Since 2021, about 16,450 fifth and eighth grade students in Volusia County Schools have been able to visit the Museum of Arts and Sciences for a day of hands-on learning.
A $340,000 donation to the FUTURES Foundation by Ormond Beach philanthropists Lowell and Nancy Lohman made that possible. At the Volusia County School Board meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 24, VCS Superintendent Carmen Balgobin announced that the Lohmans had extended their donation by an additional $340,000 to ensure the Lohman’s Museum of Arts and Sciences Field Study program continues for another three years.
"These two very, very special individuals here have helped our students not only acquire 21st century skills through STEM, but also develop a deep love ... for an area that we know that is expanding every single day — more job opportunities than we know that exist in these areas."
In the first year of the program, Balgobin said 6,700 students visited the museum. In the second year, the museum saw an attendance of 6,300 students. About 3,450 students have been to the museum this school year, which would have been the last for the program.
In the 2022-2023 test scores, fifth graders scored 10% above the state average in science and eighth graders scored 4% above the state average, Balgobin said.
MOAS Executive Director Tabitha Schmidt said the Lohmans are "game changers."
"They make things happen," Schmidt said. "I've been working in the museum and the education nonprofit field my entire career, which is a long time now, and I can tell you that metrics like what you just said are rare."
MOAS is thrilled to continue the program, she added.
"We need to present at some conferences, because this is big stuff that's happening in Volusia County," Schmidt said.
Nancy Lohman credited the idea for the program to School Board member Carl Persis, who she said suggested she and Lowell connect their love of the museum's planetarium — named after the Lohmans in 2021 — with the needs in the school district.
"The idea that no child is left behind was really important to us, and that that moved us tremendously," Nancy Lohman said.
The planetarium is also undergoing updates — the resolution is being improved, the interior is being remodeled and solar telescopes have been added.
Lowell Lohman said between 50,000 and 60,000 students will get to attend the field study program at MOAS and visit the planetarium.
"So if you have 60,000 students going to the planetarium, Nancy and I get a lot of satisfaction out of that," Lowell Lohman said.