Timing, Tracking, and Evaluating. Oh My!

Curious about which DC interactives or displays attract visitors? Wondering how long people stay in a specific exhibit? Interested in which exhibit gets more attention in an identified area? Much can be learned as visitors stay and go using well-established techniques for timing and tracking exhibit interaction.

On Thursday, Jennifer and Dale participated in a workshop led by the Chattanooga Evaluation Group, a program of the Creative Discovery Museum. This workshop was open to staff members of museums and other attractions as a training opportunity for evaluating exhibits and visitor experience. The challenge for each workshop attendee was to observe visitors as they moved through the chimpanzee exhibit paying special attention to how much time was spent with each interactive as well as tracking their path through the exhibit. The knowledge gained by timing and tracking guests can give us important information that can optimize our exhibit design and layout at the Discovery Center. It is a great tool for evaluating which exhibit interactives are most popular and where there can be room for improvement and lets us know how visitors organically approach an exhibit so we can make sure it is laid out in the most effective placement.

We’re excited to see how the knowledge that Jennifer and Dale picked up at this workshop will be applied at the Discovery Center as we evaluate the redesign and update of several permanent exhibits. Until then, we’ll leave you with this photo of a young girl interacting with the chimps. We’re just not sure if she was tracking them or they were mimicking her.

Check Out the Murfree Spring Wetlands This July

Some of the most frequently asked questions we receive at the front desk are about the Murfree Spring wetlands. So we decided it was time to give you an outdoor update.

 

Who takes care of the wetlands?

Remarkably, wetlands are notorious for taking care of themselves.  Discovery Center and the City of Murfreesboro work closely together to monitor invasive species, check on trash screens, and any other challenge that may arise.  Discovery Center and the community at large appreciate that the Murfree Spring wetlands are part of the City’s park system and operate under the same hours, rules and regular maintenance schedules.   

 

Are program supplies available to rent in order to explore the wetlands?

Nets, water testing kits, and galoshes are only used when Discovery Center staff are leading programs like a Wetland Walk or Catch & Release. However, we have some great Wetland Wonder Packs that are available to check out. The packs include a field guide that lists some of the plants and animals that you’re likely to encounter on a jaunt around the boardwalk and a few activities designed to help children meaningfully interact with the environment. Wetland Wonder Packs can be checked out from the front desk by leaving a photo ID or car keys as collateral.

 

When can I join a Discovery Center wetlands program?

Ms. Emmie will be leading Wetland Walks on July 2, 5, 6, 16, 18, 19, and 20 at 11:00 am. These programs are included with admission and free for members. She’ll start near the playground and take you on a guided tour of the loop. You can expect to see turtles and ducks aplenty, but we’ve even had recent luck with otter and heron sightings.

 

Nissan Foundation Renews Support of Kids First

Last week we received fantastic news from the Nissan Foundation. They have renewed their support of our Kids First programs at an annual level of $55,000! A BIG thank you is in order to Vicki Smith and the Nissan Foundation team for their ongoing support of cultural programming at Discovery Center.

In 1992, Nissan North America headquarters were located in southern California and had a front row seat to the civil unrest and race riots following Rodney King’s trial verdict. In response to the riots and community outrage, Nissan created the Nissan Foundation with the goal of building community through valuing cultural diversity. The Foundation provides financial support to organizations that work to promote this mission in the communities where Nissan has a corporate or manufacturing presence.

Discovery Center is one of eight organizations in Tennessee to receive foundation support this year. Kids First at the DC includes our cultural free days like Hispanic Heritage Day, Chinese New Year, and Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Each year we work in partnership with other community organizations and leaders to improve the programming and educational opportunities at these events. Our next Nissan Foundation sponsored event is Discover India Day on Saturday, August 18.

This partnership with Nissan has allowed the community to explore cultures and traditions from around the world through open and respectful dialogue, access additional programs and resources, and become global citizens in safe learning environments. We hope that you will take the time to join us in thanking the Nissan Foundation for continuing to support initiatives that build welcoming and open-minded communities.

 

Children & Families Remain a Priority for Discovery Center

While Discovery Center is not a politically-focused organization, we are keenly aware of legislation that affects our operations, staff, and guests. This awareness has helped us to navigate changes in tax, employment, and most recently, immigration law. In April we began more closely monitoring the Department of Homeland Security’s practice of separating children and families crossing the U.S. border. Our mission at Discovery Center is to engage curious minds to fuel the future and we intend to do that by building a community with the courage to ask thoughtful questions, the drive to find creative solutions, and the confidence to implement positive changes. As a children’s museum and resource for families and educators the physical safety and mental and emotional well-being of children is our priority. Following the escalation of activity along the border, we reached out to both the Association of Children’s Museums and the Association of Science and Technology Centers to see if official position statements have been adopted regarding family separation practices.  

The Association of Children’s Museums responded with the following statement,

“Since April, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has separated children and families when crossing the U.S. border. These detentions are cruel, immoral, and dangerous; they remove children from their first line of protection–their parents. Separating children from their parents is wrong and a violation of basic human rights.

On behalf of the leadership and membership of the Association of Children’s Museums, we must express our outrage at the separation of children from their families. Yesterday, President Trump signed an executive order ending this policy, and we urge the administration to quickly reunite separated families. We remain concerned for the well-being of the children in their care. We are enraged by the administration’s willingness to put children in harm’s way for political purposes.

Science has proven the medical consequences of toxic stress on children. Through these forced separations and inhumane treatment of these children while in custody, the United States is inflicting life-long harm on innocent children brought to the United States by their parents. As described by the American Academy of Pediatrics, ‘Highly stressful experiences, including family separation, can cause irreparable harm to lifelong development by disrupting a child’s brain architecture. Toxic stress, which is caused by prolonged exposure to heightened stress, has detrimental short – and long-term health effects. …[Toxic stress] can contribute to chronic conditions like depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and heart disease.’

Children’s museums believe that all children are valued citizens and as a community, we share the vision of a world that honors all children and respects the diverse ways in which they learn and develop. As a sector of the museum field created in America more than a century ago, and one that’s inspired new movements in the cultural sector worldwide in serving children and families, our field has a special role in supporting all children and demonstrating their value to their communities. In the most trying circumstances, children’s museums support and advocate for children and families in their communities.

The Association will continue to advocate on behalf of children and families. We also will continue to lift up examples of children’s museums’ efforts to support immigrant families, such as the Children’s Museum of Brownsville’s (TX) experiences with unaccompanied children living in immigrant detention centers. We urge all children’s museums to contact their federal legislators to demand action that will quickly reunite separated children with their families as well as continue to share our field’s vision of a world that honors and respects all children.”

The statement was signed by Laura Huerta Migus, Executive Director and Jennifer Farrington, President of the Board of Directors. (http://childrensmuseums.org/images/ACM-Statement-on-Family-Separation.pdf)

Following the release of the position statement by ACM, the Association of Science and Technology Centers quickly spoke publicly in support of and alignment with the statement citing the value of, “equity and inclusion within our communities, as we work to educate, inspire, and create greater opportunity for all children and families.”

We at Discovery Center are in complete alignment with these statements and urge our stakeholders at all levels to be advocates for the rights of children and their families.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2018 Mid-Year Check-In

With six months of 2018 under our belt, it was time to take a look at our annual goals and action plan. Our annual action plan is split into six categories that have actions and tactics aimed at helping us reach our strategic long-term goals. While there’s still plenty to do in the second half of the year, we’ve had some pretty big wins so far and want to share some of that with you.

Marketing & Public Relations

  • We have developed new marketing materials regarding our mobile education programming. This includes school assemblies, STEAM Bus visits, and mobile labs. With a plan in place, we’re ready to start telling the world about these great programs, so Dale is going to help build relationships with Wilson County schools and John will focus on Rutherford County.

Administration & Operations

  • We have created a safety committee that has been tasked with making Discovery Center safer for guests and staff. They meet bi-monthly and are working on putting together staff training opportunities, safety protocols, and plans for streamlining our day-to-day operations.

Finance

  • Our annual audit has been submitted and there were zero findings!

Development

  • Our goal is to have a 7% growth in membership and we are at 10% for the year so far.
  • On the other hand, we’d like to see retention at 50%. We’re not there yet, but working on training a few new staff to help with our member communication and retention efforts. If you’re a current member, be on the lookout for your renewal reminders!

Exhibit & Program Development

  • The last year has been all about making new connections and expanding partnerships. Some of our newest partnerships include Maney Avenue Head Start for our LEAP into Science program and SciGirls Code at Eagleville School.

Community Development

  • This year we were selected to join the Cultural Competence Leadership Institute in a cohort with four other museums to increase organizational capacity around diversity, inclusion, and culture. Through this process, we’re looking to identify access points that will help us reach new audiences so that Discovery Center’s visitors and program partners are more representational of our community.

New Mission. New Vision. New Values.

Two years ago Discovery Center made a commitment to updating its mission, vision, and values. Mission and vision were fairly easy to address as we had starting statements that could be analyzed and tweaked to more accurately depict our organization. Values were a different story. Even though we were nearly three decades old at that point, we’d never articulated our core values. Last year we debuted our new mission and vision and really started digging into what our organizational values could and should be.

Mission: Engaging curious minds to fuel the future.

Vision: Our vision is to build a community with the courage to ask thoughtful questions, the drive to find creative solutions, and the confidence to implement positive changes.

We started with a brainstorming session led by United Way President and CEO, Meagan Flippin. 

In a meeting with the Board, she challenged us to think about what Discovery Center considers to be a priority and how our current behavior validated that. From a list of 54 descriptors, the Board narrowed that down to 20 through a voting and discussion exercise. From there, the Advisory Board, staff, and Youth Council completed the same exercise leaving us with five primary values. At this point, we have decided to let these values stand alone rather than be worked into an acronym or listed as sentences. We believe in their strength as guideposts for our daily perspective and actions.

So drumroll, please…

Fun & Play

Transformative Learning  

Diversity & Inclusion

Curiosity

Creativity

We’ve Got Our Own Fixer Upper

One of our newest partners here at the DC is Franke. Located in Smyrna, the foodservice division of Franke is just one piece of what they do. We’ve known that our kitchen has been in need of a few updates, but our friends at Franke realized as well. Yesterday they came in to 3D scan the kitchen and start working on a few renderings of what a renovated space may look like. That’s all we know for now, but we can’t wait to embark on this project with Franke and share the final outcome with you!

The Wetlands are Making a Splash

With a little elbow grease and ingenuity, the water cannons in the wetlands are back in working order! They’ve been non-operational for about three years and it has made a much larger impact than we originally realized. The water cannons not only provide a visual appeal to the wetlands but help with the overall health of the wetlands and improve our outdoor programming.

Parrot feather. This non-native invasive species has been our nemesis for years. Parrot feather thrives in environments with still and very slow-moving water. Unfortunately, that’s what our holding tank has become without the water cannons to help keep the water constantly moving and what has helped parrot feather thrive in the wetlands. Though it is only a small part of the solution, we are hoping that disruption the water cannons cause in the holding tank helps to naturally lessen the amount of parrot feather.

As most of you know, summer in Tennessee can last anywhere from 8-12 months. We spend many of those months outside with guests and school groups exploring the wetlands and learning about our natural habitat. The water cannons bring some much-needed relief by sending cooler air over the patio and around the holding tank. Following an afternoon spent catching tadpoles or wading in the spring, the splash of the water cannons brings sweet, cool relief.

A BIG splashy thank you is in order to the City of Murfreesboro for their diligence and determination in getting these cannons to work again!!!

Summer Camp is in Full Swing

Camps are well underway with two weeks officially in the win column. We do still have some spaces available in the coming weeks, so if you haven’t finalized your summer plans now is the time do so! The best place to find information about dates, themes, and pricing is our website. Just click here to go directly to our camps page.

One of the biggest changes to our camp set up this year is breakfast and lunch. That’s right, we’re now serving two proper meals to campers each day! Discovery Center is a designated Murfreesboro City Schools summer feeding site. Instead of the CHOW bus visiting twice daily, we receive deliveries that work into our camp schedule. The meals are provided to each camper without cost or conditions, but campers may choose to bring their own lunches instead–we understand that food allergies and picky eaters don’t take a summer break either! Monthly menus have been provided, so you can always ask ahead and learn what’ll be served when your child is at camp. We hope that by providing breakfast and lunch daily we have made getting out the door each morning a little easier for parents and campers alike.

So here are your two big takeaways:

  1. A few open spots for summer camp registration remain. Camps are open to students entering Kindergarten – 5th grade and SPARK! camps are available to children ages 4-5 that will not be entering Kindergarten this fall.
  2. Breakfast and lunch will be provided for each camper daily. If you’re rushing in the morning and forgot lunch on the counter or just wanted a break from packing daily lunches then we’ve got you covered.

The Saturday Science Summerslam is Here

We’re gearing up for a midsummer Saturday Science Summerslam and you’re invited! Pencil us in on Saturday, July 7 for a day of extra activities, experiments, and art projects. Dreamed up in part by Wesley’s love of wrestling, this day will explore the science behind the wrestling industry. We’re not just talking about big muscles and bodyslams, we’re exploring the pyrotechnics that makes wrestling entertaining as well as creating our own wrestler personas. Some activities for the day include: can crushing experiment, exploding chalk art, fireworks to brighten the day, a strength test, and the opportunity to create your own championship belt and mask. And yes, that’s a thumb wrestling ring that Wesley has created for the day.

The summerslam activities will run from 10:00am – 5:00pm on Saturday, July 7 and are included with admission and free for members. Whether you grew up with Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, or The Rock or don’t have a clue who those guys are, we’re sure you’ll have a great day at the Saturday Science Summerslam.

 

Find a Science in the Summer Site Near You

Our eyes are on the skies this summer thanks to GSK’s Science in the Summer. This program is a free summer resource made available to elementary school students each summer. Discovery Center was once again chosen as an organization to host these programs locally. The 2018 Science in the Summer theme is space and we could not be more excited about it! Hands-on exploration focuses on the sun, stars, space travel and more. One of the greatest details about this program is that it is conducted offsite. Don’t get us wrong–we love for families to visit us at the Discovery Center, but we know that with busy summer schedules it isn’t always possible. The nomadic nature of this program allows us to engage with students and families that wouldn’t typically have the opportunity to visit Discovery Center for such a program.

We have 12 confirmed locations for Science in the Summer and are still working on a few others. You’ll also notice that not all of these are located in Murfreesboro, we’re taking this show on the road to Bedford, Wilson, Cannon, and Grundy counties. Here are a few of the sites that will have programming open to the public:

  • Shelbyville Library, June 21-22
  • Tracy City & May Justus Libraries, June 29
  • Mt. Juliet Library, July 16-17
  • Palmer Library, July 24
  • Altamont & Beersheba Libraries, July 25
  • Coalmont Library, July 26

The Secret Is Out

While the specter of inclement weather loomed for days in advance, we could not have asked for a better setting for this year’s Secret Garden Party. As the sun set in a hazy, orange sky we settled in for a night reminiscent of the of the Italian coast. Playing off the theme of an Italian summer supper, farm tables were lined with lush greenery, fresh citrus fruits, and soft candlelight. Cozy couches and plush garden furniture created conversational pockets that breathed an air of intimacy and connectedness into a bustling backyard. Nestled into a corner was a busy and bright auction tent. With items ranging from a Jason Aldean autographed guitar to spa packages to a children’s bike there was something available to everyone. In fact, we saw a few lighthearted bidding wars break out in the final minutes.

While we can’t pick favorites, this Secret Garden Party is definitely at the top of the list and we’d be remiss if we didn’t take the opportunity to thank all the people that made it possible.

  • To our sponsors, we appreciate your generosity and trust in choosing Discovery Center as one way to make a positive impact on children and families in our community. Your gifts have opened the doors of exploration and discovery and will serve over 120,000 individuals this year.
  • To our vendors, we thank you for helping to bring elegance and flair to this event. Modern Vintage Events, Five Senses Catering, Julie’s Bartending, Southern Events Party Rental, Southern Sky, Angel Pardue Photography, all of our auction item donors, and many others made this evening a success.
  • To our committee, your leadership and enthusiasm through this process have been a gift from the beginning. From choosing color schemes and floral arrangements to helping with logistics and auction prep, there’s no way we could pull this off without you!

Did You Know???

Last week we hosted the first ASC&DC Nerd Trivia in Murfreesboro. The event started in May at New Heights Brewing Company in Nashville and rotates between Davidson and Rutherford county each month. Co-hosted by Discovery Center and the Adventure Science Center, these trivia nights feature general knowledge questions that range from pop culture to astronomy to current events and topical questions related to upcoming events or new exhibits at each museum.

Last week’s session was held at the Green Dragon Pub, a cozy space filled with nods to Tolkien’s middle earth, a thorough beer list, and homemade vittles. The Adventure Science Center highlighted their summer exhibit Beyond Rubik’s Cube and an upcoming Star Wars vs. Star Trek Way Late Play Date. Discovery Center highlighted the recently opened Rainforest Adventure exhibit and the Secret Garden Party & Tour happening this weekend. The venue was sold out but there was no shortage of fun and excitement! The next ASC&DC Nerd Trivia night will be June 14 at New Heights Brewing Company in Nashville. We hope to see you there!

Going Once, Going Twice

Over the last few years, the silent auction at Secret Garden Party has quickly become a highlighted part of the evening. Each year the offerings seem to grow in both quantity and quality and this year is no different. Whether it’s the thrill of the win that propels you or a desire to get a headstart on holiday shopping, this year’s auction is destined to wow!

Auction categories range from “Adventures & Events” to “Sip & Savor” to “Kid Tested Mother Approved” and more! Open as soon as the party begins, the auction will run until 9:30. But don’t expect a sedate and calm bidding experience. Last year as the clock began to wind down we saw a few bidding wars on vacation packages and summer camps break out and expect the competition to be just as intense this year too!

While a rule allowing staff to shop the auction early does not yet exist, we’ve certainly whittled the auction booklet down to some of our favorites.

– We’re not musical prodigies but the Gibson Les Paul signed by a major Nashville recording artist just about has us convinced that we could go platinum one day too. We don’t want to give away all the fun details but this artist has no shortage of nominations and wins at the Grammys, ACMs, and Billboard Music Awards!

– The low country boil for 10 will have friends crawling out of the woodwork like they would if your Powerball number were called! With a shrimp boil provided by Five Senses and a quarter keg of Bearded Iris Homestyle you’ll feel like you won the lottery this summer.

– Don’t know about you but we love lunch! The lunch bunch package includes gift cards to some of our favorite local lunch stops including Tasty Table, Alley on Main, Maple Street Grill and more!

Reeves Sain Milkshakes for a year – need we say more?

Set Your Sights on Discovery This Summer

Summers at Discovery Center are full of things to do! Here are three great summer opportunities to explore the DC.

Passport to Discovery: Pick up your summer passport to fun at the front desk today. With 16 activity categories, there’s plenty to keep you engaged and your kids occupied all summer long. After you complete a task, attend a program, or explore an exhibit one of our staff will stamp your passport. After 10 stamps are collected you can turn the passport in for a prize! Stamps can be picked up at any of the following programs:

  • Snack Attack: Monday 3:30 pm
  • Storytime with Mrs. Micki: Tuesday 11:00 am
  • Earth and Space Explorations: Thursday 6:00 pm
  • Mind-Blowing Matinee: Monday 11:00 am, Tuesday 3:30 pm, Wednesday – Friday 11:00 am and 3:30 pm

Member Mondays are back! Each Monday morning in June and July members can come in at 9:00 am. That’s one full hour before we open to the public. This is a nice, quiet time to explore the museum before the hustle and bustle of camps, group visits, and our operating hours begin. If you’re not a member yet, click here to become one today!

$3 Thursdays are another great way to visit the Discovery Center this summer outside of our typical hours. Starting at 4:00 pm on Thursdays in June and July admission is just $3 and we stay open until 7:00! $3 Thursdays are a great way for parents and grandparents that work a traditional 9:00 – 5:00 schedule to see the Discovery Center too! *$3 Thursdays will not take place on Thursday, June 21 as we have a private event in the museum.

Take a Leap Into Science

This year Discovery Center was selected to join the Leap into Science program created by the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia (thanks, Dale!). Leap into Science combines open-ended inquiry activities with children’s books to engage children ages 3-10 and their families. For the last three months, we have visited all five of the 4-year old classrooms at the Head Start location on Maney Avenue. In addition to providing a fun learning environment for these students, the lessons were designed as a professional development and training opportunity for their teachers. Katie led a variety of sessions about balance, wind and air, light and shadows, water, sound, magnets, and more. During each session, Head Start teachers were encouraged to observe her teaching methods and the way she introduces, explains, and encourages students through each concept. Each of the Maney Avenue teachers will receive kits to complete these lessons in their classrooms next year and Katie will travel on to another Head Start to get the process rolling again!

This year’s program concluded with a family night at Discovery Center – 83 adults and 53 children attended and we were able to award 30 memberships to these families as part of our Kids First outreach initiative. Despite the fact that Discovery Center and the Maney Avenue Head Start are only one-third of a mile away from each other, this was the first time many of these families were able to visit the museum. Providing family memberships will ensure they are able to explore and grow together for another year! In addition to our exhibits, some of the activities used throughout the program were laid out so the students could teach their parents the concepts they’d learned. Leap Into Science isn’t a new program, but it’s certainly helping to breathe new life into our early childhood outreach opportunities.