AO Discover!, Auburn-Opelikaâ€™s hands-onÂ science center for children, was created toÂ provide educational opportunities in science,Â technology, engineering, mathematicsÂ (S.T.E.M.) and arts to the families and children of EastÂ Alabama and beyond.
â€œThe younger [children get exposed to S.T.E.M.] theÂ better,â€ said Katie Murrah, CEO and executive director atÂ AO Discover!. â€œEducational research has shown that theÂ times that make the biggest difference are out of schoolÂ time. Out of school times are considered pre-school â€”Â early childhood education is critical to lifelong academicÂ success â€” but also what you do on the weekends, whatÂ you do during holidays, what you do in the evenings.Â Thatâ€™s really making a difference in the families and theirÂ children that have access to these opportunities versus theÂ ones that donâ€™t.â€
Formally known as Auburn-Opelika Childrenâ€™s Hands-OnÂ Science Center, the class 501c non-profitâ€™s vision is toÂ help people discover S.T.E.M today to foster opportunitiesÂ for tomorrow.Â Its goals are to serve children of East Alabama throughÂ partnerships and community support; to ensure thatÂ underrepresented groups can access opportunities; to actÂ as a beacon for S.T.E.M education throughout the regionÂ and nation; to promote workforce development in AlabamaÂ and to conduct research to continuously improve itsÂ programming.
This holiday season, AO Discover! invites the childrenÂ and families of East Alabama to participate in its secondÂ annual â€œâ€˜Tis the Season to Discover!â€, presented by KaliÂ Bryan Chadrick of State Farm.
â€œCome out and see us first-hand,â€ Murrah said. â€œWe areÂ lucky that we have a growing awareness of what we areÂ trying to bring, but when families get to come to an actualÂ event, they get a much clearer sense of who we are andÂ what we do.â€
â€˜Tis the Season to Discover! is offering holiday S.T.E.M.Â fun at the Grand National in Opelika on Dec. 12 and at theÂ AU Hotel and Dixon Conference Center on Dec. 18.
â€œWe are so glad that they have donated their spaceÂ and wanted to partner with us,â€ Murrah said of the eventÂ venues. â€œIâ€™m glad we are going to be able to be in OpelikaÂ and also be in Auburn because I think it gives moreÂ families the opportunity to come see us.â€
At both locations, AO Discover! will bring its travelingÂ S.T.E.M. exhibits for attendees to get hands-on with theirÂ educational fun.
â€œTo have events that go out into the community, it allowsÂ families to kind of have these S.T.E.M opportunities inÂ their backyard,â€ Murrah said.
Some of the exhibits include: redesigning Santaâ€™s sleighÂ to help it run faster, coding a path for the elves to deliverÂ presents, designing a gingerbread house, making iceÂ necklaces, helping Santa get up the chimney, preventingÂ the Grinch from going down it and more.
â€œChildren can move through and try all the things out,â€Â Murrah said. â€œâ€¦ Be creative, be inventive and learn someÂ new things.â€
Additionally, Grand National will be providing spa deals,Â discounts on brunch at one of its restaurants, movies in aÂ converted theater and outside games.Â At the Auburn Hotel, all the same AO Discover! exhibitsÂ will be available along with the hotelâ€™s annual GingerbreadÂ Village which is displayed in the conference center, aÂ hot chocolate bar, dining at Arricia Cucina Italiana andÂ â€œincredibleâ€ gift baskets (including one with four tickets toÂ go see the MLB Champions, Atlanta Braves, next season)Â to be raffled away.Â One raffle ticket can be purchased for $5 or three forÂ $10.
Make sure to secure your spot now, as event tickets andÂ pictures with Santa are discounted to $10 before Dec. 1. InÂ December, tickets are $15. Furthermore, at both locations families will have the opportunity to have professionalÂ pictures with Santa Claus for just $39 ($29 if bought beforeÂ Dec. 1).
From babies and toddlers to full-grown adults, thisÂ opportunity promises to provide unique educationalÂ opportunities for all.
â€œEveryone can have fun, but itâ€™s probably most funÂ for ages 1 to 13,â€ MurrahÂ added. â€œOur focus is reallyÂ kids all the way around.â€
The second annual â€˜TisÂ the Season to Discover!Â at Grand National takesÂ place from noon to 5 p.m.,Â and will be split into twoÂ sessions at the AuburnÂ Hotel, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.Â with a two-hour break inÂ between.
â€œWe want to bringÂ [S.T.E.M] right here to EastÂ Alabama,â€ Murrah said.Â â€œSo that families can haveÂ access right here withoutÂ having to travel and for theÂ families who maybe canâ€™tÂ travel, this can come toÂ them.â€
For tickets or moreÂ information, go to www.aodiscover.simpletix.com orÂ www.aodiscover.org
AO Discover! is locatedÂ at 1999 S. Donahue Dr.,Â Suite F in Auburn.