Acton Beacon: Discovery Museums could use state funds for new math exhibit

By Molly Loughman

A new exhibit focused on math education for children may be possible using $150,000 in state funding, which Acton Discovery Museums CEO Neil Gordon is grateful local lawmakers recently fought to get.

Discovery Museums in Acton is getting its $150,000 earmark after state lawmakers overrode Gov. Charlie Baker’s veto of the funding in the fiscal 2016 state budget. With support from state Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton; state Rep. Jennifer Benson, D-Lunenburg; and state Rep. Cory Atkins, D-Concord, the House and Senate joined forces to override Baker’s vetoes to education funding, local programs and economic development initiatives.

According to Benson, the money was part of the restoration of $5.17 million to the state Office of Travel and Tourism.

“Its really terrific,” said Gordon about Eldridge’s, Benson’s and Atkins’ support for the override. “We’re really thankful they did that. That’s really great of them. The amendment supports us developing more educational opportunities for kids and their parents. We suggested to Senator Eldridge that we would love to have the funding support the new exhibits that will be part of the renovated museum.”

Plans for how Discovery Museums will spend the $150,000 ​will become more clear when the nonprofit learns​ more about the​ availability of the​ state​ ​​funding, Gordon said. Discovery Museums’ new “Yes, it’s Math” exhibit will be part of museum renovations and will be geared to help parents become more comfortable assisting their children with learning mathematics. There is no specific date set yet to begin building renovations​, said Gordon.

“What’s exciting for us is that we’ve been doing this work in the community for 33 years. This specific funding to the museums was a real indication of the support in the community and the recognition of how many kids and families we benefit, so we’re thankful and excited,” said Gordon.

A 1991 Acton-Boxborough Regional High School graduate, Eldridge grew up in Acton and said he spent his childhood visiting Discovery Museums.

“I am very pleased that the House and Senate overrode the governor’s veto to secure $150,000 for the Acton Discovery Museums. It’s one of the most visited in the state and also it is in the process of capital campaign to expand, so it’s I think perfect timing for the museums,” said Eldridge. “The museums are such a critical role in educating young people, especially around things like science and the environment, so I think it’s a good investment from the state and proud to work with representatives Benson and Atkins to pass an override in the House and Senate.”

Eldridge said he has already received multiple thank-you emails from board members of Discovery Museums, along with community members.“I have a lot of great memories there, and of course there are so many Acton families who go there, so so far it’s been very positive,” he said.

Discovery Museums brings together science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) learning and play through its two museums, which include exhibits developed by professional educators to stimulate curiosity, exploration, experimentation and imagination.

“I appreciate Senator Eldridge’s leadership in securing this funding,” stated Benson. “The Acton Discovery Museums promote a lifelong love of learning, and they enrich the minds of the thousands of children who visit each year.”

In addition to renovating both museum buildings, capital upgrades will also include expansion projects such as construction of a tree house, an outdoor playscape area and two new paths leading to them. The playscape and treehouse will be built directly between the Science Discovery Museum and the abutting town-owned Great Hill conservation and recreation land.

The entire outdoor expansion project, totaling more than $1 million, was approved at Town Meeting last April, where $150,000 in funding from Community Preservation Act funds was approved for the construction of the site.

“They have an expansion focused on ecology and the environment, so I think that’s what it’s for, but that’s up to the museum,” said Eldridge.

The Discovery Woods & Creativity Playscape will include new interactive exhibits and a new 500- to 600-square-foot treehouse, which will sit 15 to 20 feet in the air. The treehouse, which will be made from white oak and locust, will have a 70- to 80-foot Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant raised platform pathway leading to it.

“I am so proud of this museum that it’s in Acton,” stated Atkins. “It demonstrates the unlimited creativity of the people who live in Acton and the ever-expanding knowledge that they share with the commonwealth.”

To read the story online, visit the Acton Beacon’s website.

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