Murfreesboro Mama: 15 Cool Things at TN STEAM Festival, October 9-18

Oct 09, 2020 at 09:00 am by Laura Beth Payne

If we've all learned one thing this year, it's that there's always more to learn! This year's Tennessee STEAM Festival is all about learning in the time of Corona, and there's something for everyone.

Head to and find the dizzying array of both virtual and hands-on workshops happening across the state for kids and adults—from scavenger hunts to ballets to hiking maps. Founded by our own Discovery Center, it's a full-on celebration of the creativity and curiosity that fuels research and discovery, even in a pandemic. 

I've already found 15 events that have me chatting up friends; events that made me go WOW. But by no means stop at that number! There are dozens of fascinating opportunities to take advantage of--many free or at a minimal cost. Peruse the full listing on the website and plot your visits (online or in person). It's going to be an awesome nine days of learning!

1. MTSU Arboretum Tour -- ongoing

Our city's university has more than 100 species of trees and shrubs on the 500 acre campus. Grab the kids and take on one or all of three different trails to see 30+ varieties of native Tennessee trees. Links available to do it virtually OR on campus. FREE.

2. Cumberland River Compact -- Oct. 10, 2-3 p.m.

Sixth-12th grade students will love this one-hour virtual workshop on the forms nature writing can take. Students will hone observation skills, think creatively and share writing with other students. FREE.

3. Rutherford County Library System "Mission: Trick or Treat" -- Oct. 9-18

Got a maker in your house? Kids are challenged to create an invention that will deliver candy to trick-or-treaters in a safe, socially-distanced way, and then bring the models, or send in pictures or video of the design, to the library. Ongoing. FREE.

4. Adventure Science Center: "Fall into Science" -- Oct. 11; Oct. 17, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Get in on the delightfully spooky side of science! Visitors can take part in hands-on activities and see exciting live demonstrations, from exploding pumpkins to bubbling cauldrons to eerie sounds effects. Regular admission rates apply.

5. Chinese Arts Alliance of Nashville: "Let's Go Fly a Kite"-- Oct. 11, 1 p.m.

Join this virtual workshop for easy kite-making lessons and stories with the Chinese Arts Alliance.

6. The Bloom Stage "Square Peg, Round Hole: A Multigenerational, Collaborative Creative Experience"

 Master Storyteller Kara Kemp

Youth and adults can explore the theme of “square peg, round hole,” generating new work that culminates in a live-streamed virtual show, all under the tutelage of master poets and storytellers Kory Wells and Kara Kemp. Develop your storytelling, poetry, spoken word, song lyrics, or art through three interactive Zoom sessions (one optional to gain feedback); ages 13-103. $25.

7. Nashville Metro Water Services

From water scavenger hunts to workshops on exactly where all that, ahem, poop goes, Nashville Metro Water Services is letting kids get insight into the importance of water works in a community. Check out their FREE virtual workshops throughout STEAM Festival. FREE

8. Dr. Martin Kemp- Oct. 18, noon

Martin Kemp is Emeritus Research Professor in the History of Art at Oxford University, and a world authority on imagery in art and science from the Renaissance to the present day.  In his virtual presentation,"The Look of Things Unsee: A transatlantic visual discussion about submicroscopic killers," he will discuss the significance and look of things seen and unseen with Preston MacDougall, Professor of Chemistry at Middle Tennessee State University, who is himself a molecular modeling expert. FREE

 9. "Vaccines in the Time of Covid," featuring Dr. William Schaffner-- Oct. 16, 7 p.m.

Scientists around the globe are racing to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus (COVID-19). When will it be ready? Will it be safe for adults and children? Will it end the pandemic? Join the virtual panel of medical experts, including Dr. William Schaffner, Vanderbilt MD, as they address these issues, separate fact from fiction, and answer your questions! FREE

10. Carpe Artista Arts Academy "STEAM Night" -- Oct. 13, 5-7 p.m.

Learn about one of the area's best arts education centers and celebrate the week with an evening of hands-on visual art and music at the Carpe Artista Arts Academy. FREE

 11. MTSU School of Concrete and Construction: "Bridge, Roads, Buildings and Pumpkins" -- Oct. 14, 3 p.m.

Today's materials being used are stronger, more durable and more cost effective so that our state does not have to keep repairing existing infrastructure before their useful design life. Find out about the new technology and materials being used in today's construction and make a concrete pumpkin for your Halloween decor. Virtual and in-person options. FREE

12. MTeach STEAM @ Home- Oct. 16, 6 p.m.

Families can combine science, math, and the art in fun, interactive, at-home activities. Participants will be provided a list of materials to gather prior to the event to be able to participate in real time. Virtual. FREE

13. The Parthenon: International Archaeology Day -- Oct. 17

Dig in as the Parthenon celebrates International Archaeology Day on Oct. 17 from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. with a variety of family-friendly activities about archaeology and ancient Greek culture from real archaeologists. Families can complete archaeologist stations to earn an “Official Archaeologist of the Nashville Parthenon” badge. Museum rates apply. Mention TN STEAM Festival for $1.00 off each ticket.

14. Nashville Ballet Performances -- Oct. 17

Children can see art forms combined in "Ferdinand the Bull" performed and presented online by the state's finest dancers on Oct. 17, from 10:30-11 a.m. FREE. A second online performance, 72 Steps, at 6 p.m., remembers the ratification of the 19th Amendment and the vital role Tennessee played in it. Cost is $12 with registration online.

15.  Tennessee Girls Collaboriative- Girls and STEM. Oct. 17, 1 p.m.

A great place to encourage STEAM learning in the young girls in our lives, this virtual presentation highlights how women use STEM in everyday life, while girls from Tennessee, and from NGCP's national girl advisory board shares stories, experiences, and advice. FREE

Looking for more family fun? Check out more happenings in Rutherford County this weekend:  

Oct. 9 (Weekly/Ongoing)

Quest Kits at Linebaugh (inside or curbisde)
Theme "Elephants"

Oct. 9-11

Corn Maze at the Farm
The Farm at Route 8 Shady Lane

Oct. 9-11

Fall Family Fun Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze
Lucky Ladd Farms

Oct. 10

Lascassas Farmers Market
9 a.m.-12 p.m. 

Oct. 10

Murfreesboro Saturday Market
8 a.m.-12 p.m.

Laura Beth Payne is a writer mama and Murfreesboro native who lives in the Blackman community with her husband and two children. Follow her at @murfreesboromama on Facebook and Instagram. Got a column idea? Email her at


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