Our philosophy starts with the simple belief that kids are capable of incredible things. Our job is to nurture that ability; our goal is to support kids' healthy development. Play is how kids learn--here, it is in both a STEM-rich environment and inviting outdoor experience.
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Dear Friend of the Museums,
Today...schools have to prepare students for jobs that have not yet been created, using technologies that haven't been invented, to solve problems that we don't yet know will arise.
Many conversations centered on this idea are taking place in educational, government, community and corporate forums around the globe. It is topic that speaks to the importance of providing opportunities for creativity and play in early childhood learning—the best way to prepare learners for a lifetime of uncertainties and challenges that will require intellect, practical skills, imagination and creativity to solve.
We delved into this issue in May at our first annual Leadership Friends Appreciation Dinner (click for photos) with the help of our terrific guest speaker, JD Chesloff, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable. As a business community leader focused on the future workforce, as well as a member of the Governor's STEM Advisory Council and Chairman of Board of Directors of the state's Department of Early Education and Care, JD is a unique position to see how various economic, technological and social trends come together to impact both business and education. JD spoke of the need to work with kids at an early age to foster their natural creativity and curiosity, in order to help them to be future science learners—perhaps towards being scientists or, at least, science-literate members of their community. And, he stressed the importance of those early learning experience being fun and engaging. In short, JD made the case for The Discovery Museums.
Strengthening the intersection of early learning and STEM learning is at the heart of why we bring hands-on science programs about magnets, rocks and minerals, physical changes of matter, sound, static electricity and so much more to elementary schools throughout Greater Boston. Our Traveling Science Workshops enjoyed an 8% growth in students served this school year, taking us beyond 25,000 annually for the first time. We are thrilled to have added a new workshop and school field trip program on the topic of green energy, with development support from Boston Foundation for Architecture and Foundation for MetroWest. We delivered an increased number of classroom workshops in many communities including Arlington, Chelmsford, Hopkinton, Natick, Newton and Stoneham. We are particularly proud of the loyalty rate of the teachers whose classrooms we visit: more than 81% year-to-year, with an even higher two-year rate. These classroom successes wouldn't be possible without the multi-year support of MathWorks.
Connecting with children even before elementary school, however, is perhaps the most critical part of our role in supporting early learning. We recently expanded our programming partnership with WGBH Boston to bring Peep and the Big Wide World™ to The Discovery Museums. Thanks to underwriting support from MEFA's U.Fund and Fidelity Investments, along with Emerson Hospital, we are offering hands-on science activities based on this popular animated show to toddlers and preschoolers and their families twice per month. PEEP himself has already visited the Museums!
We are pleased to be in the early stages of collaboration with several children's museums, science centers, and libraries around the state to work with the state Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) on the Race to the Top four-year grant to improve the school readiness of young children, particularly those kids who need some extra support. Our experience with early science skills—habits of the mind such as asking questions, observation, etc.—will be an important focal point of efforts to prepare kids for school. We will share more as this work progresses.
We believe that our audience is the whole family, not only the child. To enable more families to access the Museums and our great programs, we have increased the number of "family nights" we offer. So far this year we've held six special nights focused on family learning, many of them free, including SMART Gals, Reaction Station, NanoDays@Night, Wonder About Weather, and more.
We are grateful that over the past few months, visitors to our First Friday Nights Free donated more than 320 pounds of food for the Acton Food Pantry. Thank you! On June 22 we kicked-off another summer of Free Friday Night Fun, where we'll be open for free every Friday night, generously supported by MathWorks and Middlesex Savings Bank, with additional support from Emerson Hospital. Our goal for our food collection efforts this summer is 500 pounds, so bring those non-perishable food items when you visit on Friday nights (or any time!).
In the coming months you will see us launch our 30th Anniversary celebration, including a gala party on September 29th at The International in Bolton. We are very pleased to have Robin Young, award-winning host of NPR's Here & Now, join us as host of the event. Mark your calendar!
Thank you for your support and for taking the time to read these brief updates. Have a great summer and I hope to see you at the Museums soon.
Neil H. Gordon
Chief Executive Officer