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CEO Neil Gordon
October 13, 2016

Dear Friend of the Museums,

It is immensely rewarding when a single happening brings great clarity to multiple objectives you're trying to achieve. This happened for me recently when I met a young boy—I'll call him Tommy—and his mom during their visit to our new Discovery Woods.  

Tommy had discovered the corner of Discovery Woods where we've put out some simple materials and left no instructions. Tommy took to the space and spent several hours building a pretend train. He pretended to be an engineer and delighted in the places he could go. He took so much pleasure in his creation that he stopped visitors to explain its construction and his role as engineer. When I walked by Tommy's train, I was very happy to see that the space was having the impact our Education staff had intended.  

But, it gets better. Tommy's mom explained to me that Tommy is on the autism spectrum, and has a few things that he is working on with his family: he has trouble sticking with a task; he is not comfortable with pretend play; and, he really avoids interaction with strangers. Yet in this little corner of Discovery Woods, Tommy found a place where he could spend hours to build his train, pretend to drive the train, and seek out strangers to whom he could explain his work. Tommy's mom was thrilled. So was I. 

The formula is rather simple: open-ended materials, in a comfortable and inviting space, and the freedom to explore your own creativity. It worked for Tommy, and each day we see others creating their masterpieces. Several thousand visitors have enjoyed Discovery Woods since it opened in July; in fact we've welcomed 35% more people than in the same period last year. And, the positive feedback we're getting makes it feel like we got it right.

The value of physical play, exercise and the outdoors were emphasized by our Speaker Series guest Dr. John J. Ratey, MD on September 22. Dr. Ratey, Reebok's Ambassador for Active Kids and Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, addressed an audience of 200 at our event held at Oak Meadow School in Littleton. Dr. Ratey spoke about how outdoor play has proven positive cognitive, social, and emotional benefits for kids, saying, "We have in our genes a need to be in nature; it is a problem that kids are not playing outside." Dr. Ratey also noted the role The Discovery Museums play in promoting outdoor play and modeling great learning environments. Considerable discussion ensued about how best to mobilize the traditional educational world to embrace the value of outdoor play as a critical tool in learning.

Please mark your calendar for our next Speaker Series event on November 2, when Dr. Peter Gray, Ph.D., will present, "What Exactly Is Play, and Why Is It Such a Powerful Vehicle for Learning?" Learn more and register here

Looking ahead, we'll be hosting a "fireside chat" with Acton native and Drobox co-founder and CEO Drew Houston. Details and a registration link will are available here.   

As we reach the three-month mark since Discovery Woods opened, I am reminded how thankful we are for all the community support we've received. We have much more to accomplish and I look forward to providing more details on the renovation and expansion of the museum, on target to begin next spring.

It is with great sadness that I must report that our next big step forward will be without our friend, Board member, and volunteer marketing consultant, Bruce Enders, who passed away suddenly in late September. Bruce has supported The Discovery Museums for more than 11 years, initially as an Executive Service Corps volunteer, focused on supporting the growth of our Traveling Science Workshops and Field Trips. In more recent years, he was an active Board member working to support the growth of the museum. Bruce brought business acumen, nonprofit experience, and great dedication to his leadership roles with us. We will miss having Bruce along with us for the next part of our journey, and are very thankful for the positive impact he has had on our organization.

As always, I look forward to your thoughts at ngordon@discoverymuseums.org.

Best Regards,

 

 

 

Neil H. Gordon
Chief Executive Officer

PS. You will note that several links in this email take you to our brand new website discoverymuseums.org. It has more information and is easier to navigate. But most importantly, it is accessible to those with physical disabilities, vision loss, or hearing loss—and we thank Sudbury Foundation for making it possible. Check it out and let us know how you like it!