Day Trips: The Science Mill

Brain-powered fun

Photos by Gerald E. McLeod

The Science Mill in Johnson City disguises learning as play. Each of the stations in the retrofitted former feed mill touches on some form of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, but the hands-on exercises are just plain fun to figure out. 

Opened in 2014 by scientist and entrepreneur Bonnie Baskin, the Mill challenges young hands and minds with fun activities. There are games to harness the wind, explore the human body, and control electrical energy. 

For all the games inside the big hall and former grain silos turned into discovery rooms, it seemed that most of the kids preferred the adventures outside, even in the summer heat. A group of youngsters dug for sharks' teeth in the sand while the older kids played with the bigger games. 

Almost everyone in the backyard gravitated toward taking a turn at controlling the Colossal Robotic Hand. The Incredible Ball Machine, a series of tracks for balls to race around, is mesmerizing fun for kids of all ages. 

Biology comes alive in the Aquaponics Greenhouse where fish poop (use that word and you've got every kid's attention) is used to grow vegetables, flowers, and herbs. The BioLab room has aquariums and experiments for the budding young scientists to explore. The star of the show, for my money, is the adorable Axel Rose, a pink and white Mexican Axolotl salamander.

The Science Mill is in the heart of Johnson City on Highway 290 and is open Wednesday through Sunday. The price of admission – around $10 – includes a 3D movie. The Lady Bird Lane Cafe in the Mill's former office is open for lunch Wednesday through Sunday. For more information, go to

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The Science Mill, Johnson City, Bonnie Baskin, Lady Bird Lane Cafe

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