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Bring the Family

The science of fun

(The Discovery Museums)
By Lylah M. Alphonse
Globe Staff / October 10, 2009

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WHO: Globe Magazine staff member Lylah M. Alphonse, two of her kids, ages 4 and 2, and a 5-year-old friend

WHAT: Learning about science and having fun

WHERE: The Discovery Museums, 177 Main St. (Route 27), Acton. 978-264-4200. Discoverymuseums.org

The dinosaur kind of sneaks up on you.

You’re driving along Route 27 in Acton, about 30 miles northwest of Boston, admiring the fall foliage, when you notice the big green dinosaur poking its head over a cream-colored picket fence. Welcome to the Discovery Museums, twin centers for scientific exploration that are so much fun, your kids won’t even know they’re learning.

Park for free in the large lot behind the Children’s Museum, which is geared for kids age 6 and under. It looks like a staid, 120-year-old Victorian House on the outside. On the inside it looks like a sprawling Victorian House as designed and decorated by a bunch of imaginative and artistic kids. A massive chalkboard wall just begs for scribbles, a huge wooden train invites climbing and horn-tooting, Rube Goldberg-like ball tracks take up an entire room - and that’s just part of what’s on the first floor. Climb the winding staircase to find a jungle populated with wild (stuffed) animals, kid-friendly experiments with light and sound, and a play cafe with plenty to feed the imagination; the third floor houses ship and submarine play spaces, and there are plenty of nooks and crannies to explore as well.

On the other side of the parking lot, elementary-school age kids, tweens, and even teenagers can experiment with hands-on exhibits at the Science Museum, a more modern-looking structure that opened in 1987, five years after the Children’s Museum. The Science Museum features thematically based interactive exhibits designed to educate as well as amuse. Kids can get their hands dirty in the Inventor’s Workshop, get a feel for what clouds are like by walking through a whirling tornado of vapor, learn about math, communication, light, color, nature, and more - the three-floor, 8,500-square-foot space is full of opportunities for fun.

On Oct. 17, the museum will celebrate its 27th anniversary with “Physical Fun Day’’ from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Activities - including a “Human Machines’’ scavenger hunt, relay races, a bounce house, and plenty of prizes - are free with admission, which is $9 for each museum, or $13 if you plan to visit both museums on the same day (which I highly recommend). The Discovery Museums are a budget-friendly double dose of fun and learning. Plus, your kids can ride a dinosaur. What’s cooler than that?

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