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Over 100 Connecticut museums, zoos and aquariums offer free admission for kids this summer

Joe Amon
Connecticut Public/NENC
A critically endangered Amur Tiger at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo on May 28, 2020 in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

School may be out, but kids can learn all summer thanks to Governor Ned Lamont’s "Connecticut Summer" at the Museum program, which gives kids free admission to over 130 attractions across the state.

The program began last summer to keep kids engaged during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gregg Dancho, the director of the Beardsley Zoo, said the Bridgeport-based attraction has prepared shows to entertain and educate kids — especially those who don’t have access to summer programs.

“What we’re really trying to do is have families get to the zoo that normally would not be able to get to the zoo if the cost is a little bit too high,” Dancho said. “That's something I feel is very valuable.”

Admission costs are covered by a $15 million investment from the American Rescue Plan Act. More than 120 grants were awarded, calculated based on the museum's average revenue from children’s admissions over the past few years. The minimum grant award is $1,000.

Museums in Connecticut can choose to participate in the program by offering free admission, but there are limitations, including limiting to one adult per household, block-out dates, and exclusions for special events.

“Museums and other arts and cultural institutions play an important role in our local communities and economies, plus they are rich canvases for socio-emotional development in young people,” Liz Shapiro, director of arts, preservation, and museums at the state Department of Economic and Community Development, said in a statement. “This is the only program of its kind in the United States.

Darlene Kascak, the education and visitor services coordinator at the Institute for American Indian Studies Museum and Research Center in Washington, said the program gives kids the chance to learn outside of their school curriculum.

“Often the schools were behind on things this year, so I’m really excited about children having the opportunity to learn about Native American history, which may not have come up in their school year,” Kascak said.

Sacred Heart University’s Discovery Science Center and Planetarium will offer free admission to the first 200 kids and their grownups each Saturday and Sunday through the summer.

“We are so grateful for this opportunity to share Discovery with all of our budding Connecticut scientists,” said Erika Eng, the executive director.

Need to find a lift? All public transit buses in Connecticut are operating fare-free through November 30.

Copyright 2022 WSHU. To see more, visit WSHU.

Molly Ingram

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