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Partner Highlight: The Discovery Museums in Acton, MA

Ali Jackson

The Discovery Museums located in Acton, MA is a unique campus featuring two hands-on museums for children of all ages. This year, the Discovery Museums received a NISE Network mini-grant to provide NanoDays training sessions for its science education staff and teen volunteers, and to present two NanoDays@Night family nights as part of an ongoing series of free first Friday special events.

So far, the NanoDays@Night events have been a huge success, reports Denise LeBlanc, Director of Learning Experiences. The first event, on March 2nd, was well attended and drew a very diverse audience. The NanoDays@Night events have helped promote publicity and interest in Nanotechnology in and around Acton, MA. The training sessions for NanoDays@Night were effective and made good use of tools provided by NISE Net. The volunteers and staff enjoyed watching the videos, learning about nanotechnology, and trying the different activities. Denise reports that not only does the training help their teens engage the public, but that they’re able to make connections to their own studies and real life.

Denise shared that volunteers loved engaging visitors in the NanoDays activity kits and programs—particular favorites included Gummy Capsules, DNA, and Nano Gold. The teen volunteers enjoyed making a variety of gummy capsules, tubes, and worms. They tested sizes, thickness of the polymerized shells, and used most of the supply of ‘worm goo’! Organizers ordered more supplies for this very popular activity for the public event. After facilitating the DNA activity with visitors, the teens suggested using strawberries or bananas so it would be more relevant to kids.

The Discovery Museums have a strong partnership with Brandeis University Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC).  Students from Brandeis helped with the training and with the Discovery Museum’s NanoDays event at the end of March. MRSEC researchers and faculty members Zvonimir Dogic (Physics Department), Melissa Kosinski-Collins (Biology Department), and ten undergraduate and graduate Brandeis students shared activities that highlight their interdisciplinary research that explores the interface of biology and nanoscale materials science. They brought microscopes to show microbes and cells; did demonstrations with liquid nitrogen to highlight how properties of materials change with temperature; had children build model cells to take home; and facilitated NanoDays activities that complement their research such as DNA, Graphene, Nano Gold, and Thin Films.

The Acton Discovery Museums serve a diverse community and a wide variety of ethnicities, incomes, and ages of visitors from MA, NH, and RI. With their Open Door Connections program, they never turn away any child, parent, school group, or agency because of lack of funds and 19% of their audience visits at free or reduced rates. They are proud to be able to offer nanoscale science education as part of that initiative. Another NanoDays@Night is scheduled for Friday evening, June 2, and they’re anticipating high attendance for this event, too!

To find out more about The Discovery Museums, their NanoDays@Night plans, staff and volunteer trainings, or other exhibits and programs, please visit, or contact Denise LeBlanc at [email protected]