HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WDVM) — Discovery Station in downtown Hagerstown was once a traveling educational program. Now, the children’s museum is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
Discovery Station was founded in 1996 and it started out as a mobile educational program that visited libraries and other community venues like the Valley Mall. The exhibit featured many hands-on educational programs for kids and adults.
Executive Director of Discovery Station, Brittany Wedd, explained Discovery Station is also celebrating its 16th anniversary in the museum space on West Washington Street. The museum moved into its permanent location in 2005.
“We’ve had over 175,000 visitors walk through our doors, so it’s really excited to kind of see the evolution of the museum itself and just to support as many families,” Wedd stated.
Discovery Station closed its doors for six months due to the pandemic but during that time, they were able to pivot and continue to provide resources to families at home. The museum hosted live streams on social media and virtual classes to keep kids engaged during the pandemic.
“So we had to shift all of our initiatives and programs to the virtual arena,” Wedd explained. “There was a lot of live streams that we did where we did educational programs, and just activities to kind of really get kids connected to other kids, as well as to support families as being their child’s first teacher.”
Carrie and Jason Mansfield are currently homeschooling their two boys, 5-year-old Judson and 2-year-old Theo, who have never seen the inside of a classroom. The boys were more than happy to explore the museum while Carrie and her husband were excited to expand the learning opportunities provided to their boys.
“It’s great because it makes things really tangible for him learning things in a way that’s physical and he can touch and learn in person instead of just hearing it,” Carrie explained. “And you know we have limited resources at home but you come here and you have a lot more things that he can see and do.”
Over the summer, Discovery Station also distributed 3,000 free STEAM — or Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math — kits to families across the city. Wedd stated the most rewarding part of her job is helping and supporting kids as they learn about STEAM.
“Just to see all the kids that come through the doors and just really kind of support them as they pursue STEAM education in general,” Wedd said. “We are adamant about believing that playing is learning, and we really embrace that philosophy here at the museum.”
In the upcoming months, Discovery Station will be introducing two new exhibits. One exhibit focuses on the world’s rain forest to highlight the different animals in the various ecosystems as well as highlighting topics such as deforestation and climate change. The second exhibit highlights elements of STEAM and will allow visitors to expand their knowledge of robotics. The exhibit was designed with the help of a NASA Engineer.
Discovery Station will also be launching their Common Sense Community Building initiative this summer. The initiative will develop and distribute 25,000 STEAM kits through 2025.