Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum and Leslie Science & Nature Center to Explore Joint Operations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – MAY 16, 2016 – Ann Arbor, Mich. -- The boards of the Leslie Science & Nature Center and Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum have approved a Memorandum of Understanding as a first step in a multi-step process for uniting the organizations as a single provider of science, nature and environmental education programming for Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County and beyond.

“For some time, the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum and Leslie Science & Nature Center have been exploring the possibility of combining as a united science, nature and environmental learning experience,” said Mel Drumm, executive director, Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum. “This conversation grew organically from more than eight years of successful collaborations that has resulted in popular programs such as Critters Up Close, a monthly event that brings animals from Leslie to the Museum where hands-on activities are offered. Leslie Science & Nature Center will continue to focus on in-depth and community focused programming, including a few select local large-scale public events such as Earth Day, while large-scale regional public programming will occur at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum.”

“Leslie Science & Nature Center’s site and facilities will remain focused on nature and the environment, and the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum will remain focused on science and technology, but with increased cross-pollination of these areas of scientific endeavor,” explained Susan Westhoff, executive director, Leslie Science & Nature Center.  This union allows two strong independent entities to work together and build on each other’s strengths.  A unified organization will enable us to reach more in our community; we anticipate operational savings or programmatic reinvestment of more than $4 million over the next decade.”

Though legally combined, Leslie Science & Nature Center and the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum will remain distinct in name, purpose and identity and will continue with current mission, programs and events. Additionally, the combined organization intends to institute a fundraising process that will respect donor preferences so that individual, corporate and foundation gifts may be targeted to support Leslie Science & Nature Center or Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum programs, activities, or operations specifically, or our combined operational needs. 

Presently, Leslie Science & Nature Center and the City of Ann Arbor Parks & Recreation operate under a partnership agreement. Both the City of Ann Arbor and the Parks & Recreation have expressed commitment to the growth, enhancement, and sustainability of a combined organization. The next step is to obtain support for amendment of the operating agreement between Leslie Science & Nature Center, the City of Ann Arbor, and the Hands-On Museum to confirm:

  •  The site of Leslie Science & Nature Center, and the adjoining Black Pond Woods, remains city-owned parks, open to the public, and continuing under the jurisdiction and ownership of the City of Ann Arbor.
  • The City of Ann Arbor will continue as an integral partner in the operation, exterior maintenance (capital or noncapital) and development of the buildings, parkland and programming, through regular interaction with Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum/Leslie Science & Nature Center staff.
  • Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum/ Leslie Science & Nature Center will assume responsibility for interior maintenance (excluding pre-existing conditions) and new capital improvements at Leslie Science & Nature Center.
  • Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum/ Leslie Science & Nature Center will develop and deliver science, nature, technology, engineering, and environmental education programs within Leslie Science & Nature Center and Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum facilities and grounds and through Outreach activities.

“As community ownership and engagement is the overarching philosophy at both organizations, we know our ultimate success rests in the hands of our community,” said Drumm. “In the coming months, we will continue to seek input and support from our members and donors, elected officials, colleagues, and our community”, said Westhoff.

About the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum

Offering more than 250 interactive exhibits, the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum attracts over 295,000+ visitors annually who discover the wonder of science, technology, engineering, art, and math. In addition to exhibits and public programming, the Museum offers award-winning distance learning and outreach programming to schools, libraries, and community centers statewide and around the world. Visit or call 734.995.5439 for more information.

About the Leslie Science & Nature Center

The Leslie Science & Nature Center educates and inspires children and adults to discover, understand, and respect their natural environment. Leslie Science & Nature Center enables individuals and communities throughout Southeastern Michigan to establish lifelong connections with the natural world and encourages efforts to support and protect it for future generations. In addition to a 50-acre site in Ann Arbor with animal ambassadors and educational programming, Leslie Science & Nature Center also brings nature out to the community through outreach programs with schools, assisted living facilities, libraries, and to community events throughout Southeastern Michigan.  Visit or call 734-997-1553 for more information. 

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