NEW YORK—Today, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, American Museum of Natural History President Ellen Futter, Council Members, and the New York Housing Authority Chair and CEO Shola Olatoye kicked off the Family Science Program, a Council-sponsored initiative that funds free museum visits and programming for families in NYCHA housing. The program will allow children and families to explore the natural world through engaging exhibitions, workshops, and interactive activities with museum staff.

The Family Science Program will serve families in NYCHA housing with children aged 4-10 years old on Saturdays from October 2014 to May 2015. The program will support families in developing skills for observing and understanding the natural world, engage parents and children alike in scientific conversations while providing them with the resources needed to continue these discussions at home.

The New York City Council allocated over $114,000 in the Fiscal Year 2015 budget to fund the Family Science Program.

“Everyone deserves the opportunity to experience New York City’s renowned cultural and scientific institutions, regardless of neighborhood or zip code,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “These are the kinds of hands-on experiences that get children and families excited about learning both in and out of the classroom, building up the next generation of thinkers and innovators. I am proud to support the Family Science Program with my colleagues in the City Council and thank AMNH President Futter and NYCHA Chair Shola Olatoye for making this program a reality for so many families.”

“Throughout its history, the Museum has sought to ensure that the people of New York have access to the many exceptional experiences, exhibitions, and resources that the Museum has to offer, and the City Administration and City Council have long been invaluable partners in these efforts,” said Ellen V. Futter, President of the American Museum of Natural History. “We are delighted to continue our work with the City Council, especially with Speaker Mark-Viverito, and now the New York City Housing Authority to launch this new program which provides families from NYCHA developments with engaging and enriching educational experiences and introduces them to the Museum as an inexhaustible resource for continued family learning.”

Key features of the program include opportunities for families to practice using scientific tools and techniques of naturalists together and get up close and hands-on with fascinating objects on display, and experience the work of a field scientist. By featuring the natural world within the Museum, families build direct connections to what they see outside of the Museum and in their communities.

“While the Museum is right here in the center of New York City, it’s good to remember that not everyone has the chance to fully explore its many wonders, and that providing new expanded access can really make a difference, especially for children and their families who live in public housing,” said NYCHA Chair and CEO Shola Olatoye. “We are grateful for Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, the New York City Council and the AMNH for making this program possible.”

“The American Museum of Natural History’s incredible collections and remarkable commitment to public programming and engagement have secured its place as one of New York’s most treasured institutions,” said New York City Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl. “I applaud Speaker Mark-Viverito, her colleagues in the City Council, and NYCHA Chair Shola Olatoye for supporting this terrific initiative and recognizing the value of engaging young NYCHA residents and their families in the high-quality science programming offered by AMNH.”

“Every child deserves the opportunity to enjoy our City’s world-class cultural institutions,” said New York City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer. “Through the City Council’s Family Science Program we are increasing access to the American Museum of Natural History and ensuring the next generation of New Yorkers and NYCHA residents get to enjoy all this wonderful institution has to offer. As Chair of the Council’s Cultural Affairs Committee I am proud to have worked alongside Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and my colleagues to secure this funding. By giving thousands of families direct access to the museum’s award-winning exhibitions, workshops and programs we are helping foster a collaborative relationship that will enhance our children’s learning experiences.”

“The Museum of Natural History’s Family Science Program, generously supported by the Speaker and my colleagues in City Council will bring hundreds of public housing residents to this treasured institution and expand its reach to children and families across the city,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres, Chair of the Committee on Public Housing. “It is my hope that through improved access to one of our city’s cultural gems we can cultivate excitement about science and learning in these young leaders of tomorrow.”

“This is a fantastic opportunity for families from public housing to share the wonders of the Museum in a guided program that will allow them to get the most of their visit and future visits,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal. “We are opening the door for curious minds. The next generation will learn to use the Museum and develop their comfort level and interest in science. Hundreds of children and their parents will be taking part from my District, and I’m thrilled for them to have the chance to utilize this great institution of knowledge.”