Discovery Museum goes adult
At what age does science start to feel like it’s off-limits for amateurs? Sarah Gobbs-Hill, education director at the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum, thinks it might be some time after college.
The idea that science can only be experienced or appreciated by professionals is a myth that is carefully busted for us when we’re kids and tacitly reinforced by the time we hit adulthood—a double standard that Gobbs-Hill and others at the museum are looking to counteract with Social Science, the three-years-running, filled-to-capacity event series with a tagline that reads “Adults only, brain building fun.”
“One of the things I’m really learning is that people like science,” said Gobbs-Hill. “We get a lot of young professionals who still care about life knowledge.”
Past themes have included fermentation, drones, robots and DIY mini-computers. The topic for July is urban sustainability—a term that sidesteps the controversy that “green” often steps in.
“I think sustainability is sort of the new rhetoric,” said Gobbs-Hill. “And in some ways I don’t think sustainability has been as politicized as, say, ’global climate change’ or ’green efforts.’”
This month’s dive into urban sustainability includes a vermicompost workshop from edible landscaper Jana Vanderhaar of Verdant Connections, a tiny 144-square-foot house built by ACE High School students; and a city reimagining activity led by Colin Robertson, communications and strategy director of the Cathexes design firm’s proposed West Second District development.
Other presenters from Sustainable Nevada, Polygrarian Institute and Urban Roots will be stationed around the museum for participants to visit with when they’re not eating, drinking and listening to live music.
Although it’s easy to think of Social Science and this month’s Urban Sustainability theme as stand-alone gatherings, a big piece of its identity comes from being a part of a larger whole.
It’s one event in a series of events that the museum is counting on to reposition itself as a science center, instead of just a children’s museum. The hope is that Social Science—along with other programs and exhibits like Science Distilled, Discovery After Dark, Inside Out, and Monsterfish—will help to bolster the 12-and-over audience as well as the museum’s ability to stay on the edge of scientific issues.
“We can move pretty fast since we’re a pretty small organization,” said Gobbs-Hill. “So if there’s a new topic that’s super emergent that people are really excited about, it’s easy for us to kind of dive in and learn more.”
July’s Urban Sustainability theme is a part of a larger Arizona State University fellowship that includes big-name museums like the Franklin Institute, the Cal Academy of Sciences and the Museum of Science and Industry.
In that kind of company, the Wells Discovery Museum seems to be on track to make a ripple effect on multiple generations—and not just the ones who walk in the door.