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a young family stands with CEO Neil Gordon
July 27, 2017

Dear Friend of the Museums,

Many things that Fred Rogers said are worth considering, such as: "Strengthen a parent and you strengthen the child," and "Childbirth does not produce a fully-formed parent."

Here at The Discovery Museums, the lessons learned from Mister Rogers can be seen in our ongoing work to find meaningful ways to make parents and caregivers an equal focus of our efforts, along with the children they care for.  

Just as there is a growth curve we call "child development," there also is a learning process to becoming a parent. Our role is to support that parenting journey, to strengthen the growth of both parents and children through play. 

What does that mean? Because of the nature of play, there is no "play handbook" that we can give to new parents. What we can do is be a supportive, inspiring, patient, and available resource. We can help parents enjoy the journey they are on, offer help and ideas, and maybe some specific tools and examples. We can provide a forum for, and foster, dialogue and discussion.

Let's examine two examples of how we're doing this: one experience we currently offer, and one we are creating for the new Discovery Museum.

Since 2013 we have offered the Discovery Museums Speaker Series to foster discussion on important topics related to parenting and child development. Topics have included the importance of play, emotional resiliency, generosity, accepting failure, compassion, and the paradox of parenthood. The events are free, and are structured to be provocative, nonjudgmental, and with plenty of room for dialogue. The Speaker Series has attracted a loyal audience among those working on sorting out the mysteries of raising a child, both professional practitioners and "just" your average parent. (The next Speaker Series event is scheduled for October 4, when psychologist Dr. Larry Cohen, author of The Opposite of Worry and Playful Parenting, will speak with us about the importance of play. Stay tuned for registration information.) 

And, here's what's coming. Currently under development is an exciting new space for parent-child play and learning called Brain Building Together. In it, parents will learn what science tells us about a child's brain development in the first five years, including the fact that those years significantly influence a person's learning over their lifetime. While parents play a critical role during these early years, the good news is that supporting healthy brain development is not gimmicky, it's not difficult, and it's not expensive. Brain building moments are all around us. Our objective in this new space will be to reassure and support parents in finding the very simple, everyday things they can do to help their children get their best possible start in life. 

We are very grateful to the Sudbury Foundation and the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) for recognizing the importance of this exhibit and supporting the research and development that has gone into it. And of course, we greatly appreciate the the insight and expertise of our Brain Building Together Advisory Committee, subject matter experts from around the region who have advised us on making this space an effective and impactful resource for new parents. 

We are in the home stretch of the Campaign for the Discovery Museums, an $8.4 million project that will transform our physical environment and create a great new platform for our work both with kids and, as noted, with parents. I hope the possibilities ahead for our museum are as exciting for you as they are for us. You can see more about our approach on our website.

We were thrilled this week to learn that our work means a lot to one particular donor: George O'Rourke of Acton, age 6. George has been saving a portion of his allowance in his Giving Jar for just over a year or, as he put it, "about 1,000 or 20 years." The cash has built up, and his parents, Sarah and Larry O'Rourke, have been asking George where he would like to donate his money, giving him gentle reminders and suggestions about local non-profits. But, nothing seemed to resonate with George.

The O'Rourke family have been members since 2012 and are frequent visitors, so George has noticed the construction work happening on our campus. One day last week as they were driving by the Museums, George said from the back seat, "Mom, what are they doing at The Discovery Museums?!" She told him the museum was being rebuilt in a way that would make sure that all children could enjoy it. George said, "THAT is where I want to give my money." 

So George, his mom Sarah, and his brother Hamilton, age 3, visited this week so that George could hand off his envelope with $50.00 from his Giving Jar to support the Ready, Set, Build! campaign. George is excited to know that when the new Discovery Museum opens in December, his gift will have helped make it a reality.

So, we would love for you to join George and give from your Giving Jar, too! We need your help now so that we can be ready to welcome families ----- all families ----- to a beautiful new, expanded, and accessible building this December, full of new exhibits and re-imagined favorites.  

In fact, an anonymous member of our community recently presented us with a $50,000 challenge: to raise 100 gifts, of $100 or more, in 100 days! The "100 Gifts in 100 Days" challenge began on June 15 and continues through September 22. It is the donor's hope, and ours, that this challenge will encourage everyone in our broad community to be fully represented in this transformational year for The Discovery Museums. All gifts will support our Ready, Set, Build! campaign to build for kids, families, and the future.

As always, I welcome your feedback and questions. Please email me at ngordon@discoverymuseums.org.

All the best,

Neil Gordon




Neil H. Gordon
Chief Executive Officer 


PS - Interesting side note: a friend of Sarah O'Rourke's attended our Speaker Series event in February 2016 with New York Times "Your Money" columnist Ron Lieber. Sarah's friend loaned her Ron's book, The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money. That is where Sarah got the idea for Saving/Spending/Giving jars for George!