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Denise LeBlanc holds up an award plaque and state senate award citation
June 19, 2018

Dear Friend of the Museum,

On March 1 we opened the newly renovated and expanded Discovery Museum. Since then more than 60,000 family and school group visitors have come to enjoy what is new and what is still the same about the museum that has been a part of our community for 36 years.

By way of perspective, 60,000 is 30% more visitors than at this time last year. In May alone we saw 63% more visitors than the previous May—we have been busy!

Importantly, feedback has been terrific. Here are a few things our visitors have said:

“The new building is fantastic!”
“I honestly don’t think I've ever seen my daughter more engaged.”
“Absolutely phenomenal. The kids love it, I love it. Perfect for play dates!”
“Still love this place, worth every penny of the membership fee.”
“Great fun, lots to learn, lots to do.
“The staff is great!”

It is very rewarding to walk through the museum and see the ways in which the new exhibits are engaging, inspiring, and captivating kids (I’ll admit I often stop at the vertical air stream table to play a bit myself). It is also rewarding that so many visitors now stop me to give me feedback on what they are experiencing. It is meaningful that many of their comments and our online reviews appreciate both the ways in which we have changed and the ways in which we have stayed the same—because at its core, the museum is still the same, and it is important to us that our visitors see and feel that.

And the word is getting out. Recently, WCVB-TV5 came here to film a segment about the museum’s accessibility and our Especially for Me programs, for a news segment called "5 for Good." It aired a few weeks ago on the 7pm and noon newscasts, and is available now online—please share it if you will, as we like to make every effort to reach more families who might benefit from our accessible spaces and free programs and events.

Don’t know about Especially for Me? Our Especially for Me accessibility and inclusion event series offers dedicated hours and free museum admission for families of children with developmental, learning, or physical differences. During these events, we offer accommodations that increase access to museum exhibits and provide an opportunity for families to network with one another in an understanding environment. In 2018 we are offering 24 Especially for Me events, including: 

· Autism-Friendly Evenings
· Sensory-Friendly Afternoons
· Mornings for Families with Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and KODA Infants and Toddlers
· Evenings for Families with Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and KODA Children
· Visually Impaired Family Evenings

Although each event features accommodations particular to a specific group, any family who feels they will benefit from a sensory-friendly and supportive environment are welcome to attend.

We have been offering Especially for Me events since 2010, and the program has continued to grow both in attendance and scope. We are very pleased this year to be partnering with the Center for Research and Training (CRT) at The Learning Center for the Deaf and Miriam Zisook of Unstoppable Studio to offer accessible making and tinkering activities at our Especially for Me events. CRT actively supports culturally and linguistically accessible education for deaf and hard of hearing students, and Miriam is a social worker, educator, and designer focused on empowerment for children with disabilities and their families. This work is funded by Foundation for MetroWest and the Sudbury Foundation.

As always, all Especially for Me events are free, and our evening events offer a free dinner, including gluten-free options, courtesy of Not Your Average Joe’s—please consider visiting to thank them for supporting these important events!

If you are interested in getting a closer insight into our work, I encourage you to read our Play Matters blog, which focuses on thoughts and perspectives from our staff on our work. The most recent post, for example, gives perspective on our new Brain Building Together exhibit. Other posts have looked at our goals for the new building, thoughts on children and "just right" risks, and insight into the thinking behind last winter's sock skating rink. You can subscribe to the blog here.

We like getting awards. In April, Denise LeBlanc, our Director of Learning Experiences, received the 2018 Excellent Non-Profit Leadership award from the Middlesex West Chamber of Commerce, a much deserved recognition. Denise has devoted more than 29 years to the kids and families in our community—nurturing curiosity and standing up for science. We are so proud of her accomplishments and honored to have her as a colleague.

The museum was also recently honored with other awards: the 2018 Wicked Local Readers’ Choice Award (Gold, Best Museum) and two awards from Boston Parent’s Paper’s annual Family Favorites awards, in the Museum and Birthday Party Venue categories. These awards are especially meaningful because they are selected by those publications’ readers, or in other words, our visitors.

We are proud to look back on our accomplishments and so I am happy to share with you our 2017 Annual Report, our status report to the community. As the report indicates, 2017 was a great year resulting in the successful completion of our $8.8 million Capital Campaign and the opening of the new Discovery Museum, which, along with the opening of Discovery Woods in 2016, completed our transformation to an accessible campus. In a year filled with much challenge and change, we accomplished so much, with the support of so many. 

What's next? We are hard at work shaping our next strategic plan—determining the most important things for us to achieve with this valuable new infrastructure. I would love to hear your ideas. What do you think should be next for the Discovery Museum? Please email me and let me know your thoughts.

All the best,

Neil

PS We appreciate everyone’s patience with the remaining construction work that has been ongoing over the past months. We are now just about finished with the final landscape work and paving, and once the grass takes hold, we will open our new lawn and meadow—watch for an announcement and free ice pops in July!