By Bradley Robertson
Lee County is about to embark on something incredible for mothers, fathers, grandparents and nearly anyone, but especially children.
The first Children’s Museum of the area is set to open in Auburn this coming spring, the “AO Discover: Auburn-Opelika Children’s Hands-on Science Center.”
“We’re going to offer something for everyone in the family,” said center owner and creator Katie Murrah.
“We’re going to have self-guided tours, field trip experiences, community days; STEM, coding and robotics camps for kids, hands on explorations and so much more.”
To go along with the new AO Discover center, a STEM pre-school will a join the space, which is also set to open this coming spring.
“Auburn Day School will provide a chance for students to have active, hands-on instruction in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and will have active instruction on arts and language every day,” Murrah said.
Murrah’s vision for this community stems from her own childhood of learning and curiosity and grows into today as she experiences life with her 3-year-old daughter.
Murrah and her family moved to Auburn nearly three years ago after her husband obtained a faculty position at Auburn University.
“I’m from North Mississippi, I actually grew up on a farm just south of Tupelo,” Murrah said. “I completed my undergraduate from Mississippi State and attended graduate school at the University of Virginia.”
Murrah received her master of education degree in educational psychology with an emphasis in gifted education. She was a gifted specialist at Clark Elementary School in Virginia for five years. Murrah then became the Director of Admissions and Marketing at Peabody School, also in Virginia, a pre-K through eighth-grade private school for gifted kids.
“I loved all those experiences. I loved working with kids but I found out I loved working with parents too,” Murrah said.
Since moving to Auburn, Murrah has been able to see and experience a lot as a new mom.
“After being in this area and seeing what was offered, it led me to want to bring a STEM pre-school to the area. Through Auburn Day School, we want to focus on critical thinking skills and we want students to be able to make connections. We want students to know why they are learning what they are learning and how it connects to their world,” Murrah said.
Murrah believes learning isn’t about mastery but about progress.
“We want to develop thinking skills, reasoning skills and problem-solving skills. I believe in getting excited and finding the joy in learning. You want to make sure that your child is in a place that is enriching, engaging and joyful. You want them to love school and love learning and you want to start that as early as possible.”
“AO Discover and Auburn Day School will partner together to bring educational experiences for children, parents, grandparents, for the whole family, for the community,” Murrah said.
AO Discover will be open to the public for a wide variety of services, most notably the exhibits and hands-on fun for all ages.
“Some permanent exhibits we’re hoping to bring are pixel-pegs, a giant light bright wall, pneumatic tubes, a racetrack LEGO building table… a glass art wall and a unique dramatic play exhibit. Kids and parents can work together to complete different challenges. We want families to be able to come back and visit the same exhibits again and again and be able to try new challenges and try new things each time,” Murrah said.
There will also be traveling exhibits to keep the program fresh, new and dynamic.
With AO Discover being a nonprofit organization, there also comes the need for community support and involvement.
“We can’t wait to bring this amazing programming to the community but we definitely need support. We are hosting our first big fundraiser, ‘Harvest Discovery Experience,’ on Nov. 9 from 9 a.m. to 5p.m. at R&R Landscaping, which is located at 12359 Co Rd 188 in Waverly,” Murrah said.”
Tickets can be purchased for the event which includes a full day of fun for kids and parents.
“We will have STEM activities, a community art project, music activities sponsored by Spicer’s Music, a nature exploration trail, a meet and greet character party, popular food trucks and drinks. 100% of proceeds form Harvest Discover tickets will go to support the non-profit to bring the very first Children’s Science Museum to our area,” Murrah said.
Every ticket purchased will also be entered to win one of the 10 prize packages, which include a trip for five to Great Wolf Lodge and a spa package. Attendees do not have to be present to win.
There are volunteer opportunities for the Harvest Discover event as well as an art contest for all Auburn-Opelika students grades kindergarten through second and a machine building contest for third graders.
Murrah’s enthusiasm for this endeavor is stunning. Her heart is on the parents and children of this great community.
“I love teaching students. I love working with parents. I love working with families. And I have a three- year-old who I love being with. I just want to do my part in providing the most engaging, enriching and exciting educational experience that I can. I feel like this will be something beneficial for all of us,” Murrah said.
“To see the joy on the parents faces, to see how much their children can do, gives me chills…these kids will amaze us every time. It’s going to be an amazing ride,” Murrah added.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.aodiscover.com and www.auburndayschool.com. Email Murrah at firstname.lastname@example.org. Event information can also be found on their Facebook page “AO Discover.”