It’s where imagination and fun run wild. Where mind-bending exhibits and real-life, hands-on activities stimulate young minds and nourish skills essential to lifelong learning. Where young and old, parents and kids can have an incredible, super-duper good time!
There’s Science on a Sphere, an interactive, state-of-the-art exhibit that illustrates planetary and celestial systems. Students can play among the stars and planets. Observe the continents and earth’s topography like never before, dive beneath the oceans, and more.
“This is a technology unique for the Valley,” says newly appointed Museum President Julie Johnson. “It’s fun and very hands-on.”
Or students can climb, slide, and crawl over RioScape, the Valley’s only interactive science playground. Set outdoors, they’ll get to do more hands-on fun things while also learning about scientific and environmental concepts specific to the Rio Grande River – from its source in the Colorado Rockies to the Gulf of Mexico.
Johnson says the Museum, with more than 50,000 square feet of space, has much to offer Valley residents. “We have science labs and the art studios where kids can create and be innovative. The fact that we have combined science and art here for a very long time is what makes this Museum so unique.”
With her experience working at the Michigan Science Center and other prestigious museums, coupled with a strong background in exhibits, science and education, Johnson believes she can take what the Museum already has and make it even more outstanding. “That’s what made me excited about this position and why I wanted to come here,” she remarks.
Beefing Up Science Exhibits, Programs
The Museum has long been strong in art, but less so with science. With Johnson’s direction and inspiration, that’s rapidly changing.
“The Museum has the science building and the art building, and we need to make that connection more readily obvious to our visitors. So we’re jumping on what we’re calling the STEAM train, where STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math.
“We want the community and local organizations to see us as the resource for STEAM, and how they actually are connected in so many ways. As we grow, I think that will become more evident.”
With the SpaceX launch site near Brownsville and the new medical center coming in, and the growing programs for the area’s colleges and universities, Johnson says the Museum is in a good place to expand and become more robust as it moves forward.
“Moving forward” means coming up with new exhibits and new programs.
Visitors this summer can expect to see Richard Slechta’s exhibit on Photograms, which takes a look at photography, light, and the digital age, and how all that works together.
Also on tap is a new space exhibit from the Johnson Space Center in Houston. It will feature a large model of NASA’s space shuttle, shuttle tile, an Apollo space suit and helmet, and much more.
In the fall, Electricity, an exhibit from Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute comes to the Museum. Visitors can discover how much power it takes to illuminate a light bulb or how their body can complete an electrical circuit, among other interactive things.
In January, the Museum will feature Eat Well-Play Well and Brain Teasers 2 – two exhibits from the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.
Still More Activities Planned
But Johnson has even more ambitious plans. “We’re adding robotics and a KidStruction Zone, where kids can get to build with all different types of materials.
We totally overhauled our summer camp programs to have both science and art programs – from pre-K to 8th grade. They’ll be starting on June 1.
“We’re also working on updating Science on a Sphere and reorganizing our other science exhibits. So visitors and members will see a very big improvement in the science area over the next few months,” she notes.
In addition, plans call for expansion into home schools and Outreach, where the Museum travels to off-site locations throughout the Valley. All of these events will be posted on their website: imasonline.org
Community Support Vital
Of course, while all of this is exciting and ambitious, none of it can be made possible without public support. So IMAS and Johnson are working to expand their membership and tour programs, and to raise funds through various activities, such as Collage, a black tie fundraiser in late September, and Brew-seum Craft Beer Week, when special beers can be samples for a superb cause.
Johnson knows that to gain community support, IMAS has to work with the community. “We have to listen, get input on their needs and wants, and be collaborative. As the funds come in and the community sees what we’re doing with them, greater enthusiasm and support will follow,” she says.