Fall 2021 marks the 40th year that Discovery Center Museum has been helping children discover the joy of learning. To commemorate this milestone, it’s celebrating with multiple special events, membership giveaways and social media posts featuring photos and testimonials from members and guests over the years.
Forty years ago, Discovery Center Museum was brought to life by an energetic group from the Junior League of Rockford and the Rockford Area Arts Council who believed children in Rockford deserved a place that would ignite their curiosity about science through hands-on interactive exhibits.
These trailblazers didn’t know all the science behind play and brain development, but they knew that children learned best through hands-on interactions and they wanted to find ways to complement what was being taught in the classroom, with a particular focus on science. At the time, children’s museums and science centers only existed in major cities. This group of innovators was looking to meld the two into a children’s science museum right in the heart of Rockford.
In its first year of operation, Discovery Center had 20 exhibits, all built by local residents in their garages and basements. The museum was housed downtown in the old post office building where the Rockford Park District offices are now. After several years of growing attendance, museum leaders knew they needed a bigger, permanent home. Partnering with the Rockford Park District, they moved into the current location in 1991 – a former Sears store building owned by the Rockford Park District. Since 1991, Discovery Center has expanded several times, adding new exhibit space, new classrooms and a traveling exhibit hall.
In the four decades that followed its opening, Discovery Center has served more than 4.5 million people onsite. That number grows to almost 6 million if combined with outreach programs.
In addition to the now 300 permanent exhibits, Discovery Center offers home school classes, preschool classes and playgroups, scout workshops and teacher workshops. Its educators travel throughout the region bringing science outreach programs to schools, libraries, daycares, festivals and block parties. The Center operates after-school programs in the Rockford Public Schools and has local, state and national partnerships. It also has played a significant role in the Rockford Region as an educational resource, economic development tool and source of community pride.
Learn more about the museum and 40 days of upcoming special anniversary events at discoverycentermuseum.org. ❚
Saturday, Oct. 9 -Bubble Festival
9 and 11 a.m., 1 and 2 p.m.
Visit the website to make reservations. Bubble-celebrity Ben Jimenez combines art, science and a touch of magic in his live performances. Enjoy Ben’s 30-minute show and afterward pop outside to the Bubble-Palooza Playground (weather permitting) to devise your own brilliant bubbly tricks as you test your soapy skills with bubble art, math, and science activities for the whole family. Morning shows geared toward preschoolers, afternoon shows incorporate more science.
Saturday, Oct. 16 – Fast or Slow…Chemistry Makes it Go!
From oodles of fizz and columns of foam to explosions, join us for some crazy chemistry demonstrations to celebrate National Chemistry Week and give you a “feel” for chemical changes.
Saturday, Oct. 23 – Be My Neighbor Day
Open 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Special activities 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; masks required for both museum and outdoor activities.
Free museum and event admission with a suggested donation of cereal or other boxed breakfast foods. Register in advance on website for Meet and Greet and museum. Two favorite PBS KIDS friends – Daniel Tiger and Katerina Kittycat – are coming to Discovery Center as are friends from the Rockford police and fire departments. Please arrive during your reservation window. This event and museum are FREE, but online reservations are required. Register for an arrival time at 9:30, 10:30 or 11:30 a.m.; 12:30, 1:30, or 2:30 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 29 – Spooky Science
9:30 a.m.-noon; 1-4 p.m.; 6-9 p.m.
Come in costume for this not-so-scary day of Halloween high-jinks. Launch monsters through the air, concoct gooey glowing slime, create creepy crafts and engage in astonishing science activities that look like mystifying magic.
Sunday, Nov. 7 – Smashing Pumpkins
Museum sessions: 9:30 a.m., noon and 1-4 p.m.
Outdoor activities from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Bring your jack-o-lantern for smashing good time at Discovery Center. Explore ways to crack, smash or pitch your pumpkin using Newton’s Laws of Motion and simple machines. Dress for the weather since we’ll be outside.
All guests ages 2 and older are required to wear masks while in the museum regardless of vaccination status for the health and safety of the unvaccinated children in the museum. ❚