Have you been to the Discovery Center lately? It’s Fresno’s science and exploration center for children and, after over 60 years, it’s better than ever.
There are big plans in place for an even brighter future for the center—plans that rely on the good will of community members who fondly remember going to the center as kids, and now take their kids there to learn and play. Read on to find out how you can be part of these plans, and help generations of kids explore the scientific world around them.
More Than a Museum
Located on land that was originally part of Estella Blanca Vineyards (founded in 1892), there’s more than a children’s museum on the grounds. Here, the Roessler Winery still stands, sporting a patina worthy of its age. Built in 1894, it’s the oldest adobe building in town.
The winery closed due to Prohibition. Now, instead of vineyards, it’s nestled snuggly between the Duetsch Cactus Garden and the lime green brilliance of the Discovery Center. My kids love to run around the five acres of this property when we visit.
Of course, running through the Deutsch Cactus Garden is not a smart plan. It’s wise to walk and really look at the spiky specimens, which are over 85 years old. Started by Fred Deutsch and his wife Perle, the collection has over 200 species. Personally, I’ve never thought cacti charming, but after a few visits, I’ve changed my mind. It’s especially fun to visit when they’re in bloom. Hard to imagine such grumpy plants putting out such vibrant flowers, but it happens.
Happily for toddlers, there’s lots more to the park than prickles. Parents of young ones will be glad to know classics like the Whisper Dishes and Miwok bark homes are still in place outside. My family has always loved the Discovery Center, and in the past, the outdoor area was the highlight of a trip.
However, if you haven’t visited in a while, you’re in for a fabulous surprise. This past year, the MOMS Club of Fresno North has teamed up with the Discovery Center and community partners to renovate, update, and expand The Discovery Center—both inside and out.
Working Together To Update The Science Center
The first sign of refreshing renovation is the new coat of green paint on the building. The grounds are also getting an update, including a new dino dig, an interactive solar system, and even an Egyptian maze (currently being built by The Niner Empire of Fresno). To me, that’s the most exciting part: these changes are made by people like you. Sports fans, stay-at-home moms, local restaurants, and businesses are all pulling together to help the Discovery Center reach its potential.
Anna McMurray is the President of MOMS Club Fresno North Chapter. She explains that this remodel depends on everyone pitching in. Even her small children have found ways to get involved. Recently, they sold flower bouquets to raise money for Timmy the Tortoise’s habitat remodel (totally a case of elementary students pulling together for a Tortoise Extreme Home Makeover). Anna says, “The Zoo has Prop Z and was able to do amazing things, but we’re depending on the community to help!”
So here’s where we, the community, come in. Do you want to chip in and help make the Discovery Center a premier kid museum destination? There are a lot of ways to help!
1. Volunteer, or donate materials
You can email the Center for volunteer opportunities, or you can donate consumables like fresh vegetables for the animals, fish food, even toilet paper. The Discovery Center website has a list of items they need, including random ones like cracked corn. Seriously, consider your next Costco trip. Do you usually end up with way too many carrots or is it just me? Here’s a chance to share those surplus carrots.
2. Donate money and spread the word
There’s a convenient Go Fund Me account circulating, or you can just write a check and stick it in the mail. Donations are tax deductible and much appreciated. Right now, the fund has raised only $900 of its $1 million goal, so fans of the Discovery Center need to band together to share the page and get the word out on social media.
3. Sponsor a part of the Center
You could also go the classic, “buy a brick with your business on it” route. Or, if you want to really let your hair down, you can sponsor items for new exhibits. Designed by the Portico Group, there are some exciting exhibits in the works. In the future, there will be a Farm Center, a Kids Clinic, and a Reading Tree. This translates into a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to put your name on a (fake) chicken or cow.
You can even sponsor a large tooth for the dentist’s office. Since most mouths have about 32 teeth, I have a feeling you’re going to need to be faster than floss to grab a tooth before other Valley dental professionals do. Imagine being able to show your friends a giant tooth with your name on it? It’s the thing annual Christmas card photos are made of. Maybe.
4. Explore the excitement
There’s another option that will help The Discovery Center become a shining jewel of scientific discovery in Fresno: you can visit! Membership plans are available, or you can just check it out for a day. Things have really changed since FresYes last wrote about the center. Aside from the aesthetic improvements, there’s a lot more opportunity to interact with the exhibits. When I was there recently, a friendly snake named Jeffery came out to visit, and Educator Ian led an experiment to made water glow. If you check the online calendar, you’ll notice there are a lot of theme days and experiment days coming up.
In fact, this weekend, Jan. 28-29, the Discovery Center will hold a Snow Weekend, where kids can play in the snow, learn about how animals survive cold weather, enjoy some hot chocolate, and check out the museum. All proceeds from this event will benefit renovation of the water exhibit, so you’ll be having fun and helping out at the same time!
As you can see, a visit to the Discovery Center is an experience for the senses, which is probably why people love it and keep coming back year after year, decade after decade.
The recent upgrades to Fresno’s Discovery Center are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what our community can do when it bands together to support a local institution. I can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store for our city’s science museum. There is a great opportunity here to make a world-class science center in the Central Valley, so the big question is, do you have big plans to sponsor a plastic chicken or not (please say yes)?
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