Connections - Bay Area Discovery Museum



Launched in 2008, Connections is the Bay Area Discovery Museum’s (BADM) comprehensive outreach and partnership program that aims to create sustainable relationships between the museum and the diverse communities of the Bay Area, while establishing BADM as a critical resource for creative play and child development.

Connections partners with local subsidized preschools throughout the school year to facilitate multiple on-site visits to the museum for free, as well as hands-on science programming to deepen children’s relationship to the natural world both at the museum and in the classroom. Connections staff provides ongoing support throughout the school year to help early childhood educators integrate the museum experience into their classroom without adding work or stress. Through Connections, we serve more than 1,700 preschoolers between the ages of 3 and 5.

Connections is free to all of our partner schools, and after every field trip students receive guest passes to come back for free to the museum. In addition, Connections families automatically qualify for a reduced-cost Family Access Membership to BADM.

Partner Schools

The Connections partnership network is comprised of subsidized preschools in San Francisco, Contra Costa, and Marin counties. Partner preschools in the Connections program serve a high proportion of low-income families and generally children of color, recent immigrants, and English-language learners. Each partner preschool is part of a central organization with multiple sites. We partnered with schools that could commit to multi-year partnerships.

Connections Curriculum

Our curriculum focuses on science process skills, including asking questions, observing, measuring, sorting and classifying, predicting, inferring, communicating, and documenting. All programs are created to be open-ended, time flexible, and developmentally appropriate for preschoolers.

The materials we use—which are intentionally real science tools and made from natural materials—are easily accessible so that projects can be recreated for teachers and families in the classroom and at home.

For more information about Connections, contact: or (415) 339-3903 .

Program 1: Classroom Visit

Connections staff visit every partner classroom before their first field trip to meet the students, introduce themselves and the museum, and share the idea of a field trip and what it will be like. We read a story about a classroom of children who go on a field trip to the museum, which is written by Connections staff with pictures previous Connections students have drawn and real photos of the museum; there are also songs to sing throughout. The program is 15 minutes per classroom, joining a regularly scheduled part of their day.

Program 2: Partnership Meeting

During this 30 to 60 minute session, Connections staff visit school administrators and teachers at their school, either in a meeting room or classroom, to share the goals of Connections, how it looks, and the importance of the educator’s role. This is also an opportunity to provide museum updates, answer questions, and collect feedback.

Program Name 3: Open Visit Field Trip

Students, teachers, and chaperones come to explore BADM for 2.5 hours. Upon arrival, Connections staff read an abbreviated version of the story read in their classroom to orient children and welcome adults. The rest of the field trip provides the class with free time to explore the museum’s exhibits. This is a great opportunity for children and adults to experience our open-ended learning environments.

Program 4: Outdoor Learning Lab Field Trip

This on-site visit to BADM is designed to give students a love for nature and science. The Outdoor Learning Lab program begins with a nature walk, teaching students that observation is crucial for scientists, and focusing on using their senses. The class is on-site at the museum for 2.5 hours and they spend 30 to 50 minutes at the Outdoor Learning Lab, where options include everything from worm exploration to clay building, mud mixing, a reading and puppet area, and water flow sculpture. Students get an authentic outdoor experience while experimenting with the properties of water and dirt, learning about the empathy of living creatures, and engaging in science process skills. After Outdoor Learning Lab, the class enjoys free exploration in the museum’s exhibits.

Program 5: Nature Studio Field Trip

During this on-site visit to BADM, the Nature Studio program starts with a circle time discussing how scientists ask questions. Connections staff read a book with prompts students might have about nature. Adults are asked to document during Nature Studio program, which is sent back with teachers. All signage is trilingual, and prompts are open-ended questions for adults to ask children at each station. The classroom is station-based and children can play where they are most interested and for as long as they want. Through activities like ice exploration with sand and tools, plant color rubbing, sand and sticks tactile table, plant dissection, an obstacle course, and nature sorting and patterning, students are engaging in science process skills, engineering using natural materials, and closely observing a local plant using tools. Classrooms are at BADM for 2.5 hours, and the Nature Studio program is approximately 30 to 40 minutes. After the program, the class enjoys free exploration in the museum’s exhibits.

Program 6: Bay Walk Field Trip

The Bay Walk program is all about teaching students to be scientists who make and test predictions. Starting with circle time in front of BADM, Connections staff lead storytime and review beach rules. On the walk to Horseshoe Cove and Coast Guard Beach at Fort Baker—across the field from BADM—adults gather children’s predictions of what they think they will see at the beach. After free exploration time, the group comes together and we check those predictions, co-creating a chart to represent their findings. During the 2.5-hour visit to BADM, with 40 to 70 minutes spent with the Bay Walk program, children develop science process skills, learn about the natural world and local environment, and experience educational play through exploring water, creatures, rocks and more.

Program 7: Family Visit Field Trip

Connections partner students, teachers, and their families—including siblings, grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles, cousins, and other important adults in a child’s life—spend 2.5 hours exploring any museum exhibit spaces they’d like. Upon arrival, Connections staff do a short introduction and orientation for adults and children. By spending time in our open-ended creative environment, we hope they are inspired to return on their own.

Program 8: Parent Play Workshop

The Parent Play Workshop is a unique opportunity to work directly with parents and caregivers to share information about BADM’s educational philosophy, which is the focus of our field trips and the Center for Childhood Creativity research. During the 90-minute session, the first hour is only adults with a museum facilitator while children are supervised in another area, and during the final half hour the students join their parents and do activities prompting science process skills. Adults come away with an understanding of what science looks like for their child and why it’s important, and witness the lasting learning that happens when a child’s curiosity is extended. The Parent Play Workshop is an optional part of our Connections partnership that is scheduled at the discretion of the site supervisors and teachers, and happens in an all-purpose room, a classroom, or family room at a partner school.