Exploring Play

Cara Lonardo-Roy
June 30, 2015
two women wearing museum uniforms stand in front of a large green dinosaur statue

The Discovery Museums are creative, inventive environments designed to inspire children to explore the world around them through play—and to learn about themselves and build skills in the process. Using their senses and imaginations, children explore hands-on exhibits, pose and answer questions, see a result, repeat their effort, compare outcomes. The secret sauce is that they are having fun, so they keep doing it again and again, reinforcing learning. And, there is one other key ingredient: our floor staff.

Creating a meaningful visitor experience at The Discovery Museums starts with the floor staff.  Members of our floor staff are called Explorers, because rather than providing answers, they help guide visitors to answer their own questions through exploration, facilitating more meaningful learning.

Explorers play many roles here including host, friendly helper, and educator. Explorers roam the museum floors asking open-ended questions and posing challenges. What will happen next? What if you tried it a different way? Can you make the train track go in a loop? Can you get the prism to make a rainbow on the wall?  Explorers may model how to use an exhibit component, make observations about a child’s play, ask questions, or pose challenges to extend the child’s play and learning. Importantly, Explorers also encourage adult participation—this is a wonderful place for families to play and learn together. 

We encourage Explorers to be themselves—as teachers and learners—and each brings a different knowledge, experience, and playfulness to the role. They are from varied backgrounds and places in their lives:  retired science teachers; college students studying robotics, engineering, and early childhood education; high school students who love working with kids and are figuring out what their future will be; musicians, artists, turtle enthusiasts.a graphic logo spells the words "play" and "matters"

If you are a repeat visitor, you might notice that our Explorer staff is now sporting new blue vests at the Science Discovery Museum and new green aprons at the Children’s Discovery Museum.  We are very grateful to a former Explorer whose family made a generous donation to purchase new staff uniforms. The uniforms now show the words that are at the heart of our approach to the visitor experience: PLAY Matters.

Play is always happening here for visitor and staff alike: you will often see Explorers in costumes or funny hats—maybe even pajamas!  The next time you visit, be sure to ask an Explorer how they like to play at The Discovery Museums—you might discover something new to add to your own play! 

blog author Cara Lonardo-Roy
Cara Lonardo-Roy

Every day I get to see children having incredible experiences--and learning and growing. While to us it may just be a Thursday, to a 6-year old who just figured out that he can paint with mud and a flower or send a ball three stories high or use air to make a ping pong ball float, it is a magical, incredible day.  I also really appreciate watching and helping young staff grow into their responsibilities—so that they can support and enjoy the learning and wonder that is happening on the Museum floors.  I’ve been at the museum since 2008, having joined the staff after studying at UMass Amherst, and pride myself on creating positive visitor experiences.


We firmly believe in the fundamental value of play for children—and families—to support emotional, developmental, and social health and well-being. This blog will explore why play matters, and touch on all aspects of our work to encourage play and support early STEAM learning.