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Nikki Statler, Director of Marketing  |  269.350.2811

Air Zoo Receives $129,000 in Support of New Education Classrooms!

Portage, MI, April 9, 2019 – The Air Zoo is excited to announce that it has received a $57,000 grant from the Margaret Dunning Foundation to support the renovation of its existing classroom spaces. This important grant will match the investment already committed by the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs in September 2018, in addition to a $15,000 grant from the Dorothy U. Dalton Foundation. This funding supports a complete renovation of the Air Zoo’s existing classroom spaces that will enable the Air Zoo to provide an immersive, hands-on space for the more than 90 STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) educational initiatives.

Awarded the Partner Award for contributions to the community by Discover Kalamazoo (2018) and identified by AmericanTowns Media as the best museum in Michigan (2016), the Air Zoo recently celebrated its fifth consecutive year of record-breaking attendance and program growth, including unprecedented increases in education programs. The surge in demand for education programming began in 2013, when the Air Zoo shifted its focus to meet a community need for high-quality, accessible, hands-on STEAM education programming that brings our aerospace collection – both its rich history and the innovation that led to its existence – to life for students of all ages.

Since that time, the Air Zoo has worked tirelessly to develop a catalog of unique and customizable education programs that provide hands-on learning for students. The Air Zoo’s highly-trained education teams wants learners of all ages who interact with the Air Zoo to find inspiration in the stories of the legacy of flight, in the ingenious careers and entrepreneurs who brought our expansive collection to life, and in the experience of touching, manipulating, building, and recreating their own exhibits. Learning at the Air Zoo is, therefore, never static.

Within the space of the Air Zoo’s classrooms, students explore the nuances of what brings our collection to life. They try on helmets and goggles, examine and explore pieces of aircraft, learn the science behind flight – and then they take to the exhibit floor to be awed and inspired by the magnificence of the aircraft, spacecraft and technology that history’s most innovative minds have given us – including a model Wright Flyer and the only remaining Lockheed SR-17B Blackbird in existence!

The Air Zoo’s classrooms play an important role in meeting the organization’s mission of preserving and advancing the legacy of flight, which is advanced through its impressive catalog of STEAM education programs. The infrastructure and technological upgrades grants like these support will enable the Air Zoo to create community-oriented, technologically updated, immersive educational space that will benefit learners of all ages throughout the southwest Michigan region, which are vital as the Air Zoo works to prepare the technological workforce of the future.

About the Air Zoo

Founded in 1977 by Pete and Sue Parish to preserve the legacy of flight for current and future generations, the Air Zoo is celebrating its 40th year of public operations in 2019. The Air Zoo is a Smithsonian-affiliated aerospace & science experience with over 100 rare aircraft and spacecraft, inspiring interactive exhibits, indoor amusement park rides, full-motion flight simulators, a state-of-the-art theater experience, hands-on science-based education programs, and more. 
With an expansive catalogue of educational programs, classes and camps, the Air Zoo has committed to spearheading STEAM education initiatives to benefit southwest Michigan and the surrounding region. Highlighting the unique careers that brought its collection to life, many of which are available locally, the Air Zoo is playing a major role in driving students to pursue postsecondary education and careers in these important fields, ultimately helping to ensure a thriving local economy for years to come.
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About the Dorothy U. Dalton Foundation

The Dorothy U. Dalton Foundation supports civic, cultural, education, health housing and human services causes through its tri-annual grant process. From her father, Dr. William E. Upjohn, Dorothy Upjohn Dalton learned to appreciate the arts, have an interest in civic affairs and a strong commitment to providing community support. Ms. Dalton attended Kalamazoo College and Smith College where she caught the acting bug in 1912 and subsequently spent The Roaring 20's with several repertory companies in Chicago, New York, Greenwich Village and Pasadena as well as a year in Europe and a summer at an artist colony at Woodstock.

In the 1930's, Ms. Dalton returned to Kalamazoo to uphold the Upjohn family legacy through community theater.  The Civic Theatre was built by her father, Dr. Upjohn, to promote the cultural enrichment of Kalamazoo. She also provided community support to the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, the Borgess Medical Center where she established a psychiatric clinic for adults, the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Unemployment Research and served on The Upjohn Company board for almost 45 years.

In 1964, Dorothy was one of the pioneer trustees of the Western Michigan Board of Directors where she served nine years.  She spearheaded the design and development of Miller Auditorium at WMU and the fine-arts facilities at Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo College which bear her name.  Her passions continue today through the Dorothy U. Dalton Foundation.


About the Margaret Dunning Foundation

The Margaret Dunning Foundation was founded by Ms. Dunning in 1997. She was born in 1910 in Redford Township, Michigan, and moved with her mother to Plymouth, Michigan in the late 1920s. During her lifetime, Ms. Dunning was a successful business woman, philanthropist and civic booster. She was a major supporter of many Plymouth nonprofits, including the Plymouth District Library and the Plymouth Historical Society. In addition to her personal philanthropy, Ms. Dunning was a classic car enthusiast and was a regular participant in the Woodward Dream Cruise with her 1930 Packard 740 Roadster.

Ms. Dunning died in 2013 at the age of 104. Her estate provided additional funding for the Margaret Dunning Foundation, which continues to support her charitable interests and legacy. For more information:


About the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs

The mission of the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs is broad, yet simple: To encourage, initiate and facilitate an enriched artistic, cultural and creative environment in Michigan. As the state's government's lead agency charged with developing arts and culture policy and grant-making, MCACA recognizes the need for, and seeks out, a wide variety of public and private sector partners to help fulfill this mission. Our partners provide needed services to the field through collective knowledge, expertise and genuine care for the mission of the Council and the fulfillment of our collective goals.

The MCACA grant was awarded through the MCACA peer review process and was one of 561 applications to compete for MCACA fiscal year 2019 funding. A complete list of grant awards around the state is available by contacting MCACA at (517) 241-4011, or by visiting the MCACA website at



Posted by Nikki Statler at 3:00 PM
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