Silver Dollar Science: STEM Opportunities in Southwest Missouri

Branson and Springfield in Missouri's Ozarks region offer plentiful STEM opportunities, from the physics of roller coasters to the wonders of wildlife.

Titanic Museum, Credit Explore Branson

Students will fall head-over-heels in love with the field trips taken to Missouri. Home of the famous Titanic Museum, students will learn all they need to know mathematically and scientifically about the ship. Because of its climate, Missouri is also home to many natural parks, making it a perfect place for students to learn about the environment and animal life.

Museums & Zoos

Voted America’s best aquarium, with 1.5 million gallons of fresh water, the Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium (WOW) in Springfield, Missouri combines the habitats of land and water animals. Activities are made for specific age groups with WOW Animal Ambassadors. For 5th-to-8th graders, students will learn how energy is passed through different organisms that live in the Ozarks. For 9th-to-12th graders, the program offers students to look into the study of ecology through live animal encounters and in-depth activities. There are also programs without any activities for 5th-to-12th graders called Live Animal Edventure. These programs add lessons about interactions among plants and animals in different ecosystems as well as describing biotic and abiotic factors within an ecosystem.

Wonders Of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium, Credit Keith 8404

Planetarium shows, space explorations and forensic science are just a few of many school programs Grand Adventures: Exploring Art, History, and Science Springfield offers year-round. Grades five and above will investigate theories about the creation of the earth, explore life in the depths of the ocean and speculate about the universe in the world’s oldest Seymour Planetarium. In the forensic science program, students will examine and analyze fingerprints, fiber and DNA. For grades three to eight, students will learn about polymers, viscosity and states of matter while they make their own slime.

Learn everything science, math, geography and more at the Titanic Museum. Students will learn why and how the Titanic sank and how it sank so quickly through various activities. They will make a boat out of aluminum foil, put it in water and slowly add one penny at a time. They will make a model of the Titanic using numbers, calculate the speed of the Titanic and create a pie graph based on numbers of passengers. This museum is very hands-on and makes students think. By the end of the day, students will be able to read a map based on log positions and track the route of the Titanic until it sank.

Titanic Museum, Credit Explore Branson

Universities and Academia

With healthcare as the top program at Cox College, this university also offers programs in radiology, medical assisting, occupational therapy and nutrition diagnostics. As a health science institution, a tour for students would see the simulation center which simulates a hospital as well as the Radiology labs. On a tour, students are able to ask professors any questions they have about medical programs or future classes of their interest.

Ozarks Technical Community College (OTC) offers many STEM-based programs including bioclinical science, accounting and economics, life science, mathematics, physical science, and social sciences. Besides these general programs, OTC also offers technical education, allied health, workforce development, and online programs. On a tour, there are labs the group can visit as well as some programs. As a teacher, you can let the tour guide know what you or the students are interested in and they can take you there.

Industry & Technology

From mathematics to science to industrial technology, high school and middle school students will have the greatest “Kids-U-Cation” at Silver Dollar City in Branson. This company provides the perfect blend of education and fun with rides, shows, attractions and hands-on activities. Each curriculum provides different age-specific programs. Stay one or two days, and middle schoolers will master concepts including roller coaster engineering, budgeting and variables. High schoolers will master order of operations through a program called Silver Dollar City’s Swinging Bridge. These concepts expand to science and industrial technology.

Silver Dollar City, Credit Explore Branson

Nature/Outdoor Activities

Take a day or weekend trip to Big Cedar Lodge for educational and entertaining trip. Structured programs for middle school students include a Conservation Center, the Kids’ Nature Discovery Center, the Kids’ Adventure Club and more. These learning experiences will include environmental awareness, history exploration and artifacts collections. Many hands-on activities are offered for high school students including fishing, ropes course, hiking, biking and nature excursions like the Lost Canyon Cave and Nature Trail. The Wildlife Tram Tour is appropriate for both age groups. Students feed the fish at the Thunder Halls Crossing and will encounter American bison, whitetail deer and Texas longhorn.

Camping, backpacking, boating and swimming is just the start of the activities at Lake of the Ozarks State Park. For any future geologists, take a group tour of Ozark Caverns. Each tour is age-appropriate and will last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. Topics such as cave development, speleothem formation and cave life are discussed. Other group programs are interpretive and include themes related to the diversity and management of the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems found in the park, the flora and fauna within those ecosystems and the cultural history and resources that have influenced the park today.

Lake of the Ozarks, Credit Visit Missouri