Article By: Tula Mason
Photos By: Josh Triggs
In this day and age with everything centered around computers, cell phones, video games, and the like, our children have little to no appreciation for the imagination that was required to have fun when we were growing up. If you can remember when TV remotes and VCRs first arrived on the scene or when you actually had to dial a rotary phone that was attached to the wall whose receiver was anchored to its base by a curly cord than you can relate to what I’m saying. It really does seem that with all of these so-called advances our youth ironically enough are missing out on quite a bit of what we once considered being a child. Honestly, when was the last time that you can say that you saw a child have to put to use that now rare commodity called imagination? One must admit that staring at a flat screen TV or playing a video game hardly seems challenging or educational. But how can we get our kids interested and engaged in more mentally stimulating endeavors without an ensuing argument? I’ll tell you how, take them to the Discovery Station located at 101 W. Washington Street in Hagerstown, MD and turn them loose.
Beginning there twelfth year of operation in 2017, Discovery Station is a member of Science-Technology Centers (ASIC). This hands-on museum is a private, nonprofit organization and was incorporated in the state of Maryland on July 5, 1996, and became tax exempt on March 11, 1997. They are also registered as a charitable organization with the Maryland Office of the Secretary of State. Discovery Station has only one paid staff member to date otherwise its operations is reliant on the efforts of volunteers from around the region, even the board that governs the museum is made up entirely of volunteers who serve three year terms. This amazing group of dedicated people conducts all activities and programs there.
As for me, I find this level of commitment to our communities’ youth to be both touching and impressive.
Discovery Station at Hagerstown, Inc. has recently revised its Mission Statement to follow the STEAM method, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. This updated method of operation only acts to fine-tune the previously existing mission of the museum to be a hands-on science, technology, history and cultural museum that provides life-long learning experience to its visitors. As it has always done, the museum has created an environment that stimulates curiosity for discovery and invites all who visit to investigate and explore all that is available there. This unique interactive experience appeals to both young and old alike, although their target audience is focused on early childhood and elementary aged children.
Although the museum is centered on teaching and encouraging children to discover and explore various educational adventures, Discovery Station most certainly provides much of the same for adults as well. I have no doubt that many parents can be found enjoying this fun, interactive environment right along side of their young ones. After taking the grand tour myself, I am nothing less than excited to return with my granddaughters so that we may discover all of the amazing wonders that this well thought out place has to offer. With this being said, I found it surprising to find out that the majority of visitors come from out of town. In fact, you might even say that the Discovery Station seems to be one of Hagerstown, MDs best kept secrets when it comes to good, educational entertainment for the young folks of the area.
Perhaps if I fill community members in on the really cool stuff that can be found there it will inspire them to take the time to check it out for themselves. Now where should I begin? I suppose the Lego Robotics interactive exhibit is a good place to start. This exhibit not only peaked my interest about Robotics but also looks like serious fun. It allows visitors to build and operate their very own robots. The Space and Beyond exhibit has many displays about space, weather, and the solar system. There is even a quarter-scale model of the NEAR Shoemaker Asteroid Rendezvous, which was launched from Cape Canaveral in 1996. This spacecraft was the first launched in the NASA Discovery Program with a mission in exploration of asteroids. This one of a kind experience in authentic space travel is thanks to the collaborative efforts of Discovery Station at Hagerstown and The Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). There are also video presentations about the Mars Rover named Curiosity that landed successfully on Mars. These videos teach visitors everything from start to finish about this incredible vessel. Also available for exploration are a 12-foot Newtonian Reflector and an area to explore Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.
The options available for fun, hands on learning at Discovery Station seem almost endless. With exhibits on Civil War Trains that visitors can operate for themselves while enjoying the music of the time to the of the scale model of the Titanic, the list just keeps on going. To add to these fascinations, museum visitors will also find plenty of excitement in the prehistoric section of Dinosaurs, the Japanese Exhibit, and the very cool Hagerstown Aviation exhibit that gives everyone the coveted opportunity to fly an airplane, okay it’s not an actual plane but cool none the less. There is just so much to do at Discovery Station that children and adults alike can’t possibly get bored. The Early Childhood Gallery is sure to keep those young ones entertained for hours or they may prefer to spend their time learning and playing in the Adventures in Agriculture area or shopping and buying groceries in the market. Once they have had their fill of those adventures, they can move on to the likes of the Morse code station and tap out messages or examine the eyes of a friend while visiting the Vision Exhibit.
Honestly one of the most impressive attributes of Discovery Station is the fact that it is run almost solely by a fine and enthusiastic group of volunteers from various areas of the region and walks of life. I can’t help but think what a wonderful testament this is to the museum and the young people that it serves. Come to think of it, it is also quite a compliment to the citizens of our region as well. It is not every day that you can so readily find individuals willing to give of their time and talents so freely. It is important to understand that they not only serve as Docents for the museum and work in the gift shop there but many volunteers have also developed and built the exhibits from the ground up. Hey there is even one who serves as Santa Claus and actually builds toys and the like in his workshop right there in the Discovery Station.
As you can see the Discovery Station of Hagerstown, Inc. is definitely one of the best-kept secrets of our region. This amazing place provides endless opportunities for our children to explore and discover the world (both past and present) and outer space and even beyond. Although I have made a valiant effort to tell you about this awesome place and all it has to offer those who are fortunate enough to visit, I have certainly not done it justice. The best way to appreciate it fully is to go and see it first hand. This fine establishment is most definitely worth the trip. Remember that Discovery Station depends entirely on donations and grants and that all proceeds go for the purpose of its day-to-day operations and to maintain the exhibits and also create and introduce new ones. As a matter of fact there are several new educational exhibits coming in the near future such as a Monarch Butterfly exhibit and the new ecological sustainability interactive exhibit to name a couple. In addition fundraisers are also held several times throughout the year in an effort to generate much needed funds. As you can imagine a place such as this takes serious money to operate. Donations of any amount are always appreciated and most definitely always needed. Yearly memberships are also available at very reasonable rates. So by all means, stop in to the Discovery Station located in downtown Hagerstown, MD and be prepared to be surprised and delighted with what lies with in. I assure you that you and the children in your life will not only find the hands-on museum to provide many hours of educational opportunities but also a whole lot of fun as well.