Duke Energy grant to support free STEM program at Children’s Museum

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The Duke Energy will allow the Children's Museum to house a new STEM program aimed at first graders. Photo courtesy Children's Museum of Wilmington.
The Duke Energy will allow the Children’s Museum to house a new STEM program aimed at first-graders. Photo courtesy Children’s Museum of Wilmington.

A local museum is gearing up to help illuminate young thinkers, thanks to a grant from Duke Energy Foundation.

Earlier this month, the foundation gave $40,000 to the Children’s Museum of Wilmington to create Bright Minds, a flagship program focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The grant will allow area first-graders to take field trips to the downtown museum, 116 Orange St., where they will participate in STEM-tailored programs for free under the guidance of trained educators.

“The Children’s Museum of Wilmington is excited for the opportunity to provide a new STEM field trip and add to our current STEM focus,” museum executive director Rick Lawson said. “Here children get to learn while playing, and we are extremely excited and thankful to Duke Energy for partnering with us and we look forward to what this relationship holds in the future.”

John Elliott, director of government and community relations for Duke Energy, said Bright Minds extends learning beyond the school day.

“Education shouldn’t stop when the bell rings,” Elliott said. “We’re proud to support the museum’s Bright Minds program to reach more children throughout the Wilmington area.”

The Bright Minds grant is just one of more than $25 million in funding Duke Energy Foundation gives out statewide each year. Recently, the foundation awarded $390,000 to UNC-Wilmington’s College of Health and Human Services to include more on-the-job training and internship opportunities specifically in the fields of biostatistics and clinical operations.

Duke Energy handed out nearly $150,000 last year to help Cape Fear Community College establish a welding program at its north campus.  The foundation has also contributed to local programs like Kids Making It, which teaches STEM through the art of woodworking to help reduce juvenile delinquency and empower youth to continue their education or enter the workforce.