Located in Harrisonburg, Virginia, the Explore More Discovery Museum is a children’s discovery museum offering hands-on STEM and arts-focused exhibits for families and children of all ages. The history of the Explore More Discovery Museum stems from a mobile museum exhibit established in 2002 for the purposes of bringing hands-on STEM and arts exhibits to the children of the Harrisonburg region at local schools and community special events.

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History

In 2003, the museum acquired a permanent facility in the city’s downtown district and officially opened to the public as the Harrisonburg Children’s Museum, which was incorporated as a nonprofit organization and overseen by an executive director and board of trustees. In 2010, the museum was relocated to a new facility within the city’s former A&N Department Store building. Renovations on the building were completed throughout 2010 at a cost of $415,000, and the new museum facility was officially opened to the public in November of 2010. As part of its reopening, the museum was rebranded as the Explore More Discovery Museum.

Permanent Exhibits

Today, the Explore More Discovery Museum is operated as a nonprofit organization, offering a variety of hands-on exhibits and themed learning areas meant to emphasize STEM and arts concepts for young children. The museum’s exhibits focus on multisensory learning experiences meant to foster civic engagement, creativity, and critical thinking skills in preschool and elementary-aged visitors and their families. Additionally, a variety of public special event programming is offered throughout the year to engage the Harrisonburg community in continued learning, including daily demonstrations, workshops, summer camps, and community events.

A variety of STEM-focused exhibits are presented at the museum, including a fully-functional Science Lab that allows young visitors to conduct their own miniature science experiments across a number of scientific fields. A Construction Zone exhibit area offers free play with KEVA wooden planks, while a Super Service Center introduces mechanics principles related to car operation and repair in a recreated mechanic garage setting. The Friendly City Medical Center introduces health and biology principles inside a replica medical center, complete with a climb-aboard full-size ambulance donated to the museum by the G&W Ambulance corporation, while the Friendly City Dental exhibit, dedicated in memory of local pediatric dentist Dr. Joseph Green, teaches healthy dental practices. Other recreated civic structure exhibits include CK’s Kitchen and Farmer’s Market, which offers pretend cooking, apple-picking, vegetable dig, and produce-selling experiences, and the Down on the Farm exhibit area, which features a milkable cow, recreated barn and poultry house, and climb-aboard stationary tractor.

A number of exhibits focus on creativity and the arts, including the Imagination Playground, which provides a free playspace for creation with Big Blue Block toys. An Art Smart art studio offers weekly themed projects and workshops with guest artists, while a Games Galore area allows visitors to try their hand at golf, checkers, foosball, giant Jenga, and other interactive games and activities. The Virginia Theater offers a full professional stage for young performers to experiment with, including makeup, lighting, and set design elements, while the TV Studio lets children take the roles of television anchor and meteorologist for mock television news broadcasts. A puppet show area is offered in the Great Outdoors exhibit, which also allows visitors to recreate mock camping experiences. Nature is also emphasized in the 22-foot Discovery Tree treehouse exhibit, which offers a periscope, book nook, and Amazing Airways activity area, and in the Over the Meadow area, which offers a safe playspace for children under three.

At the Maker City Makerspace, visitors ages eight and older are encouraged to try their hand at a variety of crafting projects, including sewing, laser cutting, and woodworking. Periodic workshops are held at the 1,250-square-foot workshop, lasting approximately 90 minutes and focusing on a variety of multidisciplinary arts and crafts projects. All children using the Makerspace must be supervised by adult guardians at all times and complete training sessions to work with certain types of equipment. All Maker City workshops are free with museum admission, but require advance registration prior to workshop date.

Ongoing Programs and Education

In addition to standard museum admission, group tours of the museum are offered for small groups and organizations, including curriculum-incorporated field trip opportunities for elementary school students in grades K-4. A variety of field trip options are offered, including free explore trips allowing children to explore the museum and play at their leisure and focused trips offering structured group instruction and workshop opportunities. A variety of birthday party packages are also offered for children wishing to celebrate their birthdays at the museum. Summer camps are offered for preschoolers and for children in grades K-8, focused around a variety of STEM, arts, nature, and civic topics, and overnight experiences are offered for scouting groups. On the first Friday of every month, the museum is opened to visitors for free during the early evening hours. Other public special events throughout the year include a First LEGO League club and junior exposition, guest musical and arts performances, and workshops and seminars for parents and instructors.

150 S Main St, Harrisonburg, VA 22801, Phone: 540-442-8900

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