In 1962, the concept of a nature and science facility was introduced to the Winston-Salem Recreation Commission by the Junior League, who also attained positive community support. The first site for the Nature Science Center was a barn with silo attached on the original Reynolda Estate property. Reynolda, built in 1917, by industrialist R.J. Reynolds and his wife, Katherine, was a “model community” designed to illustrate and encourage innovative methods of farming, animal husbandry, gardening, and horticulture. The estate and grounds are now part of Wake Forest University.
With a capital gift of $26,000 from the Junior League and $16,000 from The Winston-Salem Foundation, the Nature Science Center opened its doors in December 1964.. In the 4,000 square feet allocated, visitors saw a small area for display of collections, the planetarium, a classroom, live animals, and offices. Activities included workshops, astronomy classes, and films.
Over the years, the Center’s collections grew enthusiastically. Exhibits continued to feature live animals, many transportation models, and assorted other contributions. In 1974, relocation to the present site was achieved. Formerly the Forsyth Nursing and Care Center, the Forsyth County Commissioners agreed to lease the current 27-acre property to the people of Forsyth County. In 1977, the Hanes Corporation donated an additional 3-acres of land for use. The following year, the first major campaign was a success. The project connected the northern most buildings and added a small planetarium, a tidal pool for educational demonstrations, and a 3,000 sq. ft. exhibit hall in the connected space.
The revisions and additions to our mission statement over the past 26 years reflect the Center’s responsiveness to the changing needs of the community. The original statement stressed nature study for elementary age children with some provisions for general science education. In the late 70′s, the increasing number of new industries in our community led us to a revision which placed emphasis on physical science, technology and science-related career opportunities. Science, technology, environmental, and contemporary issues will continue to focus the center’s hands-on approach to learning science.
In 1988, the Board of Directors led a successful capital campaign, which raised almost $2.4 million dollars and was joined by a $4 million dollar Forsyth County bond and $300,000 in City of Winston-Salem funds. This would dramatically increase and improve the existing exhibit areas and the overall 31-acre site. Construction of the project began in the fall of 1991. During this time, the Board revised the mission statement of the science center which resulted in the new name SciWorks, The Science Center and Environmental Park of Forsyth County, Inc. During construction, the new SciWorks continued its operation at an off-site location at Hanes Mall. The new Environmental Park opened August, 1992 and the new building opened in November, 1992.
In 1996, planning by the Board paved the way for a new capital campaign which began in fall 2000 – named “SciWorks 2001.” The purpose of this fundraising effort was to generate money for new exhibits, 1000 sq. ft. of collections exhibit space, and a 3000 sq. ft. eating area. This campaign completed the exhibits projects of the 1992 campaign and renovation. Major exhibit areas are HealthWorks, TechWorks, From the Mountains to the Sea, and KidsWorks.
SciWorks’ 3rd capital campaign named “SciVision” provided funds to build all new exhibits in PhysicsWorks, SoundWorks, and BioWorks. PhysicsWorks was first – opening in May of 2008. SoundWorks was next – opening in spring of 2010. Soon after, BioWorks opened to the delight of visitors, featuring animals of North and South America. In spring of 2012, the Outdoor Science Park finished construction. It features big, bold, and interactive exhibits. This project was also supported with a grant from the Institute of Museums and Library Services for $150,000 from their Museums for America program.
SciWorks, the Science Center and Environmental Park of Forsyth County, offers experiences in the natural and physical sciences in its 7 indoor science halls, its traveling exhibits hall, the 50-foot/119-seat domed Planetarium, and outside in its Environmental Park habitats (including the ever-popular barnyard). A visit to the barnyard and the Environmental Park will give visitors the opportunity to experience a variety of animals in their natural habitats and to enjoy the beauty of the Wildflower Garden. Science truly comes “alive” during a visit to SciWorks!