Stephanie Knopp of PNC, right, encourages Miriam Gonzalez, 10, front left, as she works on a craft project. (Evy Mages/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

It didn’t matter to Sandy Li, a credit officer at PNC Financial Services Group, if she got funny stares on the Metro for carrying a dozen bags of toilet paper rolls. She was doing what she loves — “connecting to the community.”

After collecting the supplies from co-workers, she and a dozen other PNC employees helped young kids replicate a Mars rover, telescopes and other space-oriented crafts during one of the recent family days at the National Air and Space Museum.

The nearly 2,000 visitors also saw a planetarium show and learned about Mars during story time to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the first U.S. spacecraft to land on the planet.

The volunteer effort is part of PNC’s two-year, $384,000 partnership with the education division of the museum to improve science education for pre-kindergarten students in the District’s public schools. The partnership also includes pre-kindergarten science literacy programs and professional development programs to teach educators how to implement science education in the classrooms.

“We don’t have a lot of staff in our education division so we depend on our volunteers,” said Lizzie Cammarata, the museum’s early childhood education program assistant. “Volunteers allow us to have that one-on-one experience with the kids because often we just don’t have enough hands, especially with smaller children.”

Beatrice Guibord, 4, participates in Mars Day at the National Air & Space Museum. PNC has a partnership with the museum’s education division. (Evy Mages/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

It’s the smaller kids the company targets with its philanthropic efforts. But it hasn’t always been that way. After surveying employees and talking with education experts, the company eight years ago decided to shift from supporting multiple causes to focus on early childhood education.

To encourage community service, the company budgets 40 hours of paid volunteer hours each year for employees. The program also awards $3,000 to the team that reaches 100 hours of volunteer work to give to their adopted learning center.

When Li discovered this, she urged her co-workers “as much as possible” to attend the museum’s family days.

“If you make it a priority you can you can make it happen,” Li said.