SHERIDAN — The activity scene for elementary-aged kids in Sheridan is ripe for growth, and the 307 Discovery Center is rising up to provide unique, hands-on learning opportunities. The main strategy to engage youth in the community is to combine play opportunities with solid science, technology, engineering and math principles.
The nonprofit started in the spring of 2018 and has successfully pulled off dozens of events aimed at leading children to the intersection of play and learning. Themes for community events have included the “Magic of Motion” building event, a family dance glow party, Weird Science Expo and most recently, a Frozen Theme Adventure over the weekend.
“It’s been great how each event has lead to another person capturing sight of our vision and that has led to another event. Everything has led to something else,” Owner Rick Miller said.
Attendees at community activity events at their facility on Broadway Street are invited to move at their leisure among several stations to complete a craft or science experiment, build with uncommon materials, draw on the walls and interact with whimsical characters like “Dr. Discovery,” a friendly scientist with wild hair, a funky suit, and accented speech. Children are encouraged to ask questions and work unassisted as much as they can, but help is readily available when it’s needed. Attendance at the community events has ranged between 50 and 80 children.
Christen Schick has brought her two children to multiple events hosted by the center and she said recognizes the center’s potential to offer novel learning opportunities.
“When I first came, I didn’t expect anything super exciting, but I came and was really impressed. It’s very hands-on and is such a great resource,” said, noting the obvious STEM-learning inspiration. “We love to be able to come and see the science, especially the experiments with liquid nitrogen.”
Miller said he and members of his board have stayed busy coming up with new activities, crafts and live demonstrations to share at parties, school events and general open hours at the center. While he’s happy with the direction things are going, he’s looking forward to gaining even more traction.
“It’s not quite where we want it to be,” Miller said. “We want to be open all the time like a lot of other children’s learning centers. Right now, we are still fundraising to build up our account.”
Miller estimates he and his board are about $20,000 away from being at a point where they can have a staff and regular hours. In the meantime, he said he plans to continue working with community groups, school districts and families to facilitate learning events to expose children to play and science. He said that while there are a few child-centered activities in Sheridan, most of them are sports-related and can quickly become expensive.
“We want to appeal to a wider range of children, and we don’t want cost to be a barrier to anyone,” he said.
Board member Ian Wallace said he joined the 307 Discovery Center board after recognizing the potential niche in Sheridan for a children’s science museum.
“It’s definitely something most towns this size or bigger in Wyoming have, and they tend to be relatively successful,” he said. “I’m excited we are getting one started here. I think people want a place to come and let their kids be kids, and that’s what this is for. It’s about coming and letting them dig their fingers into whatever we have going on.”
Wallace said the 307 Discovery Center team is open to accepting help and suggestions from community members who are interested in helping the center become more established.
“We are definitely looking for people who have ideas that want to make something happen. If anybody is out there and wants to be a part of this getting off the ground, don’t be afraid to come and jump in. If you have ideas, bring them to us because we will make it happen,” Wallace said.
Article by Tracee Davis
for The Sheridan Press