This local gem shows how organizations can work together for the greater good.
The Silver River Museum & Environmental Education Center is an innovative program of Marion County Public Schools (MCPS) and has been in operation since 1991. It is a great example of how charitable giving can impact communities for the better.
The center is located within the Silver Springs State Park and operates in partnership with the Florida Park Service. In addition to museum exhibits highlighting our natural and cultural history, there are classrooms, a library, a replica pioneer settlement, a wood-fired pottery kiln and a tour boat that provides eco-tours for students on the Silver River. Charitable giving of money and volunteer time have allowed this impressive program to grow and thrive.
As the parent organization, MCPS deserves praise for always putting students first.
In 1987 the Christa McAuliffe Foundation (named after the teacher who tragically died in the first space shuttle disaster) provided funding for a feasibility study and architectural plans.
Several appropriations from the Florida legislature, along with a hefty contribution from the St. Johns Water Management District, jumpstarted construction of the initial exhibits building and classrooms in 1991. A multitude of private donors then assisted with cash, countless volunteer hours and professional expertise.
The Felburn Foundation has funded numerous capital projects, including construction of a new exhibit wing featuring Native American dugout canoes (the exhibit was loaned to MCPS by the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida). Duke Energy and Lockheed Martin have also supported science education for students through the Public Education Foundation of Marion County.
And we are most appreciative of those who have donated hundreds of pieces of local history, such as priceless relics from centuries ago as well memorabilia from the golden age of tourism at Silver Springs.
Since joining the Silver River Museum staff in 2004, I also have been continuously impressed by a league of dedicated volunteers.
Through hard work and generous giving, the museum has become one of the many local jewels that make Marion County a great place to live. OS
Scott Mitchell is a field archaeologist, scientific illustrator and director of the Silver River Museum & Environmental Education Center, located at 1445 NE 58th Ave., Ocala, inside the Silver River State Park. Museum hours are 10am to 4pm Saturday and Sunday. Admission to the park is $2 per person; free ages 6 and younger. To learn more, go to silverrivermuseum.com.