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Hands-on Science at Norwich's Montshire Museum

By Marina I. Jokic

The Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich, Vermont celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, commemorating its ongoing partnership with the community and dedication to science for all. Inviting visitors to experience the joy of science as they explore, discover, and engage with more than 130 exhibits indoors and out, the Montshire has become one of the best science museums in the country and one of the busiest in northern New England.

It all began when a group of area educators, led by Dr. Robert Chaffee, secured a donation of specimens and other resources from Dartmouth College's natural history museum, which had closed in the early 1970's. The Montshire Museum of Science was born out of their efforts, incorporated in 1974, and officially opened on January 10, 1976 in a former bowling alley in Hanover, New Hampshire. The name was created by combining the last syllables of the two states whose communities the Museum served: VerMONT and New HampSHIRE. Fifteen years later, the Montshire moved to its current location in Norwich, located on 100 acres along the Connecticut River.

Today, the Museum boasts more than 130 permanent exhibits, delving into a variety of topics in natural and physical science. This summer the featured exhibition is The Tinkering Loft, offering four different engineering zones with rotating activities throughout the summer. These activities include building a scribbling 'bot that draws, developing chain reactions, and creating LED-powered paper buildings in an Electric Island. This innovative and interactive space engages visitors through fun and whimsical challenges that provoke thinking about concepts in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Beth Krusi, the Director of Marketing and Communications at the Montshire, emphasizes that the adventure is not constrained to the interior of the museum. It continues outside into the David Goudy Science Park, the Woodland Garden, and along the nature trails bordering the beautiful Connecticut River. The Montshire Museum boasts one hundred acres with trails and outdoor exhibits. Whether you are experiencing the Museum for the first time or the hundredth, every visit is a unique experience.

Featuring dozens of ingenious, hands-on exhibits including educational water play, Science Park utilizes the outdoors as a living laboratory for visitors to experiment with science and appreciate the surrounding natural beauty.

In addition to the David Goudy Science Park, the most popular and well-loved exhibits include the Leafcutter Ants and Bubbles: Science in Soap. The Leafcutter Ants exhibit houses an ant colony in a transparent module, allowing visitors to observe their actions and movements without obstruction. Visitors can even feed the ants leaves with the help of facilitators at specific times each day. The Bubbles: Science in Soap exhibition re-envisions hands-on, experimental learning by teaching scientific concepts about surface tension, foams, and mist through foam fountains, bubble domes, and giant bubbles.

The Montshire has also been a part of many state and local community partnerships over the years including organizations such as the Vermont Center for Ecostudies, Dartmouth College, and Frog Hollow of the Vermont State Craft Center. The community has been instrumental in informing the Museum's current strategic planning process and supporting Montshire's many programs and exhibits through generous donations and sponsorships. Many area businesses are Montshire Corporate Associates, which provides support for a variety of Museum programs and exhibits.

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About The Author

Marina Jokic holds a bachelor's degree from Connecticut College in Russian and East...

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