East Side Elementary students guests at TVA-Hands On! exhibit opening

Published 9:50 am Monday, November 11, 2019

This week more than 60 East Side Elementary School third graders from Elizabethton were the first to enjoy a new permanent exhibit provided by the Tennessee Valley Authority and installed at the Hands On! Discovery Center on Suncrest Drive in Gray.

Students from the classes of teachers Libby Hoilman, Brittany Johnson and Austin Wingate were the guests of TVA, who is providing free admission to the Center for 500 Title 1 school children.

It was evident from the “oohs and ahhs” from the children as they entered the building that it was most likely the first visit to the attraction for a number of them.

And that is what makes Hands On! CEO Andy Marquart smile.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“The TVA funding is everything,” said Marquart. “For many, this is their one vacation. They don’t get to leave their hometown to go on vacation. Many of these kids never leave town. Now, they can come here and let their classroom learning come to life, and that’s our bread and butter, the core of our mission. These are kids that maybe would never have this opportunity and the funding gives them the chance to come and have this wonderful experience.”

The TVA exhibit, The Kinetic Wall, is the newest addition to the Hands On! Discovery Center. It focuses on physical science, giving guests a “hands on” opportunity to tap into their investigation-based inquiry and systems thinking skills as they use a large assortment of magnetic tracks, chutes, tubes, spinners and other features.

“It’s a great addition to content we already have,” Marquart said. “It’s an open-ended exhibit, easy to interact with. Kids can figure out a lot about kinetics, gravity and they can pretty much let their imaginations run wild with it.

“We truly value our ongoing partnership with TVA and the impact has been immeasurable. In the last several years over 2,500 Title 1 students have been granted field trip access and we have added many new STEMbased experiences thanks to their support.”

Kevin McMillion, construction manager for TVA at the Boone Dam Project, was also on hand for the opening of the exhibit, and says the feature underlines the TVA’s support of STEM programs.

“TVA is a big promoter of the STEM programs and this is just a way I can help be a part of that,” McMillion said. “It’s always interesting to me to see how the kids interact and how that curiosity is triggered.”

He explained that guests who interact with the TVA feature will be building a track to test out different physics principals including energy, friction, inertia, and gravity, using a variety of balls and letting them roll through the path the guest designed.

All of those activities enhance the work going on in the classroom, said third grade East Side Elementary teacher Austin Wingate.

“It gives them a chance to actually experience what it is that we’re talking about in class,” Wingate said. “We are limited in our resources and how we can explore those concepts. The exhibit at Hands On! was fun and entertaining, so even if they weren’t aware they were learning, they were. They were able to see how physics, gravity and more really work.”

He called the TVA funding that provided the opportunity for the Hands On! visit “a huge deal.”

“That’s so important to me and to a lot of other teachers here,” Wingate said. “Our kids might not have these wonderful learning opportunities without this.”