Partner Highlight: Renewing Community Partnerships and Zooming into Nano with the The Discovery Museums and Boys and Girls Club in Massachusetts

By: Liz Leahey, The Discovery Museums
The Discovery Museums

Last spring, The Discovery Museums in Acton, Massachusetts, were thrilled to have the chance to participate in another successful NISE Net initiative as recipients of a Museum and Community Partnerships Explore Science: Zoom into Nano kit. Through the Zoom into Nano programs, the museums had the opportunity to renew our relationship with two local Boys & Girls Clubs, and serve youth from surrounding communities who might not otherwise be able to experience the museums. Having partnered with the Boys & Girls Club of MetroWest through a previous IMLS grant project, and delivered our Traveling Science Workshops to the Boys & Girls Club of Assabet Valley, Zoom into Nano allowed us to once again deliver quality, hands-on activities, this time around a topic and content not covered in other ways. Overall, having access to this collection of kits made it easier to take nano-based activities outside the museums, which allowed museum staff to serve approximately 150 youth and their families through this initiative.

From late April through early June, museum staff delivered a total of eight, hour-long afterschool programs, four at each site, and one free Nano@Night family event. The family evening was offered as a culminating event at the end of June as part of the museum's Free Friday Night Fun series, during which Boys & Girls Club families, along with general public visitors, could visit the museums for free from 4:30pm-8:30pm. The museums extended the invitation for that evening to all families who attended the Clubs, not just those whose students participated in the afterschool programs.

To introduce the topic of nano and provide refreshers as needed, museum staff usually kicked off each session with the activities Measure Yourself, Mystery Shapes, or Get in Order. From there, each session focused around a different activity, with Morphing Butterfly, Rainbow Film, Stained Glass Art, Mystery Sand and UV bracelets being some of the most popular activities. Museum staff also used materials and activities from previously received NanoDays kits to compliment many of the Zoom into Nano activities. For example, museum staff combined Mystery Sand and the "nano pants" from the museum’s Nano Fabrics kit, added polarizers to the Morphing Butterfly and Rainbow Films activities, and incorporated actual stained glass pieces from the Nano Gold kit to the Stained Glass Art.

[Resources for each of the Explore Science: Zoom into Nano hands-on activities listed above can be found online at http://www.nisenet.org/explorescience-nano]

Beyond the logistics of the partnership, museum staff looked forward to their bi-weekly trips to the Boys & Girls Clubs, and the opportunity to work with many of the same youth throughout their visits. Museum staff saw lots of repeat students to their programs, as Club youth eagerly looked forward to and engaged in new activities with each visit – and often readily shared previously gained knowledge with any newcomers. Each afterschool session, at both sites, saw the maximum attendance museum staff could handle, with staff even needing to adjust their delivery method at one site to accommodate multiple groups coming through the program. During the Nano@Night event, museum staff were excited to see students from the afterschool programs enthusiastically share activities with their families. One particular student, a young girl who had attended every session at the Boys & Girls Club of MetroWest, proudly led her family through each of the activities presented that evening, having seen all but one during the afterschool sessions. Before leaving the room, her mother told museum staff that it was the girl’s birthday and that she had eagerly chosen the museum, and the Nano program, as her birthday celebration destination! This particular moment provided a fitting end to an overall successful and enriching partnership.

For questions about The Discovery Museums’ Museum and Community Partnerships program, please contact Elizabeth Leahey, Assistant Director of Learning Experiences.