Saban Discovery Center to receive more than $25.5 million in state funding
The Tuscaloosa City Schools, along with the City of Tuscaloosa, the Alabama State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey and Nick and Terri Saban, celebrated on Wednesday the announcement of $25.5 million in state capital funding that will be dedicated to an innovative STEM HUB at the future Saban Discovery Center.
The HUB will focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math and will be part of the children's IGNITE museum at the site, which will be located where the current Tuscaloosa News building stands. It will also offer professional development for educators, and a hands-on learning experience for all children.
“From the beginning, when we started this project, we said we had to involve our teachers,” said Audrey Buck, Director of the Saban Center. “Our team visited science and discovery museums across the country, and over and over again, we heard that they only involved their local schools after the fact, after they opened. And we are not going to make that mistake.”
The Saban Center, working in conjunction with IGNITE and the Tuscaloosa Children’s Theater, got with a group of Tuscaloosa City School teachers early to help drive the focus on the discovery center’s offerings, to ensure the IGNITE exhibits directly correlated with the Alabama curriculum, Buck said.
“We set out for the Saban Center to be a true extension of the classroom,” Buck added. “Dr. Daria put together a team of his brightest STEM minds and we challenged them to think outside of the box, and about what they could do for our children. They came back with an amazing proposal, and blew us all away. We are not just going to be a field trip. We are going to be an integrated STEM HUB for the state of Alabama.”
The center will also offer professional development, workforce education, and immersive STEM programming.
“I believe we will look back and realize this is something that really kicked off and something that changed things for the students of our state and certainly our community here,” said Tuscaloosa City School Superintendent Dr. Mike Daria, who described the STEM HUB at the Saban Discovery Center as an integrative, hands-on experience where students can immerse themselves in their learning. “Under the direction of Dr. Mackey, our public education, is headed in the right direction. We have the right plan, the right leadership, and I'm so excited to be part of that. The Saban Discovery Center, for us, is an accelerator of that change. We are so excited for the potential that this can have for our students and our future students to become a true change maker for Alabama and its future.”
In addition to the $25.5 million in capital funds, the state funding also includes $2.6 million over 10 years to be used for operations. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced the funding during her State of the State address Tuesday night.
The center is entering into the final design phase currently, said Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox. The goal is for the final design by the end of 2023, and then for the project to get bids in 2024 and for it to be open in 2026.