Getting Scientific, Down at the Mill-In Johnson City

Published in the La Vernia News on April 16, 2015

Getting Scientific,                                       Down at the Mill

Exterior- Modern-Rustic

The Hill Country Science Mill's exterior, combining its rustic origins with modern additions, belies the cutting-edge, eye dropping, minding-boggling exhibits within this converted grain mill in Johnson City.        

Photos:                                   Harry and Linda Kaye Perez     

    On the corner of Highway 290 and Lady Bird Lane in the heart of Johnson City, is a beautiful building with a unique twist; it is both modern and rustic. It began in 1880 as a gristmill and cotton gin. In 1901, it was retrofitted to a flourmill and finally to a feed mill, that remained operational over 50 years. After the feed mill closed in 1980, the iconic landmark was converted to a restaurant and entertainment complex, but it also closed.

The Story of Water

   The Hill Country Science Mill is the brain child of Bonnie Baskin, Ph.D, 
and Robert P. Elde, Ph.D., both career scientists, who realized our workforce would need to be better educated in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and that it had to begin with our children. In August 2012, they purchased the old feed mill property and the Hill Country Science Mill was born. The goal is to inspire today’s youth to discover scientific and technical principles and open young minds about careers in science. The Science Mill opened on February 14, 2015.

    Incorporating the old grain silos and other parts of the original mill into the new facility was amazingly innovative. The silos can be entered from the main building and create eye-popping exhibits. The Cell Phone Disco encourages students to use their cell phone to call or text someone.  A 40-foot high wall of LED lights dance as the invisible electromagnetic waves bounce round inside the silo. When you walk into the Story of Water silo, you can hear people talking, but you don’t know where the voices are coming from. Look up and it appears you are looking through water at a group of people looking down at you and explaining how the Edwards Aquifer works. At the IGlobe exhibit, students can order up a hurricane and watch it develop and move across the United States from outer space.

Everyday Journeys

    Harry and linda Kaye Perez

Learning Through Fun

    Students discover scientific and technical principles relevant to their everyday lives in an environment where they can explore, question and discover. Every visit begins with an Avatar Passport. Each student creates a customized Avatar by answering a few basic questions, including name, birthday, and eye color. The student can also choose English or Spanish. An Avatar will be the tour guide throughout the visit to the Science Mill. Even after leaving the Science Mill, the student can still learn more about each exhibit visited by signing onto the Explorer Zone at the Science Mill website with their own Avatar.

    There are a total of 35 hands-on exhibits and interactive activities, including Critter Bots, Create an Explosion (who doesn’t like to blow things up), and even the Giant Lever, a tug of war game.  The Science Mill also offers Summer Camps in variety of subjects:

·      Bio-Technology Camp: learn to decode the secrets of DNA, solve a crime using DNA fingerprints, and examine mutant    worms and what causes their crazy behavior.

·      Shooting for the Stars Camp: design, built, test and launch a rocket.

·      SCI Camp: learn what it’s like to be a forensic scientist, a storm tracker, or a brain scientist.

Critter Bots Workstation

    Included in admission to the Science Mill is a 3D movie. Now showing is a 21-minute presentation of The Great White Shark – a creature that has been misrepresented, maligned, feared, and on the verge of extinction.

Plan a Trip

     The Science Mill welcomes school field trips. At least one adult per five students for elementary classes, and on adult per ten students for middle and high school classes is required. The cost for field trips is $6.00 per student. A picnic area (or classroom is inclement weather) is provided for bag lunch from home, or for an additional $4.00 for a box lunch from the Lady Bird Lane Café.  Field trips usually last from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. The Science Mill provides pre-field trip and post-field trip lesson plans for classes to complete in preparation for their visit. (Note: The Science Mill is completely booked for these field trips through the Spring of 2015; they will be accepting reservations for the 2015-2016 school year beginning in August.)

Avatar Check

   Attached to the Science Mill is the Lady Bird Lane Café. This small farm-to-table restaurant offers soups, salad, sandwiches, flat bread and desserts. It focuses on organic and all-natural ingredients and everything is made from scratch.

  The Science Mill has a wonderful website listing everything you need to know about admissions, hours of operations, field trips and even birthday parties. Their website sums it up best: “The Hill Country Science Mill is a family destination offering a fun, interactive learning environment for all ages. Through cutting-edge technology-based exhibits, games, and programs, the Science Mill expands students' understanding and appreciation of science in their everyday lives.”

   The 80-mile drive to Johnson City from LaVernia will be a pleasant and quite ride, with Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes lining the roadways. But be prepared, the ride back will not be so quiet - you probably will not be able to get a word in edgewise.

Science Mill
Zebrafish & Jellyfish Workstation

To find More

Hill Country Science Mill                                       101 S. Lady Bird Lane                                                   
Johnson City, Texas 78636

For General Information: (844) 263-6405                    ext. 1005



Isn't Science Cool?

   © Harry Perez 2012