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April 5, 2013

Dear Friend of the Museums,   


One of the many rewarding aspects of our work at The Discovery Museums is learning and growing through interaction with our community. Collaborating with others interested in supporting children and families is energizing, and enriches our insights and offerings in many ways.

Professor Mitchel ResnickWe experienced this on March 20, when we gathered 70+ people for the first program in our new speaker series, intended to bring together thought leaders and community members around important matters affecting children and families. Co-sponsored by the MIT Club of Boston, Professor Mitchel Resnick, LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research at the MIT Media Lab, led the group in thinking about "Preparing Today's Children for Tomorrow's Creative Society." Professor Resnick's research with the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at MIT includes efforts to enable young kids to use technology in the same spirit of playing with things like blocks and paints, but with the ability to explore more sophisticated ideas. The group's work has resulted in the development of the SCRATCH programming language for kids, now used by millions worldwide. 

The next speaker in our series will be Dr. J. Kevin Nugent, Ph.D., Founder and Director of the Brazelton Institute at Boston Children's Hospital. Dr. Nugent will be here on the evening of Wednesday, June 12, to discuss "The Language of Babies:  What the Research Tells Us."  This event is co-sponsored by the MIT Club of Boston.  Join us! 

We are considering a number of topics for future discussions in the speaker series; would you take a moment to do a one-question survey to give us your feedback?

The Fenn YIP Club standing in front of Bessie the dinosaurWe recently received two community grants that are especially meaningful to us. The Acton-Boxboro United Way Youth in Philanthropy Club and the Youth in Philanthropy Club at the Fenn School, both student-led organizations, have awarded grants to support other kids through our Especially for Me program, which supports children with hearing loss and children on the autism spectrum. These grants are great examples of Eagle scout standing by a handmade fencethe generosity of youth that we see so often. The museums also benefit from a significant level of youth volunteer commitment: in the past year alone, more than 75 local teens donated nearly 3,500 hours of their time to the museums as explorer and program volunteers, an increase of almost 50% since 2010. One long-time volunteer, Michael Vrablik, chose The Discovery Museums for his Eagle Scout project last spring, and was highlighted in the local press for his terrific efforts on our behalf.   

Part of building community is working with and supporting other local nonprofits that serve our area. Last year we supported more than 250 other nonprofits by donating greater than $11,000 in admission passes and family memberships for their fundraising raffles and auctions.  

CEO Neil Gordon and HGRM board presidentIn March we partnered with Household Goods Recycling of Massachusetts (HGRM) to encourage our visitors to help other families through our Pots and Pans for Passes drive.  We offered two free museum admission passes for every new or gently used pot donated here. As expected, our community was very generous, donating more than 150 cookware items, enough to supply 50 HGRM families. We hope that by offering these creative options for giving, we help initiate a family dialogue about the importance and satisfaction of giving to others.    

This month we launched a great new outdoors project, generously funded by The Sudbury Foundation. Natural Connections is an after-school club that gets kids outdoors! Activities are led by Denise LeBlanc, our Director of Learning Experiences, and Stephen DiFlorio, a science teacher who is very experienced doing outdoor explorations with kids. Twelve third- and fourth-graders from the Excel After-School program in Maynard will visit The Discovery Museums each week for three months, exploring our grounds and the adjoining conservation land. This new initiative is part of our goal to develop exhibits and programs that address the issues related to the marked reduction in outdoor exploration and play among children. The term "nature-deficit disorder" was coined by author Richard Louv in his book Last Child in the Woods to describe the effects on young children of being disconnected from their natural world. Louv links this lack of exposure to nature with some of the most disturbing childhood trends including obesity, attention disorders, and depression. We are lucky to have great outdoor spaces at the Museums, and we continue to try to find new ways to leverage them to get kids outside. 

At our annual meeting in January, we reflected on a strong previous year and refined plans to continue that forward progress. We also had to say goodbye to long-term board members Joan Appleton, Lenore Henry, Dan Cook, and Maxwell Hall. Importantly, each of these dedicated volunteers has already committed their time to some important future projects with the Museums. Thank you Joan, Lenore, Dan, and Max for your years of service.

We were pleased to welcome three new board members: JD Chesloff, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable; Robert V. Ferrara, Senior Director of Strategic Planning, Communications and Alumni Relations for the MIT Division of Student Life; and Jarod J. Bloom, Partner at Sechrest & Bloom, LLC and Sechrest Financial Services, LLC. Bob, Jarod, and JD join a Board that led the Museums through a successful 2012 where we served a record number for the third year running.

Kids doing experiments with waterAs a reader of these regular updates, you know a fair amount about The Discovery Museums. But, I won't be surprised if many of you would learn something about us by watching our terrific new video, Fun For All at The Discovery Museums. It highlights some of the things we do beyond what you see when you walk through the doors.

Please take a few minutes to watch it, and let me know one thing you learned about The Discovery Museums that you hadn't known before. You may win a prize to be determined! But more importantly, you'll hear our story, and better understand why and in what ways we are making a positive impact on families. 


As always, thank you for your support.






Neil H. Gordon

Chief Executive Officer