Mid-America Science Museum official plans summer offerings

May 20, 2018

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) — Jeremy Mackey is settling into his role as director of education for Mid-America Science Museum just in time for the summer season.

Mackey, who has worked in customer service for 20 years and holds a degree in environmental chemistry, said he worked as a part-time educator at the museum for three months before moving into a management role. He works closely with Executive Director Diane LaFollette, Chief Operating Officer Noreen Killen and Chief Development Officer Harmony Morrissey to “focus on what the museum is going to offer in the future.”

“So whether that’s new programming, new class offerings, camp scheduling, professional development,” he said. “Really it’s trying to lead the museum in a specific direction, with respect to education. Trying to balance everything that goes along with that. Like I said, I’m still trying to learn everything. It’s been a steep learning curve so far.”

Since starting in early April, the main focus he said has been on the Oaklawn Foundation DinoTrek, a permanent outdoor dinosaur exhibit that will take guests to the museum around the premises, the Hot Springs Sentinel Record reported .

“The Oaklawn Foundation DinoTrek is going to be a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s not only going to be fun, but there’s a lot of education that’s going along with that. Obviously, the self-guided tour has got a lot of information, and we’ve been working with paleontologists to make sure that we have all our information right, so that’s been really fun.

“And then also we’re designing tinkers in the Alliance Rubber Company Tinkering Studio, and some camps around the DinoTrek. Even some classes in the near future that schools can buy that we’re going to be able to do. So we’re trying to use that exhibit to its fullest capacity.”

Members of the museum will get a sneak preview of DinoTrek on May 26 during the “Dinos and Donuts” event. The exhibit will officially open on Memorial Day Weekend.

To stay current as education continues to evolve, Mackey said the education team at the museum updates its offerings each year in various ways.

“We update our classes every year, but we’re going to start offering new classes coming down the pike,” he said. “We’re incorporating not only the next generation’s science standards, but there’s going to be some computer science standards so there are going to be some new classes that are a little more technical. Maybe robotics. Maybe Arduino. I don’t really know, that’s all kind of up to the education team as we work toward that stuff. There are going to be some new class offerings and we’re going to be updating our current classes to make sure that we stay current and stay on the cutting edge of informal education.”

Through the work of education coordinator, Audrey Pipher, Mackey said the museum’s education team is also able to offer more tailored educational opportunities for local schools.

“Audrey (Pipher) and I, she’s the education coordinator, we work together to find outlets for this,” he said. “Outreach is really big if we want to go into a school, or they call us for something about a specific program, we want to make sure we can customize what they need. It’s all the logistics behind the scenes. When you’ve got 400 kids coming in and they’re all taking a class or seeing a dome show, or going to see the Tesla Coil it takes a lot of planning. Audrey does a wonderful job of planning that.”

The museum’s weeklong summer camps which begin June 25, Mackey said, are where the education team gets to work closer with children in the community.

“It’s a great place for kids to come in the summertime,” he said. “They get to have fun. There’s a dinosaur camp, engineering, tech-based camp, full STEAM and aerospace. It’s fun to get a week with kids like that because when kids come for field trips, you don’t get to interact with them as long as you’d like. Teachers are rushed and everyone feels kind of rushed around, so it’s nice when they can come in and really get one-on-one education.

“That’s where the educators really get to do what they want to do. They get to plan these really special camps for kids and spend a week with them. We learn just as much from them, I guarantee you.”

On June 16, Mackey said the museum will host the sixth annual Tinkerfest with some new areas of interest for guests.

“We’re not only going to have our makers and our tinkerers that we normally have, there’s going to be hands-on activities for kids of all ages,” he said. “We’re going to have some STEAM industries here, as well, so they’re not only going to be able to show off to kids what they do but also show them the real world application of STEAM. It’s not always that laboratory-based, ‘think tank’ science. It can be millwork to refrigeration, aerospace. It runs the gamut, so we want to make sure they have a realistic idea of what that is.”

Being involved in all aspects of the museum’s education plan, Mackey said, is a unique and exciting experience having grown up with the museum, which will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2019.

“I remember the laser light show, I remember the mud table — I loved it,” he said. “The 40th anniversary is coming up next year and it’s going to be amazing. There’s a lot going into that, and they’re really going to make that a big thing. For the people that did grow up with the museum, it’s going to be so nostalgic. The museum has a legacy of learning and people come back and I talk to them all the time saying ‘I was here when I was a kid, it’s changed so much’ but then they see little glimpses of exhibits that have been repurposed, and they’ll talk about what they remember most. I hear a lot of ‘That’s what got me into this, and I want my kids to come back and experience what I experienced.’

“It’s great now to be a part of that in a really meaningful way. I’ve been bringing my kids here since they were old enough to walk it seems like. My kid’s going to the camp and he’s excited about what’s going on. It’s so exciting to be a part of it and see where we can go, to see the potential the museum has. To see the talent that’s in this office and in this museum. There are so many talented people that are working to really elevate this museum and this place and make lasting impacts. It’s a great place to work, I love what I do. Even though I’m new to it, it’s a lot of fun.”


Information from: The Sentinel-Record, http://www.hotsr.com

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