Science has never been so much fun

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Josh Hurley, 4, and his sister Elena, 7, of Reading, play with shapes on a magnetic board Saturday at the grand reopening celebration at the Discovery Museums’ new building on Main Street in Acton. See a slide show at SUN photos /Julia Malakie

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ACTON — Legos, dinosaurs, water. They all played a role in luring hundreds of area children and their parents to the grand reopening of the Discovery Museums in Acton on Saturday.

And they were just some of the 1,655 guests who attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony and preliminary frolic in the museum complex’s flagship building, the Science Center.

The 16,000 square-foot building is the latest in an ongoing series of expansions and upgrades to the museums, following last year’s construction of a 550 square-foot treehouse alongside an outdoor adventure land. All of the property’s features and attractions are fully accessible and completely interactive.

The new building offers hundreds of science activities and experiments from the elaborate Airplay tube transport network, to basic magnet tests. It seems that every child had his own favorite area.

“I like the pirate stuff and the tree house,” said 5-year-old Gabe Silverman of Acton. His friend Cooper Sheridan, also 5, of Leominster, preferred “the thing where you put the paper in and it got blown into the air.”

The Discovery Museums originally opened in 1982 for youngsters up to 6 years old followed by an expansion in 1987 that offered a wider range of interests for older children. From these hands-on recreations grew the motto, “science, nature, play.”

And, also grew the reputation, leading to a record 185,000 visitors in 2017, officials said.


That was before the opening of this new facility.

“I really liked playing with the water,” said Sarah Kelly, 12, of Natick. She was talking about the room that featured several hands-on displays about the power and versatility of water. Her friend, Aviva Harman, 12, was more fascinated by the FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared Radiometer). “My favorite part was the heat sensor television,” she said.

Shoshana Yaffa, 4, of Lowell, “really liked the dinosaurs.

Kristen Haire of Hopkinton with daughters Aubrey, 5, and Natalie, 7 months old, at the museum s reopening. Aubrey is making the wings flap.

Kristen Haire of Hopkinton with daughters Aubrey, 5, and Natalie, 7 months old, at the museum s reopening. Aubrey is making the wings flap.

Regardless of age, there appears to be something for everyone: oversized Legos allow for architecture practice and a PVC pipe-organ. In fact, all senses were stimulated to some degree. Outside, the terrain surrounding the treehouse challenged the children to climbing and swinging and exploration of nature.

Admission is free for members, $14.50 for children and adults and $12.50 for seniors. But entry fees still only cover about a third of the costs. According to Director of Marketing Ann Sgarzi, “much of our funding comes from private donations, corporate sponsorship and government grants.” The new science center was developed using part of the $8.8 million gained in a capital campaign.

The non-profit organization has a footprint far larger than its 4.5 acre campus. They sponsor the Traveling Science Workshops, which brought STEM experts to 1,600 scholastic venues in the state, last year alone. Nearly 11,000 children visited as part of school-sponsored field trips from many of the 100 towns within the orbit of the complex. The museum has won gold or silver every year since 2010 in “Wicked Local Reader’s Choice Awards.” It was also awarded, over those same eight years, Best of the Best Family Favorite Award by “Boston Parents Paper.”

As for the future, Sgarzi says nothing more is planned in terms of major projects or upgrades.

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