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Old grain mill becomes science central for kids

Destination Texas

JOHNSON CITY, Texas (KXAN) — Families looking to get out of town for a day trip that’ll exercise children’s minds while keeping them entertained won’t have to drive any farther than Johnson City. The Science Mill has plenty of creative fun science-based activities that make learning fun while stretching children’s brains and imaginations.  

“We’re in a restored old grain mill,” says Portia Marchman, our guide, pointing to the old wooden floors and stone walls from the late 1800s. They’ve taken great care in interweaving the antique feel of the building with cutting-edge science exhibits — an eclectic mix of old and new.  “You have lots of interactive exhibits that deal with science, technology, engineering, and math.”

From the cell phone disco, which shows all the radio waves exuding from the multitude of electronics we carry with us daily, to beautiful works of art based on recurring patterns in nature, the Science Mill blends art and science seamlessly. 

It also has an aquaponics greenhouse full of all sorts of lush greenery, including some sweet-smelling carnivorous plants. Then there’s the African spurred tortoises, babies and adults, alongside a nice little menagerie of tropical lizards and amphibians, such as chameleons, poison dart frogs and axolotls, Mexican salamanders. 

  • Inside the Science Mill in Johnson City (KXAN Photo/Ben Friberg)
  • Inside the Science Mill in Johnson City (KXAN Photo/Ben Friberg)
  • Inside the Science Mill in Johnson City (KXAN Photo/Ben Friberg)
  • Inside the Science Mill in Johnson City (KXAN Photo/Ben Friberg)
  • Inside the Science Mill in Johnson City (KXAN Photo/Ben Friberg)
  • Inside the Science Mill in Johnson City (KXAN Photo/Ben Friberg)

Kimberly Pengra, visiting from Houston with her family, is pretty impressed.

“We haven’t actually been any place really since COVID hit in March,” she says. “I love that, number one, that it is kid-friendly. They can touch anything, which is great, but that they also have the ability to kind of make things their own and go explore on their own.”

It’s not just inside activities either. Bubbles, a labyrinth, a giant Rube Goldberg machine with rolling balls and sound effects and robotics provide plenty to keep the family occupied within the cool shade of some massive pecan trees.   

“It’s so cool to see kids come in here and interact with exhibits in a way that I didn’t even think about, you know?” Marchman says. “They use their imaginations in such a really cool way. It’s pretty inspiring to see the next generation use their critical thinking skills and then also us creating situations and exhibits for them to really develop those skills. That’s something I really love about working here.” 

The Science Mill is open Thursday through Saturday in the morning from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., closes for an hour to clean, and then opens again from 2 p.m. to 5 pm.

It’s also open Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.

People can learn more about the Science Mill, what it has to offer and all its COVID-19 safety precautions on its website

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