TVA Inspires STEM Curiosity
Eleanor Roosevelt said “I think, at a child's birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift should be—curiosity.” Learn how TVA is helping inspire curiosity by partnering with the Science Alliance of Tennessee.
What is more fun than watching a six-year-old dig dinosaur bones out of the sand? How about seeing the excitement and curiosity in hundreds of young minds as they play with the exhibits at the Valley’s six Tennessee Science Alliance museums.
“As soon as we open the doors, hundreds of young minds are zooming around trying new things,” says Henry Schulson, executive director of the Creative Discovery Museum in Chattanooga Tenn. “It never gets old watching children explore.”
Schulson, who has been leading the museum for 20 years, says it takes a lot of community and corporate support to operate the museum. “The museum has served over 4 million visitors over 23 years, and it can be a challenge to raise funds that allows us to serve our community.”
A Helping Hand
TVA has stepped in to help. Since 2015, TVA has sponsored the Creative Discovery Museum’s Free Family Night Program. The program provides free admission and special activities for children and families throughout the community on the second Thursday of every month, as well as two free community days in December. The attendance at these free nights is more ethnically and economically diverse than the usual attendance, and reaches families who could not otherwise be able to afford to attend the museum.
Sponsoring these nights is making an investment in the workforce of the future. TVA recognizes that science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education provides critical skills needed for the good jobs of tomorrow. For three years TVA has contributed, in partnership with the Science Alliance of Tennessee, to six children’s museums to help advance STEM education across the Tennessee Valley. So far TVA contributions have totaled more than $200,000, impacting more than 227,000 people.
“With all the technology used in today’s workplace, we need to inspire our children’s curiosity through STEM learning to ensure they can succeed,” says Denise Watts, TVA community relations manager. “STEM is so important to TVA that 50 percent of our philanthropy efforts focus on STEM education.”
For the Creative Discovery Museum, the additional funds have made a big difference. “The TVA contributions allow us to reach over 10,000 extra visitors because admission is no longer an issue,” says Schulson.
Science Alliance of Tennessee
Tennessee Science Alliance Museums use the funding for a variety of STEM exhibits and experiences that allow hands on physical learning of the sciences. Along with the Creative Discovery Museum, TVA is also helping to fund:
- Adventure Science Center (Nashville), which uses the funding to create a different exhibit each year. This year’s exhibit explores natural disasters with interactive and immersive features, compelling media and multi-disciplinary science that go beyond the sensational headlines to explore Earth’s most impressive natural events.
- Discovery Center (Murfreesboro) is continuing last year’s project—“Geeking Out Space”—with a youth advisory group that develops self-directed learning through digital and traditional media, coding and creativity stations. This year the funds also supported the inaugural Tennessee STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) Festival.
- Hands on Regional Museum (Johnson City) provides free entry for 500 local students and allows the museum to extend their popular “Make it, Take it” exhibit, encouraging innovation.
- The Muse (Knoxville) has previously used TVA sponsored funds to support the Robotics Revolution and this year is using the funds as part of the Tennessee STEAM Festival working with the Discovery Center featuring hands‐on activities, arts and crafts, robotics, science demos and more.
- Pink Palace Family of Museums (Memphis) exhibits include lessons in electricity using a Van de Graaff generator. The museum also uses funding to create kits for teachers to check out and use in their classrooms.
Tennessee’s Science Alliance Museums are not only used by the local community, they are attractions to encourage tourism. LaShawn Jackson, of Madison, Ala., says: “The [Creative Discovery] museum is a winner for kids and adults. My 6-year-old daughter loved it. The museum offers a music area, STEM education, art and water play area. We love this museum!”