips family will also donate $50,000 and the WOW Plaza campaign can hit the ground running with a $100,000. If you want to support the WOW’s expansion, or know someone else who does, now is the time to donate. This WOW Plaza such good news for Lodi. I can’t wait to see how much good it brings! It’s great news to see Lodi upping their resources for kids and to see it’s a priority to Lodi’s leaders. Our kids are our future, we should invest in them! We’re fortunate to have leaders in our community who are making this a priority. Leaders, like the Phillips family, are putting their money where their mouth is. They’re not just saying it’s important, they’re handing out their hard earned money to invest in the change they want to see. Thanks to the WOW and the Michael David Family Foundation for this great news!

If you want to learn more about the WOW’s expansion or donate, click here to visit their website.