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.


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


  • 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



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.