Comcast Cares About Discovery Center

Although it wasn’t the warm, spring day we hoped for, we had a blast working with 40 folks from Comcast last Monday as part of Comcast Cares Week! Our original plans were to have Comcast staff help with our Wetland Wonders field study by assisting students as they caught tadpoles in the lily pad pond, splashed through the spring, and searched for flora and fauna in a walk through the wetlands.

With snow in the air and temperatures hovering around 40 degrees, we transitioned our outdoor field studies into indoor programs and put our volunteers to work! Here’s some of what our Comcast crew completed for the day:

  1. Prepared and sent monthly membership renewal mailings
  2. Prepared and sorted Arts in April flyers for delivery to Rutherford County Schools
  3. Assisted with SPARK! Preschool program, Animals All Around field study, and Splash Flash field study.
  4. Prepared six raised garden beds for spring plantings.
  5. Cleaned patio and front walkways, windows, restrooms, and exhibits.
  6. Led hands-on demonstrations about electricity for museum and school group guests.

To everyone at Comcast that helped make the day a success–THANK YOU!

Don Your Vaderhosen & Don’t Forget the Lightsaber

What do you get when you combine craft beer + local actors + Star Wars puns…Shakesbeer, of course! On this May 4th, we’re celebrating our 6th annual Shakesbeer in style with a Star Wars theme. Our 17 brewers have been hard at work coming up with a bevy of beers that will please your palate and leave you in stitches over these creative names and flavors. Here are a few of our favorites: Pecan Solo Blonde Ale, Chew-BOCK-a Lager, Liquid Carbonite Stout, and the Dark Force IPA.

Even if you’re not a big Star Wars fan, there’s still fun to be had at Shakesbeer. We’ve got three troupes of actors this year that will be performing sonnets, improv games, and a selection of original material. You’ll see actors from Murfreesboro Little Theatre, M-PROV, and Inebriated Shakespeare. Additionally, we’ll have food for purchase from three great food trucks: Chicken Shack Express, FlyBoys, and City Kitchen.

Tickets are just $35 if purchased by May 3rd and are available at the door for $40. Designated driver tickets can be purchased for $15. In the event of inclement weather, Shakesbeer will be moved inside the Discovery Center. Visit our website to buy your tickets today!

Tiny Town’s Been Hacked

As some of you know, Discovery Center was selected to participate in HCA’s Hack for the Community this year. Hack for the Community is a 36-hour hack-a-thon that benefits area non-profits by using technology to boost community impact. 17 other organizations collaborated with HCA’s team to bring 21 unique projects to life.

Discovery Center’s original idea was to create a textbot that would increase parent engagement in Tiny Town and improve overall visitor experiences. Early on the team encountered a few problems with this plan and pivoted to create a framework for displaying this information through Discovery Center’s website instead. Parents, grandparents, and caregivers can now access this information at www.explorethedc.org/tinytown.

Each exhibit space in Tiny Town is featured, so you can choose from Tennessee Pediatrics, Publix, the Post Office, Home Depot, and the music store. Clicking on each box takes you to a page with 4 primary topics:

  1. Notice: Observe your child and see how they interact with the exhibit and others playing in the same area.
  2. Engage: Encourage them to “dig a little deeper” in each pretend play scenario.
  3. Explore at Home: Extend the learning long past your visit to Discovery Center. Take home valuable tips about encouraging pretend play outside the museum.
  4. Book Connection: Check out these titles that coordinate with each exhibit’s content.

So what does this mean for the rest of the Discovery Center? Using the Hack for the Community Model, we can now start working on plans to extend this information to our other exhibits like the Fire Truck, Air Play, and 5 Senses. Stay tuned as we continue to create new opportunities for all of Discovery Center’s guests to learn and grow with each visit.

Creating a Culture of Diversity & Inclusion

Earlier this year, Discovery Center was accepted into the Cultural Competence Learning Institute (CCLI), a year-long training program facilitated by the Association of Science and Technology Centers in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Four other museums around the country were selected to join this cohort which meets monthly by webinar for status updates and training opportunities.

One of the first orders of business was for each museum to conduct a survey measuring staff perception of diversity and inclusion within the organization. These confidential results were compiled, analyzed, and given to the CCLI leadership team at each organization. For some organizations, this was a wakeup call. For others, like Discovery Center, the survey results have become a roadmap to creating a more inclusive and diverse community within the museum.

For example, Discovery Center hosts several cultural-focused free days each year. These events are great opportunities to eliminate socio-economic barriers that keep families from visiting and they allow many guests to experience new cultures and traditions for the first time. On the flip side, we see that free day visitors are more likely to attend events that represent their own culture. Indian American attendance at Discover India is disproportionately higher than it is at the Chinese New Year event. This feedback tells us that the cultural free days are meeting one local need, but still don’t feel inclusive to all cultural communities. The CCLI process will help us to evaluate these programs and devise strategies to enrich them and improve attendance by all demographics.

Feedback from the survey was discussed at an all-staff meeting earlier this month. Both affirmations and opportunities for improvement were met with enthusiasm by all staff. The next steps in our timeline are to start developing new relationships with communities that are underserved in terms of interaction with Discovery Center and to develop criteria for exhibits, programs, and outreach efforts that ensure diversity and inclusion are considered.

New School Assembly Programs Now Available to Book

Last week a contingent of the Discovery Center’s education department headed out to Clyde Riggs Elementary School in Portland, Tennessee for a mobile lab and an assembly program. Every class in the school was able to participate in the KEVA mobile lab challenge AND watch an assembly program.

KEVA planks are ¼ inch thick, ¾ inch wide, and 4 ½ inches long and can be used by anyone ages 1 – 101. For this program, students were challenged to construct a structure with ramps, tunnels, and turns that a ball could travel through. With no other stipulations, their minds were free to dream up any design and they certainly didn’t disappoint.

The assemblies are new programs that we rolled out earlier this school year that allow us to educate a much larger group at one time. Students and parents were split into groups by grade (K-2 and 3-5) in order to enjoy the show. Subjects covered during the demonstration were Bernoulli’s Principle, Electricity, Special Effects, Temperature, and Phases of Matter. Some of the experiments and demos conducted include:

  • Flying Toilet Paper to illustrate the differences in high and low air pressure
  • Generating Electricity with a Tesla coil and Van de Graaff generator
  • Creating a Fireball using Lycopodium powder to show how special effects are created in movies
  • Liquid Nitrogen Cloud to demonstrate the effect of mixing extremely hot and extremely cold liquids together.

Living Laboratory at Discovery Center

Living Laboratory at Discovery Center has officially begun. This program, developed by the Museum of Science in Boston, creates opportunities for museum visitors to learn about scientific research by taking a hands-on role and becoming an active partner in the process. We are collaborating with Dr. Cyrille Magne, an Assistant Professor in MTSU’s College of Behavioral and Health Sciences, and several graduate and undergraduate students from the Psychology Department.

Focused on the development and patterns of language, Dr. Magne and his team use a short video game to observe the way children hear and respond to the characters on screen. Oftentimes scientific research is thought to be only conducted in sterile labs and under microscopes, but the aim of Living Laboratory is to make research approachable, understood, and available to the public. It also helps to create relationships between scientists and the communities where they live, work, and study.

This iteration of Living Laboratory will continue through the month of April and the first week of May to coincide with the Science of Music exhibit.

We Are Tennessee Mural Work Begins

After a month-long call to artists, Discovery Center received 111 submissions from 56 different artists for our We Are Tennessee project!  We are Tennessee is a pilot art project that generates depictions of identity and culture through a dynamic art wall on permanent display at the Discovery Center. It highlights the community members’ photographs, self-portraits, and other artistic depictions of the cultural diversity that make up our state.

The mural was designed by Murfreesboro Painter Laureate, Ginny Togrye. It is based on a quilt pattern called “Road to Tennessee” and includes Tennessee symbols such as the state bird, state tree, state flower and flag stars. Ginny designed the fabric to be reminiscent of that used for quilts and clothing made from flour sacks.

The mural will be unveiled during our free Arts in April event on April 28th. Save the Date for a reception for our artists and sponsors on Tuesday, May 1!

Arts in April, April 28

Features the 3 inaugural artist laureates: Ginny Togrye, Painter Laureate; Kory Wells, Poet Laureate; and Jessica Nelson, Photography Laureate. Activities will include write a Tanka with Kory, explore sculptural painting with Ginny, and use a camera obscura and participate in a photo scavenger hunt with Jessica Nelson.