Knoxville is home to many museums of different subjects, including arts, history, sports, and culture. However, one of the area’s fastest growing museums belongs not to the world’s over-complicated adults, but to curious children.
This place, the Muse Knoxville, is a non profit organization dedicated to getting young East Tennessee students excited about STEM learning.
The Muse Knoxville started as a group of Knoxville residents who saw examples of other children’s museums and wanted to do the same for Knoxville, according to Ellie Kittrell, the Executive Director of The Muse. Today, they are the largest provider of science outreach in the state, and they educate hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.
Much of their success can be attributed to their passion for a part of their mission statement: “it’s all about the aha.” Sarah Roberto, Muse’s Development Director, commented on the reason for their mission statment.
“What we want children to experience when they come to the museum is to really have those ‘aha’ moments. These moments create a memory around learning that lasts forever,” Roberto said.
While the organization is described as a science museum, they also make a point to incorporate the arts for well rounded students. This is accomplished through areas in the museum like Sound Play, Strong Alley, where students use scientific lasers to write on the walls and their 3D printer, where students can design their own products to take home.
In addition to the arts, The Muse prides themselves on promoting health and wellness as well. There’s an Outdoor Science Garden where kids can learn about growing organic crops, and they are working on a new “Outdoor Space Playce” complete with “discovery based activities,” a constellation wall, a water table, and an outdoor eating area.
Last April, The Muse opened up a second location in Knoxville near West Town Mall which has been a huge success, already with over 32,000 visitors.
“The opening of the mall location has been incredible,” Kittrell said.
According to Roberto, the new location has allowed them to meet new audiences, create that many more ‘aha’ experiences.
This success has allowed the Muse to work on new projects for their most curious customers, such as an “Augmented Reality Sandbox” they will soon be getting all the way from Russia. With this, kids will be able to learn about geography, technology, weather patterns, and much more with 20 different virtual experiences on a projector over the physical sandbox.
The Muse provides several experiences and programs for elementary age students across 27 counties in the East Tennessee region, but they also provide programs for special education students. As part of their “Muse for All” mission, they offer high school age special education students volunteer work and jobs.
“This program not only helps us… but we see a huge difference developmentally [in these students]. Working at The Muse helps them with learning social skills and learning to cooperate with others,” Roberto said.
In addition to special education students, The Muse Knoxville is always looking for student volunteers from the University of Tennessee.
“We would love to have UT volunteer with us. We are looking for students that love working with small children or really anyone that is willing to do arts and crafts and hands on science experiments,” Roberto said.
Of all of the museums in Knoxville, The Muse Knoxville is the only one where adults and college age students alike can go to find their inner child and maybe even help some of today’s kids learn along the way.