Tennessee STEAM Festival

Oct. 11-20

Science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) will come to life at events across the state during the 3rd annual Tennessee STEAM Festival! The Festival was founded by the Discovery Center and incorporates events at a wide range of museums, schools, community centers and other attractions. Come & enjoy the fun!

Wetland Wonders


Spring took a long time to arrive at the Wetlands this year and now it is already summer!  There is so much activity to report! My animal friends are a-buzz with stories about all the children that visited Discovery Center and participated in our Wetland Wonders tour.


10257854_10152375107114591_8262904027533771679_nDuring the tour, the children saw muskrats, which are herbivores, feeding on fresh green shoots of arrowroot and cattail. Nearby sleek otters playfully swam and dove for fish. Otters are carnivores; they rely on varying combinations of aquatic invertebrates, amphibians, fish, and other prey. Many species of mammals depend on wetland habitats for survival.

Plump tadpoles have emerged from layers of mud and young turtles swim upon the surface of the water in the Lily Pad Pond. A Frogs life cycle starts in the pond as an egg. The tadpole hatches out and stays in the pond, slowly growing back legs and then front legs. As it turns into an adult frog, its whole body slowly changes. Its mouth and tongue become better suited for catching insects and other living things. As adults, only two of our local frogs spend much time in the pond: the Bullfrog and the Green Frog.



Dragonflies sport brilliant blue and green coats as they flit about in the air and water snakes slither out to sunbathe on logs. Birdwatchers have reported sightings of cedar waxwings and hummingbirds. Soon the yellow-rumped warbler will announce its’ arrival. Recently a pair of American Wigeon rested here from their long migration. They are a rare sight as they mainly stay in the southwest. You can learn more about birds and migration with The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. (http://www.allaboutbirds.org)

How wonderful to see the Wetlands come awake after all these months! Come to Discovery Center and walk through the Wetlands to see what spring offers to those who love and connect to nature.


Experience the wetlands on a guided Wetland Walk, Citizen Science, and Nature Nuts. Find out more here!


Bill’s Brain Building Vocabulary

Wetlands: A wetland is a land area that is saturated with water, either permanently or seasonally. They include swamps, marshes and bogs. Wetlands are important because they contain more life than any other habitat in our area. Mosquitos, dragonflies, frogs, salamanders, and many other animals need wetlands as a key part in their life cycles. They also provide habitat for herons, ducks, and geese to live in and rest in as they migrate. Wetlands are the most diverse habitat in our area.
Learn more about wetlands . . . (http://www.nwf.org/Kids/Ranger-Rick/Animals/Mixture-of-Species/What-Is-A-Wetland.aspx)

Life Cycle: a life cycle is a series of changes in form that an organism undergoes. Check out these fun life cycle games from turtlediary.com (http://www.turtlediary.com/kids-games/science-topics/life-cycle-games.html)

Migration: For animals, migration means to move from one area to another at different times of the year.

Bill’s Blog

Welcome to my blog! My name is Bill and I am a ball python living in Discovery Center at Murfree Spring. I have a great time here with all my animal friends, and I excited to bring you news about them through my blog.

Discovery Center is a hands-on museum and nature center which houses a collection of reptiles, amphibians, and mammals for the teaching and enjoyment of our visitors.


Let me begin my blog by telling you that we had a fire at Discovery Center in the reptile and amphibian room.  It started in my terrarium! It was in the early morning of October 1st, 2013. I was awakened by the smell of smoke and before I could call out for help and warn my friends, the sprinkler system began to rain water down on us! Oh my, we were very frightened! Our terrariums began to fill with water and became aquariums! Many of my friends don’t swim and were beginning to panic. Within a few minutes, though, the Murfreesboro firemen charged in and began to put out the fire and rescue us. Whew! Thank you, firefighters!



We were moved out of our quarters and placed in safe areas around the museum. Workers quickly began to repair the damage and soon we were all back in new homes. I think Panzer, our leopard tortoise, had the most fun with her new enclosure. It was not quite tall enough, and she enjoyed climbing over the side and wandering all around our room! Miss Shelly found a better home with higher sides and now Panzer is secure and enjoying her daily salad.






It has been fun watching the bearded dragons, Rex-Ann and Saphira. They are next door neighbors in our new home, and I think before their move they had no idea what they looked like! They just stare at each other and try to climb over their terrariums to see each other. It is so much fun to watch!





Mazie is the newest addition to our reptile family, and she was a very brave little girl during the fire. Mazie recently outgrew her small home and now resides in a new 10 gallon terrarium. She looks so sleek in her spacious home.


The king snakes, Scarlett and Rhett, have had the hardest time with the transition to new homes. I was a bit worried about them because they weren’t eating. I checked a web-site, http://www.livescience.com/7348-snakes-survive-months-food.html and discovered that just like myself, these amazing friends can go for months without food and still keep growing! Sure enough, they have begun to enjoy mealtime again and have adjusted well. They love curling up in the fresh shavings and taking long naps.


We are all doing fine and look forward to seeing you here at Discovery Center. I have many other animal friends that I will be telling you about in the future. Our Great Horned Owl, Pemberton, will have exciting news soon. You won’t want to miss it, so please visit my blog often!


If you’d like to learn more about some of my animal friends, check out these great sites:

Bearded Dragons (link to http://www.thebeardeddragon.org/)
A-Z Animals (link to http://a-z-animals.com/)
Kid Zone – Snakes (link to http://www.kidzone.ws/lw/snakes/facts.htm)


Bill’s Brain Building Vocabulary

Terrarium: a closed container for keeping small animals or growing small plants. A terrarium is usually made of clear glass or plastic.

Aquarium: a tank or other container filled with water in which water animals and plants are kept.

Transition: change from one position, stage, or situation to another.

Animal Secrets Opens May 25!

Animal Secrets

by Billie Bidelman Little


In our neighborhoods and on city streets, we’re surrounded by the secret lives of bees and bunnies, squirrels and slugs – fascinating stuff, if we take the time to look and listen. This spring, make time to shake awake your sense of curiosity and explore nature.

Who can resist a secret? Most of us can’t. Tell a child you have a secret to share and their bodies wiggle to a standstill, they stop talking in mid-babble and their eyes loom large as saucers. The anticipation that surrounds a secret is palpable.


AnimalSecretsSo get ready! Animal Secrets is opening at Discovery Center on May 25 with a secret sneak preview for Members on May 30th.

Animal Secrets treats your family to four different animal habitats to explore: a simulated stream bed, woodlands, a meadow and a cave that’s hiding geodes, raccoons, foxes and bats. Designed for ages 3 – 8, each area allows for plenty of hands-on play, chances to observe, look and listen, opportunities for imaginative nature play, and new ways to explore and investigate nature – all in a bug-free, temperature-controlled environment.

make a butterfly resizedAfter a visit to the Chipmunk Den, the Raccoon Log, the Eagle’s Nest and the Discovery Tree, stop by the Naturalist’s tent to try out the tools of the trade, study animals skulls, butterflies and other natural artifacts. You’ll find you don’t have to be a serious bird watcher or trained naturalist to engage with nature – a willingness to observe and learn are all that’s needed.

After a visit to Animal Secrets, step out onto the wetland paths at Discovery Center and practice your newly-honed observational skills in the real world. At our house we always give kudos to every child who makes a “good spot” or nature sitting. Our three-year-old grandson, James, recently won us over by saying he had ‘kept his eyes peeled’ and spotted a cow on a recent car trip to our farm. At the Discovery Center wetlands, a cow is unlikely, but tadpoles and turtles are easy for little ones to find.


Secret Sneak Peek!

Special Member Preview and Guest Lecture

Thursday, May 30
6 pm – 8 pm
Guest Speaker: Dr. Diane Roddy Nelson, Professor Emerita at East Tennessee State University
There will be a ‘meet & greet’ with Dr. Nelson for exhibit sponsors, members, and media as well as light refreshments and time to explore the exhibit from 6 pm – 7 pm. Then staff will lead children’s activities in the museum during the lecture at 7 pm. Not a member yet? Join today!

Dr. Nelson is an internationally known marine biologist who has studied giant whale sharks in the Sea of Cortez, sand tilefishes in Belize, gobies in the Red Sea, ocean triggerfish, and convict fish in the Solomon Islands and Papua, New Guinea.


Animal Secrets was developed by OMSI (The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) and has both English and Spanish text panels. Animal Secrets is sponsored locally by the Rebecca and Jennings Jones Foundation.

The Pemberton Post

When you first begin working with a Bird of Prey, it can be quite intimidating. Pemberton is over 20 inches tall, has almost a 4 foot wingspan, and weighs over 3 pounds. Her talons are adapted for grabbing prey that weigh as much as or more than she does. Her beak is razor sharp and she has a tremendous amount of biting force.

So how would you go about training a natural born predator to stand patiently on your arm in front of hundreds of people a week?

You talk. As silly as it sounds, the best way to get acquainted with an owl is to talk to it. For the first three visits to see Pemberton I really did nothing but read books to her and talk to her. This lets her get used to hearing my voice and helps her be more comfortable with me walking around and waving my arms as though I were doing a program with her.

So after hours of talking, reading, whispering and pacing around her, she began to get so comfortable she fell asleep.


pemby 10pemby11pemby12


And then I tripped over the rug…




Thanks for reading and please subscribe to the blog to keep up with our progress.

Keep your ear tufts up,

Leif Kixmiller is an Education and Program Specialist at the Discovery Center. He loves to teach children so he can pass on his knowledge and love of nature to future generations. He loves birds, books, and ice cream breaks.


Added note: Having possession of an owl or any other bird of prey requires a permit or license and is otherwise against the law. Living with or taking care of a bird of prey requires a lot of dedicated time and commitment. It is by no means easy and is often restrictive of a life style. This story was written and shared with you in appreciation of our natural wildlife, their habitats, and conservation.

Help Discovery Center build a home for Pemberton!


Discovery Center has 59 animals, soon to be 60!


During a visit to the Discovery Center you may see an African Leopard tortoise, a Ball Python, a Chinchilla, and maybe even a giraffe. (Just kidding about the giraffe) But when May comes, you might catch a glimpse of a Bubo virginianus.

Pemberton, a Great Horned Owl, was found tangled in a barbed wire fence. She was taken to Walden’s Puddle, a wildlife rehabilitation facility in Joelton, Tennessee, where she underwent emergency surgery on her left wing. The damage to her nerves and thin-walled hollow bones in her wing was severe and she is now unable to fly.

Pemberton’s life quickly became much different. Instead of sleeping all day and stalking her prey at night, she was living inside and having to put up with a man with a perch and a glove………………..me.

Over the next few months I will be training Pemberton, or maybe she will be training me, for use in our educational programs. She will be a perfect addition to our already outstanding array of animals. We are currently in the process of building an enclosure for her here at the DC so she can make herself at home. We hope to have her at the opening to our travelling exhibit, Animal Secrets, which opens in May 2013.

If you would like to know more about training “birds of prey,” Pemberton, or would like to follow along with our progress, you can subscribe to this blog or continue to check it weekly.

Keep your ear tufts up,


Leif Kixmiller is an Education and Program Specialist at the Discovery Center. He loves to teach children so he can pass on his knowledge and love of nature to future generations. He loves birds, books, and ice cream breaks.