Exploration Portal

at Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose
Learn MoreBuy Tickets
  • Supporting Environmental & Wildlife Conservation
  • Discovering STEM in Nature
  • Featuring Sustainable Architecture

About Exploration Portal

Opens June 29, 2024

Children’s Discovery Museum’s Exploration Portal is a 4,000 sq. ft. nature-themed educational play space to be created on undeveloped land at the southwestern corner of the Museum’s site. Its location is ideal for environmental education:  adjacent to an important ecological zone along the Guadalupe River that is home to a multitude of flora and fauna and within a densely urban site, bordered by a heavily trafficked city street, below an elevated section of Hwy 87, and directly underneath the landing path for the San Jose airport.  It’s also next to Bill’s Backyard, CDM’s half-acre nature play space where children learn about the natural world by climbing, digging, building forts, stacking rocks, discovering insects, touching plants, and seeing birds and butterflies abound.

Right at the entrance of Exploration Portal you are welcomed by the beautiful California Poppies mural which is the work of the mixed media artist Muneeba Zeeshan. She is the former Artist-in-Residence and now part of the Arts and Education team at the Museum. Her work has been showcased by many international and local museums including La Pedrera (Barcelona) and DeYoung Museum (San Francisco). The mural artwork is still in progress and promises to be a 1000 sq.ft. wall of poppies which wonderfully brightens up this nature inspired exhibit. One more reason to visit Exploration Portal along with your families this summer.

Square Foot Exhibition

Interactive ExhibitS

Gallon Cistern for Rainwater Collection

The Exploration Portal encompasses three intertwined approaches for maximum environmental and educational impacts:

Development of eight interactive exhibits for children to discover the fascinating patterns and symmetry found in nature, from the designs on animal furs and spirals on snails’ shells, to the systematic arrangement of leaves on a stem and the architecture of beehives. The exhibits encourage children to look closely, play with sequence and proportion, and explore myriad patterns in the world around us. Interpretive signage offers information to adults about environmental infrastructure features, educational content and the Guadalupe River in three languages: English, Spanish and Vietnamese.

Sculptural Entry Arch, comprised of 2- and 3-D representations of plants and animals with interesting patterns, sets the stage for what visitors will discover inside.

Beehive Climber invites children to climb on, over and through the hexagon pattern of its architecture to immerse their full bodies in a familiar pattern in nature.

Patterns Everywhere features ten 2′, 3′ and 4′ circular magnifications of common patterns like seeds on a strawberry and scales of a fish. A cutout circle reveals the object at normal scale.

Symmetry Viewers, 4 large-scale kaleidoscopes with varying shaped viewing windows allow visitors to investigate objects in the space and create patterns of their own.

Rocks that Sing, stone Xylophone-style instruments, fascinate visitors with the melodic sounds created when struck with a mallet so that children can “hear” the beauty of nature.

Whirling Flyers feature familiar objects from both the natural and created worlds, and how they fly at different altitudes.

Measure Me! focuses visitors on their own bodies to explore human symmetry: our wingspan equals our height, our forearm equals the length of our foot, and more.

Bronze Animals and Insects, with distinctive patterns placed throughout the space, support children’s development of empathy and caretaking of the natural world.

Mechanical Solar Flower offers a hand-crank at kid-level that opens and closes the petals of a flower covering a solar panel in the center. An LED meter on the wall nearby helps track results as they expose the center panel to the sun.

A Landscaping Plan that role models the use of native and/or drought-tolerant plants, cultivates the biodiversity of the Guadalupe River, and immerses children and adults in the cognitive and physical benefits of a verdant environment. Plants, shrubs and trees that showcase a variety of patterns will be featured which also meet Valley Water’s guidelines for planting around the river to promote biodiversity. EP features stormwater management systems like xeriscape bioswales and overflow bioretention gardens to reduce runoff to the river containing vehicle and airplane pollutants and surface trash prevalent on the site. A rain catchment system on the roof of the Museum directs water to the 7,200 gallon cistern for irrigation.

An architectural design that improves the health of the Guadalupe River with infrastructure that mitigates toxic runoff, prevents pollution from being carried into the riparian corridor, and supports absorption of rainwater. Designed by Brad Cox Architects, BKF Engineering and Callander & Associates Landscape, EP incorporates three SmartFlowers, innovative solar energy systems that mimic a sunflower’s relationship with the sun. The giant mechanical “flowers” with solar panel petals open when the sun rises, move throughout the day tracking the sun across the sky and fold up when the sun sets. Granitecrete permeable paving will be used for all pathways as it allows stormwater to pass through and be absorbed into the ground underneath. Renewable wood is the preferred building material, including California-grown bamboo for the shade structure. Handcrafted bronze sculptures of animals and insects support children’s emotional connections to the experience.

A Conservation Approach

  • Native plants, shrubs, & trees promote biodiversity in the Guadalupe River watershed
  • Xeriscape bioswales capture stormwater and prevent run-off and also remove debris and pollution
  • Plantings help recharge groundwater supply
  • 7,200 gallon cistern harvests rainwater for irrigation

STEM in Nature Exhibits

Exploration Portal Groundbreaking: Time-lapse Video

Insights into exhibit opportunities and challenges from the architects at Brad Cox, Architect, Inc.:

Insights into exhibit opportunities and challenges from the designers at Scientific Art Studio:

Sponsorship Opportunities


Name or logo on large donor panel on Entry Gate
2 Available


Name on small donor panel on Entry Gate
$25,000 – $75,000
2 Available (2 sold)


Sponsor an individual tree, name on donor sign
1 Available (2 sold)


Sponsor an individual bench, name on donor sign
1 Available (7 sold)


Engraved plaque on SmartFlower flower pot
92 Available (308 sold)

Sold Out

Family Learning Nook

Name on sign in
Learning Nook
Unavailable (1 sold)

Sold Out

Secret Garden

Name on sign in
Secret Garden
Unavailable (1 sold)

Sold Out


Personalized engraving on a large boulder
Unavailable (6 sold)

Sold Out

Welcome Garden

Name on sign in
Welcome Garden
Unavailable (1 sold)

How to Give

We offer multiple convenient options for giving, allowing you to choose the method that best suits you. Whether you prefer the traditional route of writing a check, the ease and security of credit card transactions, the flexibility of making a pledge, or the strategic advantages of utilizing a Donor Advised Fund, we have you covered.


Download the Exploration Portal donation form, or use the link to pay via credit card.

  • Check (Please make check payable to Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose)
  • Credit Card (Click to Pay)
  • Pledge (Bill me)
  • Via my Donor Advised Fund

Museum Contact Information

Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose
180 Woz Way
San Jose, CA 95110-2722
(408) 298-5437 FAX: (408) 298-6826

Tax ID Number: 94-2870828

Support Our Next Generation of Children

Help us bring this important project to fruition, supporting children’s love for nature, science, and conservation.

Have a Question?