In February 2002, the Orange County Community Foundation (OCCF) began exploring how to maximize resources to make the greatest impact in improving the educational outcomes for Orange County children. OCCF began by consulting with more than 100 community leaders and professionals regarding K–12 education issues in Orange County. Through this process they identified a significant need—and an opportunity—to dramatically impact the quality of science education in Orange County. Specifically, OCCF experienced a convergence of interest and momentum around one program—inquiry–centered science education. Thus, the idea behind Science@OC was born.
Science@OC: A Passion for Science Education
The growing need and passionate commitment to sustain and expand the research based, inquiry science programs for Orange county students resulted in a county–wide summit bringing all stakeholders together. On September 26, 2003 the first Orange County Science Education Summit took place at the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center. The following Summit outcome themes became the driving force behind the Science@OC Plan:
- Community collaboration and communication to utilize the available resources.
- Centralized coordination of county-wide science material support.
- Provide a common clearinghouse for professional development opportunities and resources.
- Marketing the importance of science education and a “call–to–action” by the community.
- Leadership to spearhead and an infrastructure to sustain inquiry–based science.
Science@OC developed and grew and OCCF was instrumental in exposing Science@OC to a multitude of key stakeholders adding credibility to its initial efforts.
By 2005, there was a need for Science@OC to align with a science-centered organization that had successful programs, expertise in science education, and the capacity to support this growing effort. The California Science Center in Los Angeles was the best organization to fill that role with the synergies of the California Science Center best aligning with the mission of Science@OC.
A new partnership relationship was established between the California Science Center and Science@OC. Science@OC gained prestige by connecting to a leading science entity and benefited from the experience and counsel of a nationally respected and successful “parent” organization. While under the guidance and leadership of the California Science Center, the main focus of Science@OC shifted to the need for exemplary middle school science. The successful Orange County Middle School Science Initiative was launched.
In April of 2010, Science@OC returned to Orange County as a project of the Volunteer Center of Orange County now known as OneOC, and remains under that fiscal sponsorship. Science@OC has its own Governance Guidelines, Advisory Board and committee structure to carry on the passion and the mission. The successful programs of Science@OC can be found under the School Districts Served, and the National Lab Network.