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SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Museums announced that Jenny Powers has been named director of the Springfield Science Museum. A science educator for 20 years and the family engagement coordinator for the Springfield Museums for six years, Powers is ready to take her knowledge of playful learning to the Science Museum in the form of interactive, immersive additions to the museum. She also takes inspiration from the last woman who directed the Science Museum, Grace Pettis Johnson, who led the way from 1910 to 1949.

Powers’ dynamic programing has filled the Museums on family-engagement days with exciting features such as bubble parties, high-fives with the Cat in the Hat, and Mount Crumpit derbies during Grinchmas. She has also been a regular guest on WWLP’s Mass Appeal, sharing hands-on science that families could explore together at home.

“The opportunity the Museums have to help our visitors expand their worlds with science is so important,” Powers said. “What makes our museum especially vital is that people of all ages can explore ideas together, teaching and learning from each other. Our museum can offer fun, entertaining information that will be helpful in the real world.

“I love that the Science Museum offers visitors chances for simple, positive interactions. This is when the most important learning happens,” she went on. “By ensuring that the science we present is relevant to our visitors’ lives, we can deepen their museum experience and know that they can use science to improve their lives and the lives of those around them.”

Powers said her overall vision is to always present the most up-to-date science. What this means is adding stations throughout the museums that are easy to change and update. “We want to be nimble because science changes as researchers look, discover, and understand more. We want to be a science museum that is relevant today and into the future — and we want to be fun.”

For Powers, fun means not only entertaining, but also barrier-free. “We want to make sure that every visitor feels welcome by including diverse stories and accessible spaces.”

Kay Simpson, president and CEO of the Springfield Museums, noted that “Jenny excels at engagement. As we move the museums forward as relevant, inspiring, interactive spaces, we could not have a better leader than Jenny, who makes science understandable, exciting, and accessible for all people whether they are new to the subject or experts. Jenny is highly knowledgeable about current museum practices, innovative in her approaches to education, and she is passionate about inclusion. She is just the visionary leader we need to bring our beloved Science Museum into the 21st century and beyond.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Museums announced the receipt of a $750,000 federal earmark in support of upgrading the Springfield Science Museum.

“The funded project is called Equitable Access to the Night Sky,” said Jenny Powers, director of the Science Museum. “And it is going to be a game changer for the Museums, our community, and our region.”

The public announcement of this federal earmark underscored the united effort to secure these funds by U.S. Sens. Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, and the Massachusetts congressional delegation. Museums staff learned about the federal earmark from Markey’s office.

“The federal funds will help us leap into the 21st century,” Powers said.

The Science Museum is already evolving at a fast pace. In 2019, the Museums added the Smithsonian Spark!Lab, a hands-on innovation space facilitated by a science educator, the only Spark!Lab in the Northeast. In 2021, the staff renovated the Seymour Planetarium, upgrading seating and refurbishing the historic star ball. Projected to open in June 2022, the International Space Station gallery will spotlight STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) learning with a series of interactive stations that mimic those in the space station orbiting our planet. All these changes are helping the Science Museum take huge strides toward the vision of being an essential, informal STEM-learning hub for this region.

As part of a three-year strategic plan, the Museums are prioritizing relevance, diversity, inclusion, equity, and access. “The Science Museum must respond to community interest. We must provide relevant opportunities that draw everyone into the new, tech-savvy, multi-dimensional world,” Powers said. “This money will help us bridge equity and access gaps. We are already a beloved institution; we will have an even greater impact as a public asset with the upgrades this money will provide.”

Plans for improvement include a full-dome, digital projection system with state-of-the-art software for the planetarium to augment the historical star ball and add multi-cultural perspectives to the night sky; digitization of the observatory to allow full access to the stars for anyone, anywhere via online projection; and tactile, multi-sensory astronomy exhibits for visitors who are blind or have low vision.

“Regional educators, students, community partners, and user experts have helped us identify flexible, essential, inclusive educational technology,” said Larissa Murray, director of Education for the Springfield Museums. “The recent upgrades to our science workshop include accommodations for students with special needs and systems for remote access. These changes are increasing our ability to impact a wider audience than ever before.”

For more than 160 years, the Science Museum has nurtured curiosity, fueled discovery, and transformed lives, said Kay Simpson, president and CEO of the Springfield Museums. “The Museums provide opportunities — joyful, exciting, and relevant opportunities. These funds will support new pathways to wonder for visitors of all ages and provide inclusive, impactful museum experiences with 21st-century technologies. Plus, our newly upgraded museum will be a dynamic driver of visitation to Western Massachusetts.”

Markey noted that “this federal funding for Massachusetts means we can initiate, strengthen, and expand community-based projects that serve our families, businesses, and cities and towns every day. These projects will spur our economy, strengthen our resiliency, expand access to important healthcare, promote clean energy and climate solutions, and help feed and house our most vulnerable in every region of our Commonwealth. I am proud that my delegation partners and I were able to secure this critical funding, and I will continue to fight for the resources Massachusetts communities need to thrive and grow.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Museums will welcome state Sen. Eric Lesser on Monday, Oct. 25 at 11 a.m. to announce a $100,000 earmark from the Commonwealth to help fund the International Space Station exhibit in the Springfield Science Museum. The public is welcome to attend this announcement on the Quadrangle green.

Earmarks from the Commonwealth are a source of funding outside the normal budgeting process for specific programs and services. Elected officials sponsor and advocate for earmarks to benefit their constituents. Gov. Charlie Baker approves, rejects, or amends earmarks as needed.

“As a valued informal STEM learning space, we were very excited to continue work on the International Space Station exhibit,” said Kay Simpson, president and CEO of the Springfield Museums. “The funding secured by Senator Lesser is a welcome addition to the funds needed to open this important and fascinating gallery.”

The Springfield Museums is constructing a fully immersive representation of the International Space Station module Destiny. The gallery will have an ‘airlock’ entrance and dynamic view of Earth from the exhibit’s bay-window cupola. The vestibule is nearing completion and will include a facsimile astronaut suit as well as interactive features that help visitors better understand the science of space exploration. Plans are also underway for a facilitated, roving ‘space cart,’ which will include items from an astronaut’s gear that visitors can touch. A facilitator will be available to answer questions and share information about space travel.

Currently on view outside the gallery is an interactive screen donated by NASA. Visitors can touch the image of the International Space Station to find out more information about its function.

“We are grateful to Senator Lesser for advocating for this earmark to come to the Science Museum,” said Mike Kerr, director of the Springfield Science Museum. “The International Space Station Gallery is sure to inspire young scientists to reach for the stars.”

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