Grow Gardens Grow

We are ONE week away from the Secret Garden Party and Tour! If you haven’t yet RSVP’d for the party–make sure you do so today! We’re planning an Italian summer supper that will leave you feeling like you’re sitting on the Amalfi coast and ready to book your next Mediterranean vacation by the time you leave. The fun doesn’t stop when the party ends. On Saturday and Sunday we’ll have our Secret Garden Tour.

This year’s tour won’t disappoint. From an urban oasis to a sprawling country lawn, the Secret Garden Tour is a great way to gain new inspiration for your own garden, whatever size or shape it may be. And for all you folks living it up in apartments and condos with no green space of your own, we’ve even got a solution for you.

We don’t want to spoil before you get to experience it in person, but we’re confident that this year’s tour has something for everyone. Stop by Quinn’s Mercantile and learn how to expertly arrange your own fresh flowers. Then hop on over the Demonbreum’s beautifully balanced hideaway that boasts a lush lawn and vibrant flowers. After that you’ll head back downtown to the Nurture Nook. This day spa and gift shoppe is home to one of the most tranquil spots in town. Then you’ll hit the highway and set out for the Neal’s country retreat. This backyard is a playground paradise and we guarantee you won’t be able to focus on just one feature at a time. Lastly, you can circle back around to Discovery Center. Our summer planting is nearly complete, so you’ll want to check out our five themed gardens. While here you can also go inside and see our newest exhibit, Rainforest Adventure. This hands-on, high energy maze takes you through all the nooks and crannies of the rainforest and even has a zipline, monkey bars, and climbing area.

In addition to selling tickets for the garden party and tour, we are looking for a few volunteers to help man these garden stations. You don’t need an extensive knowledge of flowering plants and grasses. Instead, volunteers will greet garden tour patrons and pass along any instructions or information from the homeowners. It’s an easy task, but makes a world of difference for us at the DC. To sign up as a garden tour volunteer, email Katie at kwoodward@explorethedc.org.

Ramadan Around the World

There’s always something exciting going on at Discovery Center and this weekend is no exception. Tomorrow the Murfreesboro Muslim Youth will host a Ramadan Around the World event from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm. This program is part of their larger 30 Days of Giving campaign and aims to educate and serve the community. Due to its timing in the spring/summer months, Ramadan is not typically featured in our Holiday Open House event held each December. Students will be teaching about the way that Ramadan is celebrated in different countries around the world. There will be coloring, arts, crafts, henna designs, dress up and more. Ramadan Around the World activities are included with admission and free for members.

Now Entering: SPARK! Splash Zone

Each spring we celebrate the end of a successful SPARK! year with water day! Fortunately, the rain held off and water day went on as scheduled on both Monday and Tuesday! SPARK! stands for STEAM Play Achieves Real Knowledge and is an enrichment program for children ages 1-6. In addition to hands-on learning and play, SPARK! develops school readiness skills and helps children to achieve developmental milestones. The SPARK! calendar follows the school year, so it begins in August and concludes each May. Themes vary each week but are designed to incorporate art, music, engineering, exploration, and a snack.

Love the idea of the SPARK! program and just not sure you can wait ALL summer to try it out? Then think about signing your 4 or 5-year-old up for SPARK! summer camp. Camps are offered for full or half days four weeks this summer. For more information or to register, click here. If your little SPARKler isn’t quite old enough for camp, then pencil us in for August 13 and 14 when SPARK! returns for the fall.

Final Summer Preparations

Our last school field trip was Wednesday, so you’re probably thinking that we’re taking a little break and enjoying a quiet few days before summer sets in. Your wishful thinking is great and we welcome positive and relaxing vibes because it’s officially time for summer programs and camp!

Our four camp counselors were on-hand yesterday for their first day of intensive training to prepare for summer camp. In addition to learning about Discovery Center’s exhibits, internal processes, and procedures; all camp counselors received TRIAD training which will help them to be more comfortable and successful when working with campers on the Autism spectrum. TRIAD (Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders) is a program developed by Vanderbilt University that looks at research, assessment, treatment, family support, and community education for children and adults on the autism spectrum. This training included strategies for working with children with autism spectrum disorders and meeting their needs in a proactive manner. To go one step further, our Camp Coordinator, Kelsey, called every parent that noted some sort of special need for their camper. These conversations revolved around strategies for seamless transitions between activities, ideas for handling situations of sensory overload or under-stimulation, and tips and suggestions for working with their child’s individual needs and preferences.

And that’s not even the end of it. Yesterday, Catherine, Emmie, and Wesley were trained to drive the STEAM Bus. Although a CDL is not required to operate the STEAM Bus, extensive training is needed to learn to properly maneuver, operate, and maintain the bus. Catherine is our new Mobile Education Coordinator and will soon be able to drive the STEAM Bus to schools, daycares, community recreation centers, and festivals to deliver onsite, hands-on programs on a variety of topics. Emmie and Wesley are both educators that can accompany mobile programming or lead it themselves. By having a full team trained to drive the STEAM Bus and lead its associated programming, we can serve large schools and groups at one time. Want to learn more about the STEAM Bus and mobile learning opportunities? Click here.

It has been a busy week wrapping up school visits and preparing for summer camps, but with these two great training opportunities, our staff are more equipped to meet visitor needs than ever before.

Reserve Your Tickets to Secret Garden Party Today

We’ve just got a few short weeks left before this year’s Secret Garden Party on Friday, June 1. The committee is working hard to transform Christy Fancher’s Georgetown backyard into an Italian summer paradise. The deadline for RSVPs is soon approaching on May 25, so be sure to mail those to Discovery Center or email them to cbrown@explorethedc.org. If you don’t have your tickets yet for this year, visit our website at www.explorethedc.org/sgp to go ahead and reserve a spot. All sponsors and ticket purchases include tickets on our Secret Garden Tour which will take place on June 2 – 3.

The Secret Garden Party is more than a summer kickoff or get together for friends. It is a crucial part of the engine that keeps Discovery Center running year round. Funds raised from Secret Garden Party support the development of exhibits, programs, and outreach all year long. There’s still time to purchase your tickets or submit your RSVP for this year’s Secret Garden Party. We look forward to spending the evening with you on Friday, June 1!

Staff Complete Safety Training

On Tuesday we welcomed Sergeant Scott Newberg, a virtual training instructor with the Murfreesboro Police Department, to lead our monthly staff meeting to discuss safety specifically relating to preparedness for active shooter situations.

Sgt. Newberg reviewed staff roles and protocol should an active shooter situation in our vicinity ever occur. This doesn’t necessarily have to mean our building, but can also refer to the Murfree Spring wetlands and other businesses located nearby. Many of the school groups that visit conduct active shooter training and drills throughout the school year, so it made sense for us to have a protocol for keeping school groups, families, and staff safe during their visit. All new hires are educated on this protocol and the staff review our policies and procedures annually.

In addition to covering safety protocols, Sgt. Newberg also spent time reviewing preventative measures. He discussed “red flags” that may become apparent with disgruntled former employees or even visitors to the museum. We know that this training is not the perfect solution to gun violence, but it is a way to ensure that we are keeping the safety of students, families, and staff as a top priority. A BIG thank you to Sgt. Scott Newberg for his continued training and education of our staff.

SciGirls Wrap Up First Year

Last year we embarked on a new project in partnership with Eagleville school. SciGirls Code is part of the SciGirls program developed by Twin Cities Public Television and made possible through a partnership with the National Girls Collaborative Project and the LT Media Lab. The pilot program is a nine-month curriculum centering on e-textiles, robotics, and mobile geospatial technologies. More than this curriculum, it is also a professional development opportunity for STEM educators, role model training for female technology professionals, and research that investigates the ways in which computational learning experiences impact the development of computational thinking as well as interest and attitudes in computer science.

Female students in 5th-8th grade at Eagleville participated in this project over the course of the school year. For several participants, it was their first time to work with e-textiles or robotics. On Wednesday, our SciGirls Code participants set up a project showcase at Discovery Center. They had examples of bracelets created using conductive thread which featured LEDs in a variety of colors. They also had robots powered by Sphero, an app-controlled robotic sphere. When asked about their favorite project throughout the year, answers varied between learning to design apps, putting robots together, making new friends, and creating light-up jewelry.

Science on Tap: A Mayday Success

Our first Science on Tap at Mayday was a big success! With over 30 guests in the audience, it was immediately apparent that a change in venue was great for the program. Our guest speaker was Dr. Louise Rollins-Smith, a professor in the Vanderbilt School of Medicine. One of the best things about starting a Science Cafe program is that it is designed to make complex topics and theories approachable, easily understood, and appreciated by the general public.

A very brief synopsis of Dr. Rollins-Smith’s work tells us that she tests frogs for Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd)–but we don’t know what that means so it’s hard to synthesize the information. Through the course of the presentation, we learned that this research began in the 1990’s when scientists realized that frogs were dying en masse with no real explanation. Through collaboration and research, a network of scientists was able to identify Bd as a culprit of this phenomenon and have been working to track the progress and evolution of this fungus. In layman’s terms, Dr. Rollins-Smith and her contemporaries have spent many years studying the harmful effects that a fungus, called Bd, has on frogs around the world. This fungus attacks frogs through their skin, so the scientists are able to safely swab a frog’s skin to test for the presence of this pathogen and see how far it has traveled and whether individual species have developed immunity to it.

At this point, you might be wondering if this research is anything more than an affinity for frogs. Yes, absolutely yes! While they are still looking for resolution to the Bd outbreak, the lab has determined that amphibian anti-microbial peptides can kill the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). This breakthrough gives scientists around the world a new platform for imagining ways to combat HIV and other viruses.

What started with some incredibly complex syllables became an engaging conversation about the way local scientists are using frogs to further their knowledge about amphibian immune systems and what that means for treating human illnesses. We don’t have our next Science on Tap scheduled, but we are looking forward to growing this program and seeing even more in the audience at the next event!

Science on Tap is sponsored by the Nashville Section of the American Chemical Society and hosted by Mayday Brewery.

Start Your Summer Adventure Tomorrow

Tomorrow is opening day–and no, we’re not late to baseball season. It’s the grand opening of our summer exhibit, Rainforest Adventure! The final touches are being put up and our staff will be taking a tour of this a-maze-ing exhibit later today. The celebration really kicks up tomorrow with a few extra activities that we’ll have throughout the day.

Rainforest Rubber: Did you know rubber bands and bouncy balls wouldn’t be possible without the rainforest? Learn more about rubber trees and make your own rubber to take home!

Animal Art: Make beautiful butterflies, slithering snakes, or even a totally awesome toucan all day long in Creation Station.

Storytime in the Jungle: Take a break and read one of our many books all about rainforests with your family in Tiny Town or upstairs.

Cold-Blooded Critters: The rainforest is full of unique animals, especially reptiles! Come learn more about these amazing animals, and compare what you’ve learned about rainforest snakes to some of the animals you can find in Tennessee and other parts of the world. (presentations at 10:30, 12:30, 2:30, and 4:30)

Rainforest Adventure will be at Discovery Center through September 3.

Another Successful Shakesbeer

Shakespeare said it best, “For the rain it raineth every day”. It certainly felt like that was the case over the last few weeks, but we had a beautiful night for our 6th annual Shakesbeer. Joined by a collection of brewers, actors, and food trucks we could not have asked for a better night. Some of the brews on tap included: Death Star Mash, Sweet Carameline, and a homebrew served out of a trash can. One of the great things about Shakesbeer is getting to sample new flavor concoctions–without having to commit to a full pint!

We were also delighted to add the Inebriated Shakespeare troupe out of Nashville this year. Performing in a variety of venues around the Nashville area, this group mixes a Midsummer Night’s Dream with an assortment of adult beverages. They were joined on stage by M-PROV and Murfreesboro Little Theatre. A huge round of applause goes out to all of our actors who seamlessly incorporated this year’s Star Wars theme through rewrites, improv, and completely original material.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the three rockstar food trucks that provided very delightful vittles for our guests. Fly Boys, City Kitchen, and the Chicken Shack Express offered a variety of five-star eats! These food trucks were so great we had folks show up just for the food (that’s right…they didn’t even know we had an event).

So, to the brewers, distillers, actors, and food truck owners that made Shakesbeer possible this year–we thank you! You certainly channeled the force and made this our best Shakesbeer yet.