SPRINGFIELD, MA—The Springﬁeld Museums is pleased to announce that Jenny Powers of Holyoke, MA, is the new, visionary leader for the Springfield Science Museum. A science educator for twenty 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 already beloved museum. She also takes inspiration from the last woman who directed the Science Museum, Grace Pettis Johnson, who led the way from 1910-1949, and was in a supportive role since 1894!
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 MassAppeal where she shared hands-on science that families could explore together at home. Her move to the Science Museum leadership role is a dream come true. “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.”
Powers said: “I love that the Science Museum offers visitors chances for simple, positive interactions. This is when the most important learning happens! 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.”
This is an idea that Grace Pettis Johnson shared, Powers said. “From her writings,” Powers said, “it is clear than Johnson was passionate about science! She understood the impact that a deeper understanding of the natural world can have on visitors, and how it can help improve their daily lives.”
The meteorite is a case in point. In 1941 Johnson worked hard to secure a fragment of a meteorite that was collected in 1900 from the famed Barringer Meteorite Crater in Arizona. The museum purchased the specimen for $390, a fraction of what it is worth today. That foresight means that our visitors can experience an object that is older than anything on Earth, giving perspective and expanding understanding in a profound way. At the time Johnson commented, “We are delighted.”
“Grace also opened the first space specifically for children,” Powers said, “A Junior Room in the Natural Science Museum. In the photograph that I saw, children were working with dozens of tools. I love that she let them work with real tools.” Powers also hopes to bring real tools to museum visitors through adding more technology and hands-on, interactive stations throughout the museum.
With the addition of the Smithsonian Spark!Lab, a hands-on innovation space facilitated by a science educator (2019); the newly refurbished planetarium facilitated by Astronomy and STEM educators (2021); and the soon to open International Space Station gallery, the Science Museum is taking huge strides toward the vision of being an essential , informal STEM- and STEAM-learning hub for this region. For Powers, all of this progress is fueled by our drive for creativity. “Humans are curious creatures. When we look up at the stars, or deep into the ocean, we’re filled with wonder. We are curious to learn about the natural world around us, our place in it, and ideally, are driven to be stewards of it. Museums can be a creative place to help fuel this natural curiosity and ignite a spark that leads to a lifetime of enjoyment.”
“Jenny excels at engagement,” said Kay Simpson, President and CEO of the Springfield Museums. “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.”
Powers says 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,” Powers said. “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.”
The Science Museum is currently three years into a fundraising initiative called Evolution. This incremental effort has helped to fund an accessible, tech-savvy Science Workshop, that includes accommodations for students with special needs. The initiative has also helped to fund the International Space Station gallery, set to open this summer. Fundraising efforts are underway to upgrade the HVAC system which will even out the temperature for visitors and staff as well as provide ideal conditions for collections. The Museums are also fundraising to refresh the carpets; repair much-loved, much-used interactives and to add more interactives.
Before the opening of the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss, the Science Museum was the most visited of the Springfield Museums. And it remains the Museum many families seek for its Solutia Live Animal Center and its historic dioramas of animals in various habitats.
“Grace wanted to make science relevant for our visitors. She wanted visitors to recognize the importance of science to their lives,” Powers said. “That is my goal as well!”
About The Springfield Museums
THE SPRINGFIELD MUSEUMS are located on the Quadrangle at 21 Edwards Street in the heart of downtown Springfield, Massachusetts. The nationally accredited and Smithsonian-affiliated consortium of museums includes the Springfield Science Museum, the Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, the Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History, the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum, the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden, and the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum, the first and only museum dedicated to the beloved children’s book author and Springfield native.