Powerhouse Science Center
Sacramento's Powerhouse Science Center is an interactive museum dedicated to STEM education and hands-on learning. Powerhouse has educated and entertained thousands of visitors since it first opened its doors as the California Junior Museum in 1951 and later operated as the Discovery Museum. With exhibits focused on Earth sciences, natural history, technology, and astronomy, visitors learn about the wonders of science through activities such as building robots, seeing live animals up close, studying the heavens at the planetarium, or launching into space on a simulated NASA mission. The science center plans to move to the riverfront in the coming years, breathing new life into the old PG&E power station and constructing new facilities.
Backstory and Context
Science is always changing and so is the Powerhouse Science Center. Since 1951, the science center has been providing children and families with a chance to play, experiment, and study the breadth of scientific disciplines. Today, the museum is located on Auburn Boulevard, though it was originally located near where the UC Davis Medical Center is today. Powerhouse aims to be Sacramento’s version of the Exploratorium in San Francisco, a science museum that pioneered interactive and experiential learning. Powerhouse is among the museums that opened in the mid-twentieth century as educators incorporated new learning strategies in informal settings like museums.
The Powerhouse Science Center has a number of interactive permanent exhibits, including Forces: Earth and Space, the Design Lab, and Nature Discovery, that engage children and adults with science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The museum also houses the Challenger Learning Center, founded in 1986 to honor those who gave their lives to science in the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster. Visitors can learn about the intricacies of space travel in a simulated Mission Control center and spacecraft, while outreach programs promote STEM education across the country.
As STEM fields continue to flourish and make vital contributions to modern society, a new Powerhouse Science Center is scheduled to open in 2020. The 22,000 square foot facility will be a crown jewel along the revitalized riverfront that will “inspire the next generation to go into the STEM disciplines.”1 The project will cost around $50 million, with Sacramento City Council pledging $30 million in funding over the next 30 years, an investment that advocates say will raise Powerhouse to the level of other local institutions like the Crocker. A blend of new construction and adaptive reuse of the century-old PG&E power plant, the reimagined Powerhouse Science Center will include a state of the art planetarium, the Challenger Learning Center, and new exhibits on energy, environmental sciences, biotechnology, and water conservation.
1. Oide, “Sacramento’s Powerhouse Science Center aims to break ground in ’17.”
“About.” Sacramento Challenger Learning Center. Accessed February 2018. https://sacramentoclc.com
“About Us.” Powerhouse Science Center. Accessed February 2018. http://powerhousesc.org/aboutus/
California Junior Museum. Photo. 1955. Sacrament Public Library. Calisphere. https://calisphere.org/item/2b52e3fe78d959e840d85221a8b54f97/
Oide, Thomas. “Sacramento’s Powerhouse Science Center aims to break ground in ’17.” Sacramento Bee. June 21, 2016. Accessed February 2018. http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article85090847.html
Lillis, Ryan. “This former power plant will soon house California’s newest science museum.” Sacramento Bee. December 20, 2017. Accessed February 2018. http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/news-columnns-blogs/city-beat/article190824344.html