Springfield’s Discovery Center awarded $1 million grand prize

Published: Dec. 15, 2021 at 7:54 AM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - The Discovery Center in Springfield won a contest with a grand prize of $1 million.

The center won the STOP Award. Forbes and the Center for Education Reform awarded the prize. STOP stands for sustainable, transformational, outstanding, and permissionless.

The science center in downtown Springfield stayed open during the pandemic, changing how it educates children.

“In the moment, I was so ready to not hear the Discovery Center called,” said Rob Blevins, the Executive Director of the Discovery Center. “So it was a bit dramatic and exciting.”

Here’s how it will spend the $1 million prize. The Discovery Center hopes to expand its current offerings to become a full-time, permissionless school, for hundreds of students, including a STEM-themed playground.

Blevins said he was told hundreds of organizations applied for the award.

“They said over 1,400 people started the application process, and I think over 1,000 finished it,” said Blevins.

Blevins said he compares the past few years in a unique way.

“I’ve actually reframed it as the ‘COVID Shuffle’ as well. I’m calling it the same dance just a little bit different step this time,” said Blevins.

Blevins said this dance at the start of the pandemic changed their building into a childcare center for healthcare workers and first responders.

“We’re able to provide over 200,000 hours of free child care,” said Blevins. “With some great community partners that we worked with, we were able to provide over 50,000, free meals and snacks as well.”

Janelle Reed, the advancement director with Victory Mission, a community partner of the Discovery Center, said they were only a small part of the Discovery Center’s mission to better Springfield and know this award is impactful.

“I actually teared up, because a million dollars, especially for one of our local nonprofits,” said Reed. “That’s a huge amount of money.”

Blevins said they plan to expand and repair their building, build a playground, and finish an app that helps them become more involved in a child’s learning experience, all to invest in local kids.

Heather Ward, a Discovery School teacher, said this money shows they are making a difference.

“It’s overwhelming, it’s amazing,” said Ward. “It shows we were learning to practice what we preach, we care about the kids, and we care about education and science. We’re getting it out to the kids, and we care through them, for them, through the pandemic.”

Blevins said this is a win for all of Springfield as they were up against many organizations from larger cities. He wants the whole community to reap the benefits.

The Discovery Center opened in 1998.

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