If you had asked me what I thought of science careers when I was a young girl, I would have barely been able to put down my novel to answer. As a bookish kid who didn't like to sweat or get dirty, science — in any form — didn't really appeal to me.
So I went ahead and married an aerospace engineer.
Safe to say that I've learned a lot since my childhood, and I'm thrilled for the opportunities my kids now have — yes, with my husband but also with community organizations — to be involved in more hands-on science experiences. Discovery Center has provided many of those for us, and this week their 10-day Tennessee STEAM Festival kicks off with more than 80 events across the state to provide exposure and experiences for kids in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics Oct. 15-24. It's going to be an exciting time — even for bookish kids! Check out what you need to know for the 5th annual TN STEAM Festival.
1. It's a Web of Opportunity
If you head to the Discovery Center looking for a schedule, you'll find the official booklet of events, but events are being added all the time. Start with browsing tnsteam.org for a current lineup of events organized by area-- East, Middle, and West Tennessee — to get oriented. If you're, say, a homeschooler who knows you can dedicate certain days to the festival, search by date and find events across the state for those times.
Sticking close to home? There are special online events and activities to engage with in your own space, and even content from last year to take in if you missed it.
2. It's a Deal
With the wealth of opportunities throughout the festival, most are free or the cost of admission to participating museums and organizations. In Rutherford County take advantage of free workshops with pros at MTSU, Discovery Center, Rutherford County Arts Alliance, the Rutherford County Farmers Market, Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation, and more.
3. It's Interactive
It's worth saying again: It's interactive. Who remembers science "labs" growing up that were little more than watching experts and teachers do the work? The TN STEAM Festival is all about helping children — and their caregivers — get their hands on what's happening. Collect bugs at Sam Davis Home with a Belmont entomologist, learn about geology in Warner Park, or get digging for dinosaurs at the Earth Experience!
4. It's Inspiring
No matter your child's age, chances are you've put some thought into what they might want to do and be as they grow up. Maybe one of the most exciting parts of the STEAM Festival is that children will get to meet and learn about pros in the field and find that they're not so different. The Discovery Center's current IF/THEN exhibit displays tools of different trades along with stories of ambassadors as part of the National Girl's Collaborative's mission to inspire the next generation of female leaders in science-related fields.
5. It's Just a Lot of Fun
If I could tell my younger self one thing about science and mathematics it's that I was missing out on a good time by not doing more. The Discovery Center is dedicated to showing children and their families that STEAM subjects are fun, enjoyable, and very much a part of everyday life, and that's one reason this year they added STEAM-A-Palooza October 23, a carnival-inspired event, to STEAM Festival.
The free outdoor celebration for all ages takes place at the Wetlands, with more than 20 booths representing local businesses and education organizations to help families see and experience how science is used in daily life. Learn about soap making with My Cluck Hut, rethink safety technology with Murfreesboro Fire Rescue, and learn about drones and marine technology with STREAMWORKS, or conduct a launch experiment with Tennessee STEM Education Center. The event also features half-price admission to Discovery Center's indoor exhibits, so there's even more reason to explore!
Ready to go? The Tennessee STEAM Festival will be held across the state October 15-24, 2021. Steam-A-Palooza is Saturday, October 23, 1-5 p.m. at Discovery Center, 502 SE Broad St. Murfreesboro. Find a listing of all TN STEAM Festival events by visiting tnsteamfest.org.
Laura Beth Payne is a writer and homeschool mama who lives in the Blackman community with her husband and two bouncy children. Follow her at @murfreesboromama on Facebook and Instagram. Got a column idea? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.