One of the most “hands on” science museums in Colorado is located in Grand Junction on the Colorado Mesa University (CMU) campus. Directed by Jenn Moore, a biological systems engineer, Eureka! McConnell Science Museum is a nonprofit organization founded in 2000 by John McConnell, a retired nuclear physicist. The museum serves 17,000 students a year.
The science museum covers exciting topics from astronomy to zoology. Students learn about the laws of motion, solar energy, electricity, and physics. Live exhibits include fish, reptiles and a beehive. Eureka! schedules various science camps year-round when school is not in session. Camps include such fun themes as kitchen science, dig in, under the sea, cooking in the garden, icky sticky gooey, cardboard arcade, 3D printing, forensics and geology of the Colorado National Monument. Additionally, one-week summer camps for grades K-8 are offered, as well as support for homeschoolers. The center also has space for group meetings and family birthday parties.
Eureka! McConnell Science Museum is a partnership between the Mesa County Valley School District 51 and the university in an effort to support the learning and love of science. Exhibits focus on STEAM topics – Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math. The museum offers the school district unlimited field trip opportunities that include one hour of classroom time, plus an hour of hands-on learning. Lessons are customized to meet state requirements for classroom learning. Museum staff provides classroom resources, including a tote with a science curriculum and handouts for each classroom, plus lesson plans for the teachers. District 51 schools where STEAM is taught include New Emerson Elementary, Tope Elementary and Orchard Avenue Elementary. Other local schools may also invite staff to their classroom to teach STEAM topics.
In 2018, the museum moved from Orchard Mesa to the new engineering building on the CMU campus. On the second floor of the engineering building are windows that look into the exhibit hall of the museum. Up to 30 student interns a year help teach the science curriculum, as well as provide support for the design and building of the exhibits. McConnell created a significant portion of the exhibits found inside. All of the displays are meant to be tactile to enhance interactive learning.
The museum’s current goals include creating more expedition programs for middle and high school students, as well as developing adult science programs. The museum currently offers a 55-plus older expedition program, which includes taking one- to five-day science trips around Colorado and the western United States. The goal of the museum is to put science in the hands of kids and adults.
To thank donors who have supported the museum, CMU engineering students designed an interactive “gear wall” for kids. Each gear represents donations from various individuals and businesses to make a large wall in which all the gears turn together. Grand Valley Power, Ute Water, and Clifton Water are among the generous donors.
The Eureka Science Museum is located at 1400 N. Seventh St. and is open to the public Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. and Sunday, noon – 4 p.m.