Gulfport School District

Gulfport School District with Lynn Meadows Discovery Center. This project provided opportunities for high-needs students and their families to enhance the learning experience beyond the classroom doors.

Lynn Meadows Discovery Center (LMDC) is a 501(c)3 non-profit children’s museum located on the Mississippi Gulf Coast that provides an educational space for children to learn through discovery and play. Lynn Meadows is governed by a Board of Directors made up of 15 community leaders representing private
businesses, non-profits, education, and media. Lynn Meadows currently has 8 full-time staff and 13 part-time staff members. In addition to paid staff, volunteers are an integral part of the museum’s operations. The museum is 15,000 square feet of indoor space and 7.5 acres of outdoor space located in an old school
building. LMDC was the first children’s museum in the state of Mississippi to see about 100,000 people a year (pre Covid). The mission of Lynn Meadows Discovery Center is to inspire children, families, and communities through the arts, interactive educational experiences, and exploration (LMDC Boar, 2016).

Lynn Meadows Discovery Center (LMDC) has supported the Gulfport School District community since they opened their doors in 1998. Although teachers across the coast regularly visit LMDC with their students for educational field trips, LMDC has partnered with the Gulfport School District to provide opportunities for high -needs students and their families to enhance the learning experience beyond the classroom doors. Gulfport School District is comprised of six elementary schools, two middle schools, and one high school.
There are approximately 6,500 students enrolled in grades Pre-K - 12th grade. The district is an A rated Title I school district with a diverse population consisting of 49% female, 51% male, 53% African American, 35% White, 8% Hispanic, 4% Other Races, 15% Special Education Students, 3% English Language Learners, and
12% Gifted and Talented Learners. Overall, 72.8% of students in the district are identified as low-income based on the percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch. Gulfport School District relies heavily on support from our community partners. Lynn Meadows is one of our most active partners and is recognized annually by the school board for their partnership with the district impacting students and families at all grade levels.

In recent years, Lynn Meadows Discovery Center has established a program to support kindergarten students at Title 1 Schools in the Gulfport School District through the development of STEM learning and exploration. The SMARTIES program transports these. kindergarten students and their teachers to the museum where they engage in activities based on the Engineering is Elementary program provided by the Boston Science Museum. The Engineering is Elementary curriculum engages the student in multiple cycles of research, development, testing, and improvement to develop problem-solving skills through application. The program integrates literacy and social studies with engineering and science to help the students understand how STEM subjects are relevant to their lives. During the trips to the museum, students are supported by their teachers, museum staff and Gulfport School District high school students that are involved in the Teacher Academy. The Teacher Academy at Gulfport High School is a program that supports high school students as future educators by giving them training and hands-on experience working with children. This program is a true partnership that supports our schools and community.

While the Gulfport School District and Lynn Meadows have had a long standing partnership with the shared goal of providing educational opportunities to lower socioeconomic status families, the methods for accomplishing this goal had to shift when schools shut down in March 2020. Public schools were forced to provide virtual education and the Gulfport School District immediately recognized that students without internet access would be at a severe disadvantage. The Gulfport School District partnered with WLOX to broadcast two-hour, daily segments of educational videos created and produced by Gulfport School District on Bounce TV, a free subchannel of WLOX. Without hesitation, Lynn Meadows Discovery Center stepped up to offer support in this endeavor. Lynn Meadows Discovery Center provided educational content and even offered the museum, which was closed to the public, as a space to be used for recording the programs.

In response to the changing needs of the community due to the pandemic, Lynn Meadows Discovery Center added “Outreach” as a major goal to their 2021-2025 Strategic Plan. When schools and the museum closed their doors, LMDC had to find a new way to support the community. The museum began distributing “Discovery at Home Kits” through “Feed My Sheep,” a local food bank that serves the Gulfport School District community. These kits provided families with all of the materials and resources needed to complete an activity to promote literacy and/or STEM skill development. LMDC recognized the success of these kits and this program led to the creation of a “Discovery on the Go” initiative. Through “Discovery on the Go,” Lynn Meadows Discovery Center plans to continue providing “Discovery at Home Kits” to local food banks, bring museum experiences to the classes in the Gulfport School District, and support families in the Gulfport School District through outreach experiences. The support that Lynn Meadows provides for the
Gulfport School District students, families and teachers is vital in closing the gaps we see for our students of low socioeconomic status.