Science Park features dozens of ingenious hands-on exhibits displayed in a lovely outdoor setting. Using the outdoors as a living laboratory for people to experiment with science and appreciate the surrounding natural beauty is a relatively new concept in the world of science museums. The Montshire is uniquely suited for this role—the Museum is located on a 110-acre site along the Connecticut River and has over five miles of nature trails to explore.
In warm-weather months, visitors can experience a plethora of water exhibits centered around The Rill, a 250-foot long watercourse that takes a meandering path from the Museum building toward the river. The Rill flows down a series of terraces, and at several places visitors can manipulate dams and sluices to change the direction or volume of flowing water. Young hydrologists can store up a mini-flood and then release it to the lower part of the Rill.
There are many other exhibits on light, sound, motion, astronomy, and natural history. Two kiosks in the Park reveal aspects of the hidden worlds of New England insects, birds, and mammals. The Wind Wall, a large panel covered with reflective disks installed on the Museum tower, "paints" patterns made by the wind.
Science Park is the launching point for a walking tour of the solar system. Starting from a model of the Sun, visitors on the Ridge Trail will encounter scale models of each of the planets in our solar system. To reach tiny Pluto (technically a "dwarf planet") requires a two-mile walk, nearly to Wilder village via the Hazen Trail! The experience provides a great demonstration of the relative size of the planets and the distances between them.
The water is on in Science Park early May through mid-October.