The sights and sounds of machines working, water flowing, and children laughing inside the Discovery Center of Springfield proves just how engrossing learning can be. The real reward, however, comes later, when children continue to explore and ask questions about the subjects they experienced through their visit to the popular interactive, hands-on museum.
“The Discovery Center is an educational facility. We want to spark an interest and get kids excited about learning,” said Emily Fox, Discovery Center CEO.
The Discovery Center is an important educational resource, operating with a mission of inspiring people with a life-long love of learning and an appreciation of the world and their place in it. Situated in downtown Springfield, the Discovery Center houses a number of permanent and traveling exhibits that explore subjects such as science, technology, math, health, the environment, culture, and art. Visitors can take part in regular presentations by the Discovery Center’s educators that delve further into the subjects behind the exhibits.
Working closely with schools throughout the region, the Discovery Center created an outreach program that augments students’ curriculum through a series of hour and a half classes delivered to students at their school. Each program is designed to spark student interest in the topics covered as well as help them prepare for achievement testing. Led by a Discovery Center educator specializing in the topic, each seven-week series of classes is a hands-on affair that allows kids to experience subjects in a different way. After finishing up the classroom portion of the program, participating students take a field trip to the Discovery Center where they apply their knowledge.
Teachers enjoy the outreach program as much as the students. “[The Discovery Center educator] is an excellent educator, giving facts, providing meaningful activities, aligning her lessons with standards/MAP preparation, and having a wonderful demeanor in class. This has been one of the best things I’ve done since I’ve been a teacher,” said one participant.
The Discovery Center also offers a distance learning program that utilizes video conferencing technology that puts Discovery Center educators in the classroom with the students. Educators also create a kit to go with the distance learning sessions that are mailed to the location in advance, giving teachers everything they need to teach each lesson. So far, the Discovery Center’s educators have delivered distance learning sessions to students in 22 different US states and Mexico City.
Continuing to collaborate closely with the community will be a big part of the Discovery Center’s plans to grow as resource for local schools. Recently, the Discovery Center received a grant from the Community Foundation of the Ozarks that is helping to develop the WorldWise Gallery. Scheduled to open in 2007, this gallery is designed to promote an understanding of culture and geography among children and adults. The Discovery Center also has an endowment fund with the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, which will be an important part of their future growth.
“Everything the Discovery Center has and everything we do is because of collaboration with local and regional nonprofit organizations, businesses, and donors,” said Fox. “We wouldn’t be here with collaboration, and collaboration will allow us to continue to grow and serve the community.”
You can find out more about the Discovery Center by visiting their web site, www.discoverycenter.org, or stopping by for a visit. They are located at 438 E. St. Louis Street in downtown Springfield.