School’s In Session & Discovery Center is Ready for Students

With teachers already back in session for in-services and students completing the last of their summer plans, we’re looking forward to a great school year. Many times, people ask about a busy season at the Discovery Center. Truth is, we’re busy all year (and we like it that way!). So, with the school year quickly approaching, we thought it was time to review some of our educational opportunities available to students.

Field Studies are split into two general categories: guided and self-guided. The self-guided opportunity allows groups to explore the museum for two hours at their own pace focusing on all of our exhibit areas. Guided options include a 90-minute staff-led program in addition to self-guided exploration. We will offer 10 guided programs this year.

  1. Animals All Around: meet and learn about the reptiles, mammals, amphibians, and birds that call Discovery Center home.
  2. Amazing Anatomy: this new lab allows students to get hands-on with organ systems and anatomy through the dissection of frogs, squid, or owl pellets.
  3. Discovery Detectives: harness the power of forensic science to analyze a scene, process evidence, and solve a mystery.
  4. Pumpkin Power: use pumpkins as a vehicle to discover Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math and the way we use each topic daily. Available October – November.
  5. Splash & Flash: this our most popular field study and includes lessons on light, magnets, animals, and more!
  6. S.T.A.R. Lab: did you know that Discovery Center has a planetarium? With this program, you’ll check it out while learning about bird migrations, weather, constellations, star fields, and Native American legends.
  7. Tennessee Ties: explore the history of Tennesseans (prehistoric to present) as you examine stone tools, Native American place names, geography, and a simulated archaeological dig.
  8. Weather Whizzes: with the constantly changing weather in Tennessee, it’s good to have a foundational understanding of wind, temperature, pressure, and their effect on us and the environment.
  9. Wetland Wonders: explore Murfree Spring through a catch and release, stroll around the boardwalk, and animal encounters. Available August – October, April – May.
  10. Winter WonderLab: explore STEAM topics in this winter-themed program like snowflake symmetry, animal adaptations, and hot/cold reactions. Available December – February.

Mobile Programs bring Discovery Center to you and can be accompanied by the STEAM Bus or take place in the classroom. Both options feature one-hour guided programs with plenty of hands-on components.

  1. Animals All Around: meet and learn about the reptiles, mammals, amphibians, and birds that call Discovery Center home.
  2. Kids Build KEVA: use math and engineering concepts to construct simple and complex designs.
  3. S.T.A.R. Tour: With this program, you’ll check it out while learning about bird migrations, weather, constellations, star fields, and Native American legends.
  4. STEAM Bus, Amazing Animals: learn about animal cells and adaptations as you use the microscope to take a closer look at scales, fur, feathers and more.
  5. STEAM Bus, Electricity and Magnetism: learn to harness magnetic forces, build circuits, and study electromagnets as you explore these two phenomena.
  6. STEAM Bus, Micro to Macro: using the components of a Wetland Wonders field study, students will use microscopes to zoom into an ecological habitat and talk about plants, animals, and basic necessities.
  7. STEAM Bus, Weather Whizzes: discover how wind, water, temperature, and pressure relate to our environment through the exploration of meteorological tools.

The best place for up-to-date information about these programs, pricing structure, and facility requirements is our website, You can complete a field study inquiry form online to begin the process of booking your program, or you can give our Scheduling Coordinator, Hayley, a call at 615-890-2300 ext. 246.

The Dog Days of September are Headed Our Way

The dog days of summer might be top of mind right now, but we’re looking ahead to the dog days of September when Adventures with Clifford the Big Red Dog™ comes to Discovery Center! We can’t wait to welcome our favorite childhood canine companion to the DC for a four-month visit upstairs. Inspired by the Norman Bridwell books and inspired by the

 PBS tv series of the same name, Adventures with Clifford the Big Red Dog™ is a hands-on exploration of all your favorite Clifford locales and friends. The exhibit is composed of 10 kiosks which all explore a central theme of good citizenship, called Clifford’s Big Ideas. The exhibit opens with a short ferry ride to Birdwell Island where visitors can explore Samuel’s Fish & Chips Shack, Emily Elizabeth’s Backyard Theater, Cleo’s Backyard, the Birdwell Island Post Office and more.  

We’ve been anticipating the arrival of this exhibit for over a year and cannot wait for it to be here. We’re celebrating opening day in style with a Breakfast with Clifford. Tickets will officially go on sale August 1, so be sure to tune in to our social media accounts and the website for more information.

August Maintenance Day

It’s nearly time for our semi-annual cleaning and maintenance day. On the first Monday after school is back in session in January and August, we close for a day of deep cleaning and maintenance. These are the projects that cannot be completed overnight or while guests are in the building. This is typically a great time for large painting projects, ductwork cleaning and repairs, waxing and resurfacing floors, and water table maintenance. In order to get all of this done, we will be closed on Monday, August 13.

We’re shaking things up a little bit this time. With our current number of staff we’re pretty confident we can get the big projects finished in just 4-5 hours of work which leaves our afternoon open for staff development and training. As you know, Discovery Center is part of the current cohort of the Cultural Competence Learning Institute facilitated by the CEO of the Association of Children Museums, Laura Huerta Migus, and the Children’s Museum of San Jose. We don’t want to spill the beans about what this hands-on training will look like, but we expect this immersive experience to be eye-opening for everyone. Count on an update August 17!

Meet the Exhibit Team

A few weeks ago we introduced you to our Education Department, well now it’s time to learn about our exhibits team. They are certainly small but mighty. In addition to monitoring exhibits, they are also responsible for maintaining the museum and exhibit construction.

Exhibits & Building Maintenance Coordinator: Eric Talbot started at the Discovery Center as a Visitor Services Specialist and soon became the Visitor Services Coordinator. He made the official switch to the exhibits department a few years ago and has picked up quite a few skills since! Eric’s contributions to the Discovery Center are too many to count, but most recently he has converted the outdoor water table into a bubble table. This project included retrofitting bubble pieces into the water table design and welding decorative bubble frames. Eric’s start on the museum floor has provided him with unique insight into the way exhibits are explored from both a guest and staff perspective and it has aided him in both designing and updating exhibit components.

Exhibit Technician: Jack Rogers has a history with the Discovery Center that spans 30 years. He began as a volunteer with the Children’s Discovery House and was instrumental in getting the museum ready to open in 1987! After he retired from an engineering career, Jack came to work part-time at the Discovery Center doing building maintenance and repairs. In fact, he is the craftsman behind all of the rocking toys in Tiny Town! At 82 years old, Jack shows no signs of slowing down and is often one of the first staff in the building each morning. We are so thankful for the 30 decades of heart, soul, and sweat that Jack has poured into Discovery Center!

Visitor Services Specialist: Brittani Martin is a native to middle Tennessee and current student at Middle Tennessee State University. She is studying Animal Science and hopes to become a veterinarian one day. Brittani has been a member of the visitor services and exhibits teams for a few years now and does a stellar job keeping the museum tidy and ready for guests. She can often be seen cleaning and sanitizing exhibit components.

Museum Custodian: Raffe Stargel is a constant blessing to all our staff and guests. He comes in every evening to deep clean the museum and gets it ready to open the next morning. Although we have lots of helpers that tidy exhibits and clear the restrooms throughout the day, Raffe (rhymes with safe) takes care of vacuuming, dusting, scrubbing and sanitizing restrooms, mopping floors, and taking out the trash and recycling. Although it’s rare for us to have a Raffe sighting, we can always tell when he’s been in the building!

Upcoming DC Events

The end of July not only marks the close of summer, but it heralds the beginning of a busy fall event season! The details aren’t confirmed yet, but we’ve got three big events on the horizon that we hope you’ll be able to attend.

First up is Discover India Day on Saturday, August 18. Now in its sixth year, this event has quickly become a community favorite. Without having to worry about TSA screenings and baggage fees you’ll feel like you’ve set foot in India for the day. Take some time to watch traditional dancers and then learn a few signature Bollywood moves. Be sure to take a photo in front of our Taj Mahal backdrop; after all, no visit to India is complete without one. But more than all of the things that you’ll do, see, and try we hope that you’ll leave with a better understanding of the rich history and cultural traditions of ancient and present-day India. Admission is waived for this event thanks to generous support from the Nissan Foundation.

Soon after is Hispanic Heritage Day on Saturday, September 15. This annual event is always a favorite with our guests, so we’re especially excited to be working on a few new additions to the day. First, will be the presence of a food truck. We’re still trying to finalize our plans for a few others, but one traditional Mexican food truck will be in attendance and we can’t wait to try it out! Did you know that one of the most accomplished plant collectors in history was a Mexican-American woman named Ynes Mexia? We’ll be taking guided walks and learning about Mexia’s work as we traverse the Murfree Spring wetlands. As always, we’ll have some great art projects for you to make and take home. Free admission for Hispanic Heritage Day is also provided by the Nissan Foundation.

Lastly, we’re welcoming our next traveling exhibit Adventures with Clifford the Big Red Dog on Saturday, September 22. This exhibit is sure to transport you to the world of Clifford, Emily Elizabeth, and all your favorite residents of Birdwell Island. You’ll start your journey on a ferry to the island and will be able to explore eight different environments made famous by PBS Kids Clifford the Big Red Dog tv show. Opening day will be full of fun activities and we’re working on arranging a breakfast with Clifford as well. Stay tuned for more details!

Want even more updates about our programs and exhibits, follow us on Facebook and be the first to know what’s coming up!

STEAM Festival 2018 Updates

tennessee, science, technology, engineering, arts, math, festival, education, fun, learning, science festivalIt’s mid-July and we are officially counting down to this year’s Tennessee STEAM Festival. Set for October 12-21, it promises to be an action-packed 10 days that will sate your curiosity! In 2017, we served over 10,000 Tennesseans at 82 different events. We want this year to be bigger and better so we’re aiming for 20,000 attendees at over 100 events across the state.

So you might be wondering what a STEAM Festival is? Well the Tennessee STEAM Festival is a statewide series of events that encourage people to get to know the businesses and schools that make up their communities. STEAM Festival events incorporate science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics through hands-on learning opportunities. Have you ever driven by a building and wondered just what goes on inside? Or maybe you want to know how your electricity usage is monitored for monthly billing or an outage is fixed? Perhaps your curious mind is tuned in to the science of acoustics or the symmetry of patterns in nature. Whatever your areas of interest may be, the STEAM Festival will have something for you to learn about!

We’re still finalizing the full event list, so there’s plenty of time to become a festival sponsor or event host but here are a few of the events we’re really looking forward to attending. Bowl Off STEAM at Lanes Trains and Automobiles will be one of our signature events. Last year we learned about the physics, chemistry, and biomechanics that are needed to bowl a perfect strike. Plus we got to take a behind the scenes tour to see the pinsetters in action and we learned that bowling scholarships are a great way to fund higher education. We’re also counting down the days until we can go back to Sinking Creek Farm for their Nature as Art series of events. Plus, we know our friends in West Tennessee will be really excited to attend the Science of Wine at the Pink Palace Museum on October 12.

Summer Program Schedule

Even though summer break is coming to a close, our programs are heating up at Discovery Center. We’ve got some excellent opportunities to explore over the next two weeks and you won’t want to miss any of them.

Snack Attack: Join Ms. Rachel on Mondays at 3:30 to help create a delicious and nutritious treat. Next week we’re making summer fruit spring rolls followed by a stoplight salad on the 23rd and frozen yogurt peach pops on the 30th.

Wetland Walks: Have you ever wanted to know more about the plants and animals that live in the Murfree Spring wetlands? Then make plans to join our staff naturalist, Ms. Emmie, for a guided walk through the wetlands at 11:00 am July 16-20. Recent wetland sightings include otters, herons, turtles, and ducks.

Catch & Release: Ms. Emmie will be leading a catch and release at 3:30 pm July 16-20. This is one of our most popular programs and allows you to explore the Lily Pad Pond in a very hands-on way. We’ll bring the nets and observation tank and it’ll be up to you to catch crawdads, tadpoles, mosquito fish and more.

Bird Observe: We’re setting our sights on the skies (and the trees!) for a week of bird observation. Join Ms. Emmie at 11:00 am July 23-27 to look for some of our feathered friends in the wetlands.

Boots & Wading: Be truthful now…how many of you want to explore the wetlands without the boardwalk? We thought you might, so we’ll have daily boots and wading at 3:30 from July 23-27. We’ll bring the boots so all you need is an adventurous spirit and some natural curiosity. We’ll enter near the spring and explore aquatic life on the shallow side of the wetlands.

If you feel like you need a break from the hustle and bustle of summer, then join us for one of these great programs. Each of the activities listed above is included with admission and free for members.

Meet the Education Team

With a new school year getting ready to start we figured it was time for a few formal introductions. Get to know our education department.

John Hawkins is the Director of Education and has a background that includes museum education and program development. As the director, he oversees all school group, birthday, and museum programming. He is an avid Red Sox fan and gave Nerf guns to the education staff for Christmas last year.

Katie Woodward is the Assistant Director of Education but started her Discovery Center journey as an intern while studying at MTSU. Katie runs our SPARK! program for children ages 1-6 and is closely involved with our field studies and free days. Katie is the first to volunteer to lead any experiment that involves fire or liquid nitrogen and she never says no to tacos for lunch.

Madden Purcell is an Educator and the Visitor Services Coordinator. He leads stations on our field studies and manages our Visitor Services Specialists. In this role, he helps to create the programming associated with birthday parties and field studies. He plays trumpet and is in a few different bands that you might see performing around Nashville.

Catherine Meston is the Mobile Education Coordinator. She recently moved here from California where she worked in education outreach for another museum. She learned to drive the bus just in time for it to need some unscheduled maintenance so we’re excited to see her really take charge of this program in the fall! Despite her west coast roots, Catherine is a huge Preds fan.

Kelsey Smith is our Camp Coordinator and has a work history that includes elementary camps and studio art. This background has helped bring out the arts in our STEAM programming and it seems to be a big hit with the campers. Additionally, Kelsey helps with free days and field studies during her off-season. Her original work is great and you’re likely to see her at a local art fair or two.

Emmie Donaldson is an Educator and our resident Naturalist. She leads stations on field studies and helps to develop after-school programs. Her education and previous experience at Boxwell Scout Reservation have been instrumental in the creation of more robust outdoor programming. Off the clock, you’ll still see Emmie at the Discovery Center–just exploring it with her little boy in tow!

Wesley McClain is Educator and jack-of-all-trades. With a background in graphic design, Wesley creates event flyers and decorations that are out of this world. He’s the creative genius behind our recent Saturday Science Summerslam and last year’s Great Pumpkin Festival. When he’s not leading field studies, Wesley helps to plan events and develop new programs. Wesley’s Halloween costumes at Great Pumpkin Festival are some of the most legendary we’ve ever seen!

Hayley Richey is our Marketing and Scheduling Assistant. She works cross-departmentally to make sure that everyone knows about all of our upcoming events, programs, and exhibits. Additionally, if you’re looking to book a birthday party or field study, she’s your contact. Hayley’s only been with us for a few short months, but she’s already made a huge difference to the team.

So that’s our Education Department. They stay pretty busy making sure that every visit is filled with fun, curiosity, and discovery. Be sure to pop in and say hello on your next visit.

It’s Time for the Saturday Science Summerslam

Are you ready to rumble? Ready or not the Saturday Science Summerslam is here! Starting tomorrow, July 7 at 10:00 am, we’ll spend the day discovering the art and science behind professional wrestling. It doesn’t matter if your family schedules reunions around Wrestlemania or you don’t know the difference between a bodyslam and clothesline, there’ll be plenty for you to learn and do.

Start off by exercising your artistic expression and design your own championship belt and mask. Stick around in Creation Station to create firework art reminiscent of the entry pyrotechnics of your favorite WWE superstar. Then put your body to test as you demonstrate your strength and participate in the thumb wrestling tournament. Don’t forget to take a breather and check out the can-crushing demo with Mr. Wesley.

The Saturday Science Summerslam runs all day and is included with admission and free for members.

Make Way for Bubbles

As you know we like to update and add new engagement opportunities to permanent exhibits at the Discovery Center. So we decided it was time to make a few changes in Nature Play and we can’t wait for them to be ready to debut. Thanks in large part to a grant from the Siegel Foundation we are converting the water table into a bubble table! We’ve had a temporary bubble table over the last few summers and it has been a big hit with children and adults, so we’re confident that a full-time bubble table will fit right in.

Although we’re still in the design and construction phase of this exhibit makeover Eric has been hard at work welding bubble trays together. He has created a few that are reminiscent of our magnifying glass and dragonfly logo by designing and welding each shape individually. Our goal is to repurpose the existing water table by using the troughs as resting places for the bubble frames. The existing water table is a great structure to work with because it can be easily used by toddlers and adults and it is wheelchair accessible. Additionally, it will not require us to install new pavers or worry about anchoring a new structure into the ground. We are incredibly excited about this exhibit update and hope you’ll join us for the big unveiling!

Time Is Running Out for Summer Camp Registration

Watching our DC summer campers sure makes us miss the days when we were young enough to attend camps each summer. Every day is a new adventure with exciting things to learn and do. Now that July is here we’re a little over halfway done with the summer. If you’re still in need of summer plans for your kids, don’t hesitate to sign them up for camp at Discovery Center. Here’s a quick rundown of our remaining camp options:

Beautiful Oops is based on a book by the same name and is all about taking a mistake and turning it into something great. Did you know that penicillin, pacemakers, and the slinky were all considered to be failures at first glance? This camp is all about the scientific method, art, and the art of letting mistakes go. Beautiful Oops is offered July 9 – 13.

 Lights in Life is all about seeing the light! Explore photography by creating a pinhole camera and developing photographs the old fashioned way and learn about the impact that light plays on taking the perfect picture. Lights in Life is offered July 16 – 20.

Rainforest Adventure is inspired by our summer exhibit and has no shortage of fun. Campers will trek through the upstairs exhibit and then venture out into Murfree Spring to compare the two habitats. Rainforest Adventure camp runs from July 23 – 27.

Robot Workshop is our final camp of the summer and features…(you guessed it)…robots! Campers will become expert programmers and will even construct their own robots by writing the code themselves. If you’ve got a budding tech genius, this is the perfect camp to hone those skills. Robot Workshop is offered July 30 – August 3.

Weeklong summer camps are available to students entering Kindergarten – 5th grade from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm. Breakfast and lunch are included with registration this year too! If your campers are just a little too young for our standard camps, check out our SPARK! camp options for 4-5 year olds not entering Kindergarten this fall. We’ll have SPARK! camp the same week as Beautiful Oops and Rainforest Adventure, but you can register for the full week or day by day.

To register for camp at Discovery Center, click here.

Undergoing Maintenance

If you’ve driven by our back parking lot in the last week you might have noticed the view is a little different. That’s right…the STEAM Bus is offsite for now. Earlier this summer Wesley and Emmie joined Catherine in learning to drive the bus. Having multiple staff trained to drive the bus and lead programming was a key priority for the summer. Now if Catherine is out of the office on vacation or if mobile programs are double booked, Wesley and Emmie can step in. Now that we’ve finally got a brigade of bus drivers the STEAM Bus is out of commission. One issue that we’ve had from the beginning with the bus is that the battery does not retain a charge well. After talking this through with the mechanics, they will be able to install a switch that we can manually engage and disengage that should help with the constant battery drain. Additionally, they will plug a small leak in the gas line and replace the gas gauge. We still don’t have a return date for the bus, but are hopeful that it will be back at the Discovery Center soon!

For more information about bus programs or other mobile labs, check our website here.