It’s been eight years since the Insights El Paso Science Center closed down to make way for Southwest University Park, but the organization is still alive and well.
For 33 years, Insights was El Paso’s premiere science museum, furthering the development of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education for borderland residents of all ages.
In the wake of the museum’s physical absence, Insights has developed new and exciting ways to keep the learning going.
In the last three years, the Insights El Paso nonprofit organization has gone mobile, taking the exhibits and educational programs to various locations in El Paso such as schools.
“Budgets were being cut for schools’ field trip funding, so we thought it would be a great idea to bring the museum to them,” Executive Director Meaghan Curry said.
Insights’ programming includes the annual weeklong space festival (which was not held in 2020, because, you know…), along with many at-home and virtual activities that can be found on the Insights website.
An upcoming take-home kit will be a cocktail chemistry / holiday spirits kit developed in conjunction with Sun City Distillery.
Insights also hosts Nerd Nights across town once per month. Recent virtual Nerd Nights include Observing the Moon, an exhibit of art and stories inspired by the moon; Candy, an exhibit on the process of how candy is made; and Dance, an exhibit on the history and study of dance across cultures.
Curry says that while the transition to mobile museum has been challenging during the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be worth it in the end.
“It may not be what El Paso remembers – it’s not a building but once we make the transition to being a fully mobile museum, I think we’ll be able to better serve the community.”
Insights was founded in 1979 to bring hands-on education to the borderland.
With the help of the Junior League of El Paso and other community groups, it moved into a 14,000-square-foot building on Santa Fe Street near the old City Hall building. Both were torn down in 2013 to make way for the ballpark.
After the museum closed, Insights partnered with the El Paso Independent School District and many of the exhibits were relocated to Alamo Elementary School, which was not being used at the time.
The new museum opened to the public in 2015 and called Alamo Elementary its home for two years. In 2017, facing a series of logistical hurdles with the new location, Insights took the museum out of the box.
Insights received a big gift from Jobe Materials in the form of a large plot of land at the base of Mount Cristo Rey that is one of the richest locations in the region for fossil hunting, including many dinosaur tracks discovered by geologist Eric Kappus in 2002.
“The land was donated around the time the museum closed, so it was chaotic timing, but it is great to have it preserved and hopefully developed as an educational tool,” Kappus said.
“It’s an amazing asset for the community and one of our priorities to make sure it’s around for future generations,” he said.
Tours of the dinosaur tracks are given the first Sunday of every month.
Insights will also collaborate with the new $70 million, 70,000-square-foot El Paso Children’s Museum, which broke ground at the corner of Santa Fe and Main streets Downtown in October.
Funded with 2012 quality of life bonds and private donations, the museum is slated for completion in 2022.