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Helping the New York Hall of Science transform STEM education


The New York Hall of Science (NYSCI), over its 50 years in operation, has inspired millions by offering creative, participatory ways to learn and encouraging people to explore their curiosity and nurture their creativity. Located in Queens, the most diverse borough of New York City, NYSCI is an integral part of the community for children, educators and families throughout the region. In recent years, NYSCI had achieved significant success developing museum experiences and innovative programs as part of a strategy of engagement called Design-Make-Play. The Design-Make-Play approach is defined by open-ended exploration, imaginative learning, personal relevance, deep engagement and delight—the core ingredients that inspire passionate learners. The success of innovative, interactive new exhibits and experiences, such as Connected Worlds and Design Lab on the museum floor and Noticing Tools designed for digital learning, has opened up a new vista of opportunity for NYSCI.

At the outset of the strategic planning process, the organization wanted to build on its recent success to expand its base of support and reach even more families, young people and educators. The organization looked to bring all of its diverse work together under the umbrella of Design-Make-Play and ensure that all its programs reinforced the goal of transforming STEM education.


Working closely with NYSCI staff, we:

  1. Analyzed data on visitation, programming and funding

  2. Conducted research and interviews with peer institutions on visitation and earned revenue activities, education programming, positioning and marketing

  3. Interviewed funders, supporters and staff and conducted focus groups with educators and visitors to understand NYSCI’s unique value proposition

  4. Worked with staff, using information from research, interviews and focus groups, to delineate the core components of Design-Make-Play and how the approach could be brought to NYSCI’s core audiences

  5. Facilitated staff working groups convened around core questions in the strategic planning process

  6. Developed a detailed strategy for NYSCI’s education products and programs, focused on aligning around Design-Make-Play

  7. Aided staff in developing a set of core considerations for decision-making to use for exhibits, products and programs moving forward

  8. Developed 5-year financial projections under 2 scenarios

  9. Created action plans for each department, outlining their responsibilities under the strategic plan and who would do what, by when


NYSCI defined the core components of the Design-Make-Play approach and identified their ambition to transform STEM education through Design-Make-Play. The organization then delineated how the approach could be applied to transform five core audiences—the visiting public, educators, students, the community, and thought leaders and supporters—through its place, products and partnerships. NYSCI also developed a vision for their future focused around four key ideas—aligning around Design-Make-Play, developing innovative education programs, creating digital projects, and fostering an even better environment for collaboration. NYSCI’s ambition, approaches and vision were carefully designed to capture what was truly unique about the institution, and to appeal all of NYSCI’s audiences.

Once buy-in was achieved from staff, Board and other supporters, the organization reviewed programs and identified where and how greater alignment with Design-Make-Play could be achieved. As part of this process, Wellspring Consulting worked with staff involved in education programs to design a strategy for future work that tied together digital tools, curriculum materials, and online resources into a cohesive suite of products. Working with Wellspring Consulting, NYSCI staff also developed a process and decision-making strategy to foster greater collaboration between departments and programs.

Working closely with NYSCI’s staff, we developed 5-year financial projections, under main case and upside scenarios, with a focus on long-term sustainability, achieving growth in funding for innovative new exhibits, products and programs, and fostering opportunities for operational improvements. We then worked with each department to outline step-by-step implementation plans that, together, fed into the greater goal of transforming STEM education through Design-Make-Play.


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