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Time for a Discovery

September 30, 1998

After some prodding by former mayoral candidate Joseph Walker, the City of Hagerstown is planning to seek bids for the repair of the old Tristate Electric building at 38 S. Potomac St. The only problem is that at present, the city has no tenant in mind for the renovated building. Let us suggest one.

Barring interest from some other tenant, the city should look at the possible creation of a home for Discovery Station at Hagerstown, Inc., an interactive children's science museum that would be a "destination attraction" for Hagerstown.

Unlike a traditional museum with static displays, facilities like Discovery Station use exhibits that children activate by pushing a button or turning a crank to begin a process that illustrates a scientific principle. The principle behind these exhibits is that if children find that science can be fun, as opposed to dry facts in a textbook, then more will be inspired to take up scientific careers.

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For downtown, Discovery Station would be a way to attract tourists and even county residents back to the center city. Tourists whose children are too young to understand the significance of a Civil War historic site might be persuaded to endure that trip, on the promise that something fun would follow. And for every hometown parent faced with how to entertain children on a rainy Saturday, Discovery Station would occupy young minds with something other than cartoon hi-jinks.

Now about the money: Discovery Station officials say the biggest obstacle to getting grants has been lack of a facility. Once a site is located, the search for funds can begin in earnest. Once complete, the facility should be self-supporting, through membership, admissions and a planned gift shop.

Discovery Station already has substantial support in the community. Citicorp recently provided a grant to assist the group in encouraging girls to consider careers in science and technology, a program also backed by the Shawnee Girl Scout Council. These two organizations' track record suggest they don't back losers. We strongly suggest the city consider following their lead.

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