When thousands of schools across the country closed their doors and went virtual for months due to COVID, Missouri’s Discovery Center of Springfield stepped up to meet the needs of families. “We weren’t going to let them become victims of the COVID slide,” executive director Rob Blevins told Springfield’s Fox 2 local affiliate.
Instead, the science center reinvented itself: building out classrooms to modify its space and create a licensed emergency child care center serving families of essential workers. While school closures dragged on, the Discovery Center continued to innovate. By the start of the 2020-21 school year, the center had leased and remodeled the former Everest College building to host learning pods of 10 students per teacher.
At first, Discovery Center staff supervised virtual learning provided by other schools and offered supplemental tutoring and other educational support to students who struggled with emergency online learning. However, within months, the center launched the Discovery School, an elementary school featuring small class sizes and a hands-on, STEM-focused approach, and Science Sprouts, for preschoolers.
Their efforts recently won the inaugural STOP Award, sponsored by philanthropist Janine Yass in partnership with the Center for Education Reform and Forbes. The $1 million prize will allow the school to expand and develop an app that will help families across Missouri customize learning experiences for their children.