In August, the community helped open the doors of the spectrUM Discovery Area’s new space in downtown Missoula.

The museum, at 218 E. Front St., is an expanded version of the spectrUM that opened on the University of Montana campus in 2007. The campus site will continue to be used as a gallery space, with hands-on exhibits for the university community, and for field trips, clubs and summer camps.

At the downtown location, families can explore the working neuroscience Brain Lab and experiment with how erosion and human impacts change rivers in the large-river ecosystem exhibit. A DigiZone multimedia classroom and Discovery Bench also offer hands-on activities.

The dynamic exhibits provide multiple ways for kids of all ages to delve into science and hopefully will foster a lifelong love of science that could translate into careers in the science, technology, engineering and math fields, said Holly Truitt, spectrUM’s director.

The new museum took a place-centric approach to its design, but it and its mission are making waves elsewhere. For example, Truitt was appointed one of 17 fellows this year at the Noyce Foundation.

Eventually, spectrUM would like to expand its outreach capabilities with a mobile lab to use in statewide outreach to schools and American Indian reservations, Truitt said.

In addition to contributions from community members, the expansion was made possible by dozens of partners, including the National Science Foundation EPSCoR Program, Missoula Redevelopment Agency, National Institutes of Health, Institute on Ecosystems, Center for Structural and Functional Neuroscience, UM President’s Office, Jane S. Heman Foundation, UM College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences, UM School of Extended and Lifelong Learning and SciGirls.

Reporter Betsy Cohen can be reached at 523-5253 or at bcohen@missoulian.com.

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