Discovery museum

How does the air work? Larger Discovery Museum uncovers the wonder of science


The role of the museum is to show children that science is part of the world around them and to encourage them to learn more about it, said Neil Gordon, chief executive of the organization.

“We don’t want to say or help children know what to think. We really want them to know how to think, ”Gordon said. “That’s what science is – it’s a skill for understanding the world around you.”

The Discovery Museum, located at 177 Main Street (Route 27) in Acton, inaugurated its improved exhibit space on March 3 after an $ 8.8 million fundraising campaign to improve its facilities.

The project created 16,000 square feet of new space, including the Indoor Museum and Discovery Woods outdoor treehouse, all designed to be accessible to all children from birth to 12 years old and their families.

The project expanded and renovated the Science Discovery Museum building, doubling the space so that the exhibits of the Children’s Discovery Museum and the Science Museum could be brought together under one roof. (The change also led the organization to change its name – it’s now known as the Discovery Museum, dropping the plural “museums”.)

Jasper Bergeron (left) had fun while Acton’s Maria Bolberov shot a video of her 5-year-old son Aleksey.Jon Chase for the Boston Globe

The museum surpassed its original fundraising goal of $ 7 million, with more than 200 people, organizations and businesses supporting the work, Gordon said.

The past year has been a period of growth for the museum: 2017 ended with over 2,400 families joining as members, an increase of 9% over 2016. And even with construction , the museum welcomed 187,000 visitors – its second largest year since opening in 1982.

By moving the exhibits from the iconic – but archaic – Victorian house used for the children’s museum to a building accessible to all visitors, Gordon said, the museum will be more welcoming to all.

“We believe that what the Discovery Museum offers is really good for kids and important for kids, and therefore it should be accessible to all kids,” Gordon said. “We want every child to be fully curious and creative. “

Does the new museum space meet this objective? On a recent weekday afternoon, Carleton said it was his family’s second visit that day.

“It’s a fantastic museum, fantastic staff,” she said. “I like the way design and art are integrated into this. “

Children and their parents put objects into the A-Mazing Airways machine.
Children and their parents put objects into the A-Mazing Airways machine.Jon Chase for the Boston Globe

Along with families, the museum is also a rich resource for teachers and other educators, said Susan Erickson, K-5 science and social studies specialist for Weston Public Schools.

Last May, she set aside a day for students from Weston’s Country Elementary School to visit the museum.

Erickson, who previously worked at the museum, said she was inspired to become a teacher by looking at how her exhibits have stimulated children’s interest in learning science.

“When [children] do science, it sticks, ”Erickson said. “In doing so, it makes sense. “

During a recent tour with museum staff, groups of families walked through the new exhibits. One shows how water can move and be shaped. Another uses common household objects to split a beam of light into a colored spectrum.

There’s even a workshop where kids can try out making their own simple flying machines – and try them out with a blast from a vertical airflow machine.

Among the new exhibits, Brain Building Together is aimed at very young children up to the age of 3 to stimulate healthy brain development. The exhibit, like others in the museum, was built with input from experts in child development, education and other fields.

Exhibits are also designed to grab the attention of older students [read: parents and guardians] that can be part of the learning experience.

For Gordon, who worked for almost nine years as the museum’s managing director, encouraging science education to children is a way to invest in future generations.

“Science is just a way to understand the world, and for me the world of children’s museums is a way to really nurture the most important resource we have,” Gordon said. “You think every child is just a seed of opportunity.”

For more information about the Discovery Museum, including hours, admission, and special programs, visit www.discoveryacton.org.

Joan O'Brien and her grandson Noah Arana watched 7-year-old Jeremiah Lakes of Belmont play the double bass inside the Discovery Museum.
Joan O’Brien and her grandson Noah Arana watched 7-year-old Jeremiah Lakes of Belmont play the double bass inside the Discovery Museum.Jon Chase for the Boston Globe

John Hilliard can [email protected]