Building with Biology Forum

Make plans to join us on August 29 for a forum with MTSU Biology Professors Dr. David Nelson and Dr. J. Brian Robertson. We’re tackling genetic engineering the possible use of CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) as a technology for modifying the genome.

If you’re already feeling a little overwhelmed from reading the previous sentence, take a deep breath. This free, public event is intended as an educational tool for helping you to understand and form your own opinion about genetic engineering. Dr. Nelson and Dr. Robertson will spend a little time providing background about genetic engineering applications as well as their own research in combating Parkinson’s disease (Nelson) and studying microbial time keeping (Robertson). Following the question and answer period, forum attendees will split into small groups to discuss specific applications of genetic engineering and decide whether and how to bring this technology to the world.

Building with Biology is a National Science Foundation funded project housed at the Museum of Science, Boston. This is Discovery Center’s second year to participate in the program and first time to host a roundtable forum. The event is free and open to the public (recommended audience is age 16 and up).

Should We Edit the Genome? When, Why, and How Much?
Presented by: Dr. David Nelson and Dr. J. Brian Robertson
Date: Wednesday, August 29
Time: 6:00 pm
Cost: Free to attend
Audience: 16 and up (recommended)

Help Us Win Up To $25,000

This year the First Tennessee Foundation is celebrating their 25th anniversary and they are taking birthday gifts to a whole new level! Nonprofits in their service areas were encouraged to submit 60-second videos demonstrating the way a grant from the First Tennessee Foundation would positively impact the community. Of course we hemmed and hawed about our video production skills, but eventually decided the opportunity was just too good to pass up.

A frenzied, but fun brainstorming session led to our concept, “If you open the doors to Discovery”. We’re not too proud to admit that we were inspired by Laura Numeroff’s If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. Voting is currently underway and you can play a huge role in making sure that we move on to the next round. You may vote for Discovery Center one time per day through the end of August! The top 30 vote getters will move onto a second non-public round of judging and 25 gifts will be made between $5,000 and $25,000. Follow this link to vote for Discovery Center:

A big shout out to Jennifer Neal is in order for her work in putting the video together (during her beach vacation) and to Tara MacDougall for being our fearless narrator! Be sure to watch the video and vote for us each day!

Annual Maintenance & Staff Development Day a Success

On Monday we closed for our semi-annual maintenance and cleaning day. Staff teams were tasked with painting, exhibit repair, and floor resurfacing jobs and we’re happy to report that all were a big success.

In addition to our maintenance tasks, we also took place in a staff development exercise as part of the Cultural Competence Learning Institute (CCLI). Staff were broken into teams of 2-4 and had to draw attributes to create a customer profile and visited the museum based on that customer’s characteristics. Profiles were created by drawing cards that corresponded to an ethnicity, an obstacle to visiting the museum, and the number of children in the visiting party. Attribute examples included: African American + Deaf + Children ages 2,7,8 and Syrian Refugee + Paraplegic + Infant (10 months) and an angry 13 year old. In order to really get into character, Amada Senior Care loaned us a wheelchair and walker. So huge thanks are in order for Kevin & Kelly Fehr for helping us to complete this hands-on exercise!

From this training exercise, staff gained a new appreciation for the way that visitors from different backgrounds experience the same exhibits and programs. Some groups were able to easily check-in and begin their exploration while others had trouble communicating with the staff at the front desk. After an hour of time to evaluate the museum all of the groups came back together to evaluate their experiences. They were asked to list the three best exhibits for their character profile and the three biggest red flags. While some consensus was achieved, there was no singular exhibit that was a perfect experience for all of the groups. As a result, each staff member has been asked to come up with three achievable ideas to complete by the end of the year. These goals will be shared with the group at our next staff meeting and three will be selected for implementation before January.

Discover India Tomorrow

Tomorrow is our annual Discover India Day and we are so excited it is finally here! Join us for a day of laughter and learning as we explore ancient and modern-day India through hands-on art and activities. We’ve got a great lineup of project and programs from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm and admission is free! Here’s what you can expect to do at Discover India Day:

  • Watch a traditional dance performance at 10:00 am by Monica Cooley and the dancers from Kala Nivedanam studio
  • Attend a meditation session. We’ll have several going on throughout the day and you can pick up some literature between classes.
  • Go on a Gandhi Walk through the Murfree Spring Wetlands to learn about Mahatma Gandhi and his work as an Indian activist.
  • Take a family photo in front of the Taj Mahal at our photo booth (this is an annual favorite!)
  • Become a work of art by visiting the mehndi booth for a henna design on your hand.
  • Visit Creation Station to: make a ghungroo (traditional bell anklet), create a paper lotus flower, contribute to our collaborative rangoli design, and learn about the father of Indian aviation at the wind table.
  • Bust a move with Wii Bollywood dancing in the afternoon.
  • Brush up on your general India facts by working your way through the scavenger hunt.
  • And finally…take advantage of the last few weeks of our Rainforest Adventure exhibit!

Discover India Day is a free day open to all members of the community. It is made possible by support from The Nissan Foundation.

Bone Appetit! Join Us For Breakfast With Clifford

Clifford the Big Red Dog is on his way and we have a great opportunity for you to meet him! Join us on opening day for breakfast with Clifford and an early look at the new exhibit. From 9:00 – 10:00 am you can enjoy a great breakfast with friends, meet Clifford, and be one of the first to explore Birdwell Island at the Discovery Center.

Tickets to Breakfast with Clifford are $5 + general admission for non-members. Member families can enjoy exclusive registration now through August 10. On the 11th, we’ll open all remaining tickets to the general public. We’re working on a few more surprises for opening day, but be sure to get your breakfast tickets soon. To purchase your tickets today, click here.

DC In The Media

Last fall Dale McCreedy was interviewed as part of a discussion about STEM Identity by the Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education (CAISE). This summer CAISE released a report that reflected on these findings as well as short video interviews with the scientists.

We’ve probably all heard someone say that they’re just not a science person and hopefully we’ve heard a few others exclaim that they are science people. That is the center of a complex set of issues concerning STEM identity. CAISE convened 12 researchers to talk about the concept of a STEM identity from the perspective of their own research and observations. At this point, you might be wondering why this matters to Discovery Center. In fact, this is what we aim to do each and every day. The mission of Discovery Center is not to churn out lab rats and professors. Instead, we focus daily on engaging curious minds to fuel the future. By providing a wide variety of hands-on and engaging opportunities, visitors can identify personally with an array of disciplines, interests, and career paths. For example, the Super Service Center exhibit upstairs is not designed as an entree into a lifelong career as a diesel mechanic. Instead, it is a space to relate to and practice hands-on skills that can be used in day-to-day life.

To read an overview of the findings click here.  To watch Dale’s and the other interviews, click here.

Science in the Summer Family Night at the DC

Discovery Center has been pleased to offer the science of space free of charge over the summer thanks to GSK Science in the Summer™ program.

This program was offered across 13 sites over eight weeks reaching into four counties and providing engaging science activities to close to 400 children. Sites included libraries, Boys and Girls Club‘s, Read to Be Ready programs and a church-based summer camp. On Friday night we held a celebratory event for all participants and their families here at the Discovery Center. Based on the science of space theme we offered star-shaped snacks, a tour of the summer sky in our star lab, exploration time in the museum, and thanks to two  MTSU Astronomy Club volunteers, families were able to observe the night sky including Jupiter and Saturn – their moons and rings! It was a great conclusion to a wonderful summer. Special thanks to Catherine Meston our mobile program educator and Ashley Gereben an MTeach student from MTSU.

Meet the Visitor Services Team

Fearlessly led by Madden, our Visitor Services team members are the ones you’re most likely to encounter on a visit to the Discovery Center. They are responsible for maintaining the museum floor, guest interactions, educational programs, and birthday parties. We’ve got a great time in place and hope that you’ll take the time to get to know them on your next visit.

Bekkah is currently a student at MTSU with an interest in Biology. Her friendliness is a huge asset to the DC as she is great at engaging with families and helping them to fully enjoy our exhibits and programs.

Dirk started as a weekly animal care volunteer and is now a paid staff member. He still focuses primarily on animal care and takes care of feeding the animals and maintaining their habitats. In addition to his love of animals, Dirk is interested in aviation.

Jeffrey is our very first Playologist. This role acts as a concierge for birthday parties and is primarily focused on implementing interactive programs on the museum floor. In his short time at Discovery Center, Jeffrey has already started working on revamping our themed birthday parties.

Jessica is a recent graduate of MTSU’s Department of Education. She has started to help out with field trips and does a great job of playing with our young guests. In her spare time, Jessica designs and creates costumes to wear to different conventions.

Kalab graduated from MTSU with a degree in Animal Science and Biology, and has work experience in logistics, manufacturing, catering, and at a business card company. His past work experiences have made him a great member of the DC Safety Committee.

Kayla is our newest member of the Visitor Services Specialists. She recently graduated from the Tennessee College of Applied Technology’s medical coding program. Kayla found out about this job while bringing her younger brother to and from camp this summer.

Kendall graduated with a degree in Child Development and Family Studies from MTSU. She does a great job working with families on the floor, leading stations on field studies, and serving as a substitute teacher for SPARK! Kendall is a lifelong resident of the Discovery Center and grew up playing at the house.

Michael is currently a Communications and Public Relations student at Mississippi State University. His favorite DC animal is Stanley and he does a great job helping gets to interact with our many exhibits. While we’ll miss him when the school year starts, we hope he’ll be back for winter break and next summer!

Micki is a SPARK! program specialist. Her skills as a retired librarian and top-notch grandma make her a perfect fit for our SPARK! families. She also runs our summer storytime, maintains the discovery gardens, and helps with the write-ups for our Secret Garden Tour each summer.

Rachel runs our weekly Snack Attack program. She is a Registered Dietitian and builds healthy habits and wise eating choices in each week’s program. She’s the mama of two little ones so you’re most likely to find her in the kitchen or hanging out in Tiny Town.

Ryan came to Discovery Center as an intern with Lipscomb’s IDEAL program. Through his internship he spent time working with the animals, assisting with field studies, and helping to clean the floor. His attention to detail is spot on and Ryan does a great job straightening up in Creation Station and Tiny Town. In his spare time, Ryan cheers for the Vanderbilt Commodores.

Samm is a student at Motlow studying English and Education and looks forward to becoming a teacher one day. She does a fantastic job of coming up with great ways to engage with visitors through introductions to animals or suggestions about new ways to explore the exhibits.

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.