HARTFORD,Conn. (WTNH) – The Connecticut Science Center is expanding it’s student learning opportunities with enhanced programs for kids of all ages based on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The new offerings will enhance every floor of the Science Center.

The initiative, named Science Forward, will include exhibit additions as well as adaptable classroom and laboratory venues to meet the growing statewide demand for accessible STEM learning spaces. The changes will roll out over the next five years and will be keyed to science curriculum needs and the state’s future economic and workforce requirements.

The exhibit and facilities projects will be integrated with an agenda of educational programs for schools and teachers, also under the Science Forward banner. Along with new and updated interactive programs at the Science Center, the team of STEM professionals and educators at the Science Center’s Mandell Academy for Teachers are working closely with the State Department of Education to train teachers, readying them to incorporate the new Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) into their everyday curricula and teaching practices.

Highlights of Science Forward include:

• A re-imagined Science Alley, the Connecticut Science Center’s main atrium, showcasing the range of scientific exploration from the deep sea to outer space, which will capture the imagination of visitors with the breadth of scientific discovery

• An all-season Butterfly Conservatory and Greenhouse, which will draw families and tourists while serving as an active learning laboratory for students investigating plant and animal life cycles and ecosystems

• An expanded Engineering Lab, presenting hands-on activities and maker tasks as well as spaces for creative investigation and engineering design

• A new Earth and Human Impact exhibition, examining the way that humanity and our planet work in concert and in conflict, featuring exhibits on climate, earthquakes, volcanoes and more, and how computer science is • A new DNA and Genomic Sciences gallery, featuring exhibits on crime scene investigation, heredity, and genomic medicine as well as a cutting-edge genomics lab

• A focused effort on increasing access to the Connecticut Science Center by reducing financial barriers for field trip and individual access while providing increased focus on populations where STEM professionals are underrepresented

Like the original state-led development of the Science Center, the Science Forward initiative is funded by a public-private partnership. The funding includes $10.5 million approved by the state in 2014, plus $5.5 million pledged by a wide range of generous corporations, foundations, and individuals, led by the Science Center’s all-volunteer Board of Trustees.