The Discovery Center of Springfield
2021 Yass Prize Winner
One of the only two in the country not to shut down, this science center became a school - and more - for children in need.
Amidst a challenging education environment in the Ozarks, this museum and science center turned to educate thousands of children whose schools were closed, many of whose parents were first responders and economically-insecure. The Discovery Center provided over 200,000 hours of free childcare, over 50,000 free meals and snacks, and served over 1,500 child enrollments.
About The Discovery Center of Springfield
The Discovery Center of Springfield inspires curiosity and a lifelong love of learning through memorable and engaging hands-on adventures in STEM education by delivering a world class experience through cutting edge science. During COVID, the Center took its 20 years of experience in STEM education and provided emergency childcare, hybrid learning support to create a student centered environment which continues to benefit children who struggle in the traditional school setting.
What they did to Counter Covid’s Impact on Students
In March 2020, every team member opted to serve the community in person rather than wait out the pandemic at home. They rapidly built out classrooms and turned the center into COVID-safe, licensed emergency childcare center capable of caring for hundreds of children a day. Within five days of around the clock construction, the facility was modified to keep kids safe with fully licensed childcare and engaged in STEM based education through the crises.
Rob Blevins and Jackie Douglas
“During the pandemic we also opened a school… it is a place where kids get to love learning again and parents get to relax knowing that their kids get what they need, when they need it.”
Little did these kids know that someday their favorite museum would be their school!
How they STOP-ped for Students
Became a Hub for Students and Families
By opening their facility immediately to children in the community who had unmet nutritional, social and emotional needs and where food insecurity and neglect were all too common, DCS provided an enormous benefit to these families that would lead to educational nourishment as well.
Created Pods for Hybrid Learning
In August of 2020, DCS quickly leased and modified a vacant, neglected facility, the former Everest College building in Springfield, MO, to allow students to complete their virtual learning under the care and tutelage of Discovery Center educators. Students were socially distanced and placed in pods of 10 students per teacher. This allowed working parents to have a safe place to send their kids while at the same time providing educational support, tutoring, and quality supplemental education for students who were struggling with virtual learning.
Opened the Discovery School
In January 2021, DCS launched the Discovery School. The educational success of the school was so transformational that the Discovery School was sustainably funded through a federal program to provide high quality education to the children of under-resourced families where almost 50% of the 60 full time students at the Discovery School attend at no cost to their families. The success of this model has been transferred to a new STEM- based preschool that allows pre-k children from under-resourced families to have a safe environment with award winning STEM education.
And if they win the $1 million Prize?
The former Everest college in Springfield would expand Discovery’s current offerings to become a full-time, permissionless school, for hundreds of students, including a STEM themed playground. The model would also be scaled and disseminated to their network in over 27 rural counties, over 30 states, and 3 countries, to help make transformational learning through non-traditional education organizations possible in any community.