Discovery Center of Springfield
Photo: Discovery Center of Springfield

The Discovery Center of Springfield is a non-profit science center located in Springfield, Missouri. Its mission is to inspire life-long learning and help people develop a greater appreciation for our world and our place in it. The museum is an interactive museum furnished with hundreds of hands-on exhibits to encourage visitors to explore and learn through play. As such, it is one of the most kid-friendly museums in the state.

In 1991, a group of community volunteers conceived the idea of establishing a center of learning to engage and raise awareness on various educational topics among the public. But it was only a year later that they managed to purchase three museum buildings in downtown Springfield. Over the years, the museum gradually expanded its operations, and today, it boasts 50,000 square feet of interactive exhibit space. In 2006, its latest extension received a LEED-gold certification, making it one of the greenest buildings in the state.

Since its inception, the Discovery Center of Springfield continues to be the only science center serving southwest Missouri, and it is also the only youth activity center in the region. As such, the center provides a wide range of specially designed educational programs and enrichment opportunities for adults and kids of all ages. From early childhood science exploratory workshops to field trips, the programs emphasize inquiry-based learning experiences to promote deductive-reasoning and critical-thinking skills. One of its annual program highlights is its eight-week summer camp where kids can learn about a variety of science-related subjects, including astrology, zoology and chemistry.

»Exhibits

Exhibits

The High Wire Bicycle exhibits are housed in two different buildings across four floors. Most of them are concentrated on the third floor, including the HighWire Bicycle, which is one of the most dramatic displays in the museum. Imagine a bicycle on a thin wire suspended in open air 20-feet from the ground. After strapping themselves securely to the bike, visitors will need to pedal precariously forward and backwards across the wire. The aim of this experiment is to illustrate the center of gravity concept in a fun and participatory manner.

Riders will soon realize that any force that causes the bike to tip sideways will be countered by the force of gravity that acts on the counterweight attached to the bike to bring the system back to a stable position. To ensure visitor’s peace of mind, the display has been equipped with numerous safety features, including a seat harness and safety net display.

Bodyworks and Chromo Zone Lab

Another display found on this floor is Bodyworks, which explores the human body and health and wellness issues. Larger-than-life displays of different anatomical models are found in Sense-sational Hall, which investigates our body organs and the five senses. Visitors will get to sniff different scents, take a look into the inner workings of a giant eyeball, and floss giant molar tooth models. Also located in this section is the Body Works Theatre, which not only showcases videos about our body system but also serves as the location of daily live interactive shows. During the show, members of staff demonstrate science concepts while engaging audiences in question and answer sessions.

Dig deeper into the wondrous marvels of the human body at the Chromo Zone Lab, which focuses on the basic building blocks of life. The gallery exposes visitors to principles of genetics and DNA, which are becoming more important as we move into the new age of genes. There are also opportunities to conduct hands-on experiments at the onsite lab, including close-up views of the human cell using a microscope.

Discovery Town

Kids will enjoy role-playing in Discovery Town, which features a mini supermarket and bank among other town features. In the TV studio, children can pretend to operate cameras or be a newscaster for the day as they see themselves on the monitor screen. Alternatively, they can snap pictures of themselves at the newsroom and even print out their images on the front-page news cover. Immersing children in such real-world activities helps them make sense of their surroundings and empower them to become active participants of their own learning.

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Phenomena Gallery

The Phenomena Gallery houses some of the most popular displays in the museum. At the top of the not-to-be-missed list would be the Van de Graaff generator, which promises a hair-raising experience. Watch out for the surprised look on unsuspecting visitors as they put their hands on the machine. Parents can also get their cameras ready to snap wacky photos of their kids as static electricity makes their hair go crazy.

Have fun with a group of friends in front of the anti-gravity mirror, which demonstrates symmetry in mirror reflections. Visitors will be able to impress observers with their ability to float without any visible means of support. This is because the human body is roughly symmetrical, and by standing at the edge of the mirror, it appears that the half reflected in the mirror is the side that is not seen on the mirror. Have a blast standing in front of the air cannon. When a friend hits the rubber end of the pipe, it compresses the air inside the cannon and forces a puff of air to shoot out from the other end. Photo:

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»Energy Exchange

Energy Exchange

The Energy Exchange exhibit explores the basic laws of physics as well as different forms of energy, including kinetic, potential, and electromagnetic. Kids can run wild inside a human-sized hamster wheel to learn about the conversion of energy from one state to another. Simple machines are also available for users to try, including pulleys, gears, and lifts. They aim to demonstrate how these contraptions help change the direction or magnitude of the force to make moving things much easier.

Kids will also love splashing around at the water table located in this section as they learn more about water’s power and properties. Among them is the Archimedes screw where users have to turn a hand crank so that the water and balls will be able to move along a watercourse down into another water table. They can later turn another large crank to trigger a series of movement where buckets will start scooping out water and balls as they move along a vertical water bucket conveyor belt.

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Wonderland

As a family friendly destination, Wonderland is the museum’s dedicated discovery area for preschoolers. Conveniently located on the first floor, it is designed to introduce those age five and under to basic science processes and concepts while having fun at the same time. Some of the activities include building with giant blocks, playing dressing up in builders’ clothing and maneuvering a mini backhoe and crane.

Every fall, the museum sets aside a Science Sprout Day for young learners to discover the wonders of science. Each month, a different topic is being explored so that learning will not be static. Kids will get to attend science demonstrations, story-telling sessions and a variety of interactive exercises that are sure to delight them. Photo:

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»Plan Your Visit

Plan Your Visit

The Discovery Center of Springfield hosts a variety of educational program at its center as well as beyond the museum walls. Since 2002, it has organized outreach programs to bring its interactive science programs to students in southwest Missouri. It offers a one-hour, one-off session that caters to learners from kindergarten to eighth grade. The programs are age-specific and cover a wide range of themes, including hard sciences, geology, and meteorology.

Alternatively, it also offers an eight-week program in which staff from the museum will head to the classrooms to teach once a week. The program is designed to complement existing teaching resources with the inclusion of interactive elements that would enliven and enrich students’ learning experiences. As such, topics covered during the program are closely related to the Missouri Grade Level Expectations in Science. Additionally, it is also an excellent opportunity for teachers to receive on-site professional development. At the end of the eight weeks, students will be brought to the museum for a field trip so that they will be able to apply their classroom knowledge to everyday life through the interactive exhibits.

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438 E St. Louis St., Springfield, MO 65806, website, Phone: 417-862-9910 Photo:

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Discovery Center of Springfield, Missouri