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.

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.