State of Tennessee Launches ‘Do Your Part, Stay Apart’ Campaign

Tennesseans join together to fight COVID-19

The State of Tennessee today launches a public service announcement campaign that urges all Tennesseans to adopt preventive health measures to slow the spread of coronavirus.

“Do your part, stay apart” features Governor Bill Lee, First Lady Maria Lee and Tennessee celebrities that includes Brad Paisley and Kimberly Williams-Paisley, University of Memphis basketball coach Penny Hardaway, former NFL Titan Eddie George and Taj George,  University of Tennessee athletics director Phil Fulmer and Vicky Fulmer, Steven Curtis Chapman, Michael W. Smith and Cece Winans, among many others. Dozens of music artists, athletes and sports organizations who collectively reach millions of Tennesseans will join the campaign via social media.

“COVID-19 is a serious threat to the health and livelihood of our state that must be treated seriously by Tennesseans so that we can slow the spread of this virus, keep our people healthy and get our lives back to normal as soon as possible,” said Governor Lee. “Involving influential Tennesseans will help us reach more of our citizens to drive home the message that the only way to beat the virus is to stop it from spreading. Maria and I are deeply grateful to the individuals in this campaign who are utilizing their tremendous public influence and reach to protect the health of their fellow Tennesseans.”


Like most Tennesseans practicing safe social distancing, the participants have recorded messages from the safety of their homes to emphasize that Tennesseans should stay home as much as possible, avoid gathering with friends, at church or in any unessential activity – and outside the home to maintain a six-foot distance from others.

In addition to preventive health behavior, the message encourages Tennessee citizens to watch out for neighbors, especially those who may be vulnerable to illness: “Right now, the best way for us to care for one another is to keep our distance – and take care of our neighbors. Give them a call or video chat. We’re all in this together. Please do your part, by staying apart.”

The “Do your part, stay apart” PSA campaign will launch initially on social media and will very soon be supported by broadcast partners Charter Communications (Spectrum) and Comcast, as well as Outdoor Advertising Association Tennessee who donated poster and digital billboards across the state. Social media handles are #TNStayApart @GovBillLee @TNDeptofHealth.

You can watch the Governor and First Lady’s video here.

Thomas Jefferson: Paleontologist

Thomas Jefferson: Paleontologist

Did you know?

Did you know that President Thomas Jefferson is considered the father of American paleontology? The Sage of Monticello collected numerous fossils over his lifetime but had a particular obsession with mammoths, which he believed inhabited the unexplored West. In fact, when Jefferson commissioned Lewis and Clark’s expedition, one of their objectives was to find a live mammoth population west of the Mississippi! In Jefferson’s time, paleontologists were not entirely sure how the skeleton of a mammoth was built as a complete skeleton had not been found. Jefferson is known to have played with mammoth bones on the floor of the White House as if they were a puzzle. If only he were able to see the complete authentic mammoth specimen now on display in the Regional History Gallery at Discovery Park of America!

For more “Did You Know” articles, check out our latest blog posts.

Also, be sure to watch our “Moments of Discovery” on our Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Naga Feast of Merit

Naga Feast of Merit

Did you know?

The Naga of Northeastern India, numbering over 80 individual tribes, lived in a world all their own in the foothills of the Himalayas for around a thousand years before the arrival of the British in the 19th century. The name “Naga” comes from the Burmese word for “pierced ears,” as Burmese guides aiding British regiments referred to the tribes beyond their borders by their ear rings. The Naga tribes practiced a tradition known as the Feast of Merit, in which a married couple who had come into money or saved their wealth would host a feast for their entire village. The feast would last for days, only ending when its host ran out of money.

Hosting such a feast assured a couple honor and prestige both in their village and, per their beliefs, in the afterlife. A couple who had hosted the Feast of Merit would be allowed to place images of a gayal (a relative of the water buffalo) on their home, such as this panel on display in the Enlightenment Gallery at Discovery Park of America. The lower part of the panel is a series of gayal carvings, while the top of the panel represents the Naga villagers who are visibly pleased with the feast.

For more “Did You Know” articles, check out our latest blog posts.

Also, be sure to watch our “Moments of Discovery” on our Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Tennessee State Fossil: The Pterotrigonia thoracica

Tennessee State Fossil: The Pterotrigonia thoracica

Did you know?

In 1998, the Tennessee state legislature adopted Pterotrigonia thoracica, a saltwater clam, as its state fossil. This fossil is found exclusively in West Tennessee in the 70-million year old Coon Creek Formation. The Coon Creek Formation, primarily in McNairy County, is one of the most significant fossil sites in the world and has produced some of the most well-preserved fossils from the Cretaceous Period. The deposits formed when sea level was much higher than it is today and the seashore ran along what is now the Tennessee River corridor. West Tennessee was a shallow sea! Discovery Park of America hosts a permanent Coon Creek Formation exhibit which includes two specimens of Pterotrigonia thoracica.

For more “Did You Know” articles, check out our latest blog posts.

Also, be sure to watch our “Moments of Discovery” on our Facebook page and YouTube channel.

The Tyrannosaurus rex

The Tyrannosaurus rex

Did you know?

The Tyrannosaurus rex specimen on display in Dinosaur Hall at Discovery Park of America is a plaster replica of one of the most famous dinosaurs ever recovered – Stan the T. rex. Stan was discovered in the spring of 1987 in Harding County, South Dakota by an amateur paleontologist named Stanley Sacrison. It is customary for a dinosaur to be given a common name after its finder (hence Stan), although each has a distinct catalog identification number as well. At the time of his discovery, Stan was the largest T. rex to have been found, though he is now third in that category.

During his life, Stan fought with another T. rex and suffered a broken neck as a result – this is indicated by a number of puncture wounds near the base of the skull that match T. rex teeth, as well as fused cervical vertebra. The fusion of the vertebra suggests than Stan survived this attack and lived for years afterwards! It is believed that Stan died at about 24 years old before being buried in sand and lost to time for 65 million years before being unearthed by humans. In 2013, Discovery Park of America joined a small elite family of museums that house a replica of this historically and scientifically significant dinosaur.

For more “Did You Know” articles, check out our latest blog posts.

Also, be sure to watch our “Moments of Discovery” on our Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Guest Blogger: Nathaniel Newlin

Discovery Park of America to Close to the Public Through March 31, 2020

Earlier today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee directed all Tennessee schools to close “as soon as practically possible.” At the latest, Lee said all schools should be closed by Friday and remain closed through March 31.

While there are currently no reported cases of COVID-19 in our area, we want to ensure the safety of our staff and children and families in our community by following the recommendations set forth by our state government, so we will also close through March 31. We currently plan to reopen on April 1 but will reevaluate when we get closer to that date.

Museum staff will be in contact with groups who scheduled visits during this time to reschedule or provide a refund.

“While Discovery Park will close its doors to the public for the next few weeks, the work we do to inspire children and adults to see beyond will continue,” said Scott Williams, president and CEO of Discovery Park. “Each day, our education team will be sharing ‘Moments of Discovery’ on Discovery Park’s Facebook page, and we’ll be sharing inspirational content on all our social networks. Our staff continues planning our classes, camps and programs that will take place the remainder of the year.”

The Discovery Park offices will remain open. For questions or comments, email or call 731-885-5455.

Northwest Tennessee Resources for Those in Need

This is a challenging time for many in Northwest Tennessee, so we’re sharing this list of just some of the places with resources for those in need in our community.

Your Money: A Hub for Help During the Coronavirus Crisis, the New York Times
If your income has fallen or been cut off completely, this guide will connect you to the basic information you’ll need to get through this, including on government benefits, free services and financial strategies.

Northwest Tennessee Economic Development Council
They provide help with rent, energy bills, food, and other aid in Benton, Carroll, Crockett, Dyer, Lake, Gibson, Obion, Henry, and Weakley Counties in Tennessee.

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
The federal government funded program was created to help qualified households who are considered low income, and who currently pay a high portion of household income for their home energy bills. The program can provide grants to pay energy bills, and money to prevent a disconnection.

Energy Bills
Get help with your energy bills from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Food Assistance
Get free food from the federal government Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program.

Food Pantries
Here is a list food pantries in Northwest Tennessee.

Free Public Assistance
Here is a list of a variety of resources.

Discovery Park of America Unveils New Website

March 11, 2020

New version is mobile friendly and streamlined for easy-to-use navigation.

We’ve unveiled an updated mobile-friendly website here at that includes more photos, better navigation and an improved online experience that will allow you to gain a better understanding of what you will find at the museum and heritage park before you visit.

Additionally, new sections of our website share the story of our unique history and our mission to inspire children and adults to see beyond.

“Occasionally, I have the opportunity to share the story of Discovery Park and our mission after guests have already toured. They often express how they wished they had known more about those aspects of Discovery Park before they visited,” said Katie Jarvis, marketing manager for Discovery Park. “Since understanding why we’re here enhances our guests’ visits, we’ve made certain that information can be easily found on our new website.”

Jarvis, who led the redesign for Discovery Park, worked with Speak Creative, a digital-first agency with offices in Memphis and Nashville that helps transform organizations by building world-class experiences through design and technology.

“Many of us who worked on the new website are parents, and all of us value the benefits for both children and adults of the experiences provided by museums, so we were already fans of the work being done by Discovery Park,” said Jacob Savage, president of Speak Creative. “Getting to become a part of that mission and applying our knowledge and skillset to what they are doing was thrilling for all of us.”

A neat feature that was added during the redesign was a tool to help you plan your visit. The “Explore” page includes information about each of the galleries and experiences along with photos of each. With two new hotels now completed and a third opening soon right next door to us, a section on “Lodging” includes details and photos for you if you are looking for convenient overnight accommodations.

For members, educators and others who take advantage of the classes, programs and events at Discovery Park, the updated calendar will provide even more details and information about upcoming events and special things scheduled each day.

Need some validation on this new website? It’s already getting rave reviews from others in the tour and travel industry. Stephanie Coomer, deputy director of the Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau, used the new website to plan a visit with her children to Discovery Park for spring break. She said, “My family and I have watched the videos and looked at photos to plan our trip and it has really gotten us excited. As someone who is both a mother and tourism professional, I know firsthand how important a destination’s website is for those planning a family trip.” She added, “We are going to stop and visit Tennessee Safari Park on our way and then spend the night at the Main Stay Suites in Union City and enjoy a couple of days at Discovery Park and visiting Reelfoot Lake.”

We encourage you to navigate around on our website and see what new and exciting features have been added. And then, see what you will discover when you plan your visit to Discovery Park of America.


Increased Cleaning Protocols at Discovery Park

As always, the safety and wellbeing of our guests, employees and volunteers is of the utmost importance to us at Discovery Park.  Like you, we are monitoring the developing COVID-19 situation closely and following all guidelines from local authorities. We wanted to let you know about the precautions we are taking to maintain a safe and healthy environment at Discovery Park.

We have increased our cleaning protocols and the disinfection of frequently touched, high traffic surfaces such as doorknobs, exhibit counters and bathroom faucets.  Hand sanitizer and tissues are available throughout the museum and park.

We have instructed our staff, and ask our guests as well, to follow the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control:

  • Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Where possible, practice social distancing and avoid handshakes
  • Sneeze or cough into your sleeve or a tissue
  • Remain at home if you feel sick

Should you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 731.885.5455

Discovery Park of America Presents Awards at First Gala and Fundraiser on March 7, 2020

Discovery Park of America Presents Awards at First Gala and Fundraiser on March 7, 2020

The Robert E. and Jenny D. Kirkland Discovery Awards recognized individuals for their contributions in inspiring children and adults to see beyond.

Guests arriving here Saturday evening, March 7 for our first annual Discovery Awards weren’t the only ones dressed up for the occasion. The iconic cave bear that, thanks to countless selfies taken and posted by guests has become Discovery Park’s de facto mascot, could be found next to the red carpet in a bow tie and formal hat created just for the special occasion. Discovery Park honored seven individuals who bring enlightenment, awareness and education to those whose lives they’ve touched.

A group from Jackson, Tenn. were friends of presenter Dr. Ron Kirkland and recipients Carl and Alice Kirkland. Upon arrival, they took a moment on the red carpet to pose with the Discovery Park cave bear, who was dressed for the occasion. 

The inaugural gala and fundraiser was attended by a sold-out crowd of 350 from around the region who joined Discovery Park in celebrating the winners, all of whom have deep roots in West Tennessee. Many in attendance had come to witness their friends and family members receiving the award and were visiting Discovery Park for the first time. The 2020 Robert E. and Jenny D. Kirkland Discovery Awards winners were:

• Kevin Coby, Annapolis Junction, Md.
• Carl and Alice Kirkland, Jackson, Tenn.
• Jon and Jaimie Robinson, Nashville, Tenn.
• Stephen Vaden, Washington, D.C.

A special Discovery award, presented at the event by board member Bob Cartwright, was given to Jim Rippy, a close friend of Discovery Park founders Robert and Jenny Kirkland He was instrumental in the planning and development of Discovery Park and was the president of the organization in its first half decade.

Live music was one of the highlights of the evening. As guests arrived, they enjoyed music provided by Charles Lewis on the flute and Dr. Chan Mi Jean on the keyboard. During the silent auction and cocktail party that proceeded the awards dinner, The Brown-Short Duo entertained the guests as they bid on the 70 silent auction items that were donated by organizations in support of Discovery Park’s mission. During dinner, background music was provided by Jackson Symphony musicians Grace Shaw and Elise Dougan on violins and Daniel Strawser on cello.

Master of Ceremonies was Bill Minihan, director at Badgett Playhouse, while the live auction was led by Jay Cash.

Alice and Carl Kirkland were presented their award by Dr. Ron Kirkland, who is Carl’s cousin and the brother of Discovery Park founder, Robert Kirkland. There was a large group of more than 50 of their friends from Jackson who came to the event to show their support for the couple. In accepting the award, Carl Kirkland gave a short introduction on how he and his wife, Alice, spent their early years in Union City and their love for West Tennessee before saying, “Thank you for being here and thank you to Jenny and Robert for the idea of this greens place coming to be. I know it will be serving the community for generations to come.”

Jon Robinson, the general manager for the Tennessee Titans, summed up the spirit of the evening perfectly when he encouraged the crowd to give back however they can in their own communities. He said, “Giving back will ignite your soul. It’s the most powerful thing that we can do. Thank you for this award, God Bless and Titan Up!”

In an impact video that premiered during the event, Discovery Park president and CEO Scott Williams commented, “We’ve been given a powerful gift by Robert and Jenny Kirkland and thanks to our volunteers, our sponsors and our generous donors, we plan to make certain we take stewardship of that gift very seriously so that Discovery Park will be here for the communities we serve for decades to come.”

Money raised from the silent auction will benefit the Kirkland scholarship fund that provides free admission to students from schools where 75 percent or more of the students qualify for the free lunch program. Other money raised will support every aspect of operating Discovery Park from regular maintenance and day-to-day operations to allowing educators to create new interactive exhibits and develop programs and classes.

As guests departed the event, they were given Discovery Park’s 2019 Impact Report that showed the many ways the organization contributed to the region in 2019 and listed the names of families, individuals and corporate partners who made a contribution in 2019. A copy of the report can now be viewed online.

Ten Fascinating People (and two Mosasaurs) Your Family Will Meet at Discovery Park of America

With spring break and summer vacation right around the corner, many are looking for fun trips for families in Northwest Tennessee. Whether you’re in search of a quick, family-fun getaway or you have several days to explore the area, children and adults of all ages will have a unique, one-of-a-kind experience at Discovery Park of America in Union City, Tenn.

Today, Discovery Park is famous for its iconic 100,000-square-foot building, interactive galleries, educational exhibits, and 50 acres of heritage park that is a blast to explore. However, one of the best parts of a visit to this Tennessee gem involves meeting a host of incredible people as you explore.

Here are a few of the most fascinating people you’ll discover at Discovery Park:

10. A Collector of Scales
The interesting collection of scales on display in the Enlightenment Gallery were donated by Phil Wehman, a Union City-native, who collected scales with his wife, George Anna Wehman, since 1970. George Anna first started the collection and joined the International Society of Antique Scale Collectors (ISASC). Phil Wehman’s photographs of their many scales have been featured in the ISASC publications over time. Their collection amounted to over 1,000 scales.

9. Kimberly and Ian – Two Real Mosasaurs
The large fossil reproductions of dinosaurs and marine reptiles that dominate Dino Hall, part of the Natural History Gallery, are all from the Mesozoic Era. The dinosaurs on display include a Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus rex, Apatosaurus, and Appalachiosaurus. The marine reptiles on display include two Mosasaurs named Ian and Kimberly. Kimberly was discovered by Aaron Scott, a University of Tennessee at Martin student, during a dig cosponsored by Discovery Park of America and Triebold Paleontology. He named the fossil after his mother. Scott has visited Discovery Park several times, speaking with guests about the dig and the process of unearthing a fossil.

8. Slingshot Charlie
While most hunters prefer shotguns for shooting ducks, one became famous for his skill with a slingshot. “Slingshot Charlie” Taylor worked as a hunting guide on the lake. One of his clients represented a traveling sportsman show, and he recognized Taylor’s skill and offered him a role in the show. “Slingshot Charlie” later traveled with vaudeville shows and appeared in a Hollywood newsreel. Artifacts from Slingshot Charlie can be found in the Regional History Gallery.

7. The 100-year-old Photographers
Verne and Nonie Sabin
illuminated the wild beauty and life around Reelfoot Lake in the 1920s, and a century later their photographs remain some of the most captivating ever produced of this area. Prints of their photos can be found in Sabin’s Café—named in honor of the legendary photographers—and on display in the Reelfoot Room on the entry level of Discovery Park.

6. The Press Master
The Gutenberg Press on display in the Technology Showcase is a full-scale, fully functional reproduction.  It was built by Pratt Wagon and Press Works of Cove Fort, Utah. Included with the printing press were plates containing the story of Gideon from Judges Chapter 7.  These plates are on display with the press and can be used for printing demonstrations. Pratt Wagon and Press Works was run by Stephen Pratt and his son Ben. They built meticulous replicas, using detailed mechanical drawings as their starting point and the finished pieces were noted for their accuracy. Stephen did all the woodwork while Ben forged the metal pieces. The Gutenberg Press displayed in Discovery Center is among the last printing presses Stephen Pratt built before his death from cancer in 2012.

5. Dolly Dear
A special collection of Dolly Dear dollhouse accessories call the Fantasy Forest Children’s Play Area home. Dolly Dear was founded by Rossie Turner Kirkland of Union City in 1927. She was the grandmother of Discovery Park Founder, Robert Kirkland. By 1944, the company was operating from a factory on First Street and employed 30 people. The dollhouse accessories were sold nationwide through a mail order catalog as well as through other popular mail order catalogs such as Sears and Montgomery Ward.

4. David Crockett
Discovery Park is proud to feature American folk hero, frontiersman, solider, and politician, David Crockett, who lived in West Tennessee from about 1822 to 1835. In The Settlement, guests will find a statue dedicated to Crockett standing near the middle, while his political career is documented in an exhibit in Liberty Hall on the south side of the park.  A print of his portrait by John Gadsby Chapman is on display in The Regional History Gallery.


3. Sleeping Beauty
Inside the one-room Hicks Family House in the Settlement, guests experience the story of Susan Godsey who was born in Obion County sometime between 1835 and 1842. When she was around nine years old, she became sick and then fell into a semi-comatose state. Every day, for the rest of her life, she would only wake up for a very short time. When she was awake, her family would feed her and give her water. Doctors from all over the world came to try to solve the mystery of the sleeping beauty, but no one was able to provide any kind of remedy. She died on Oct. 27, 1873 having been asleep for most of 25 years.

2. Hoot Gibson and Rhea Seddon
The two NASA flight suits on display in the Moon Dome at STEM Landing were used by married astronauts Robert “Hoot” Gibson and Rhea Seddon and were loaned to the park by the astronauts themselves. In 1978, Seddon was selected as one of the first six women to enter the Astronaut Program. After three successful space shuttle flights and 30 days in space, she left NASA to become the Assistant Chief Medical Officer at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

1. Robert Kirkland, the Man who Dared to Dream
Discovery Park founder Robert Kirkland began his business with a rented office on First Street in Union City, Tennessee. For a desk, he had an old door set atop a pair of sawhorses. Whatever he may have lacked in furniture, Kirkland more than made up for in determination, inquisitiveness and work ethic. He grew his business and made his fortune in home décor, first in retail, then in imports. His career allowed him to travel the world, exposing Kirkland to sights, sounds and ideas that many live a lifetime without ever experiencing. As his business and fortune continued to grow, Kirkland and his wife, Jenny, committed themselves again and again to supporting their community in powerful ways. Today, Discovery Park of America stands not just as a life-changing gift to West Tennessee, but to the entire world.

Here at Discovery Park, you’ll discover a premier world-class museum and heritage park that provides you and your family a transformational experience with the mission of inspiring both children and adults to see beyond. In addition to these fascinating people, you’ll find fascination around every single corner.

Plan your family-friendly adventure here or buy tickets now and save 10%

The Do’s and Dont’s of Building Your Cardboard Boat for the Races on May 16, 2020

So…you are wanting to build your own cardboard boat for the 2020 Regatta on Sat., May 16, 2020? But maybe you have no clue where to even begin with the fun project. Never fear, because Commodore John Watkins is here to give you some tips and tricks on how to build the best cardboard boat that will be the best on the water on race day (no guarantees, though)!

Also, be sure to attend the FREE “How to Build Your Cardboard Boat” info session on Thurs., March 12 at 6 p.m. in the Tennessee Room inside Discovery Center. John Watkins will be in attendance giving advice, answering any questions plus giving away FREE CARDBOARD!


  • Undamaged cardboard. If you break it, crush it, or cut through it, the cardboard may fail while in use. No brainer: Don’t step on it!
  • Water-based wood glue
  • A paint roller. This will help to spread the glue over large surfaces and remove excess glue. Too much glue is not good for you!
  • Clamps and weights. These will help press the glue joints and layers together. Be sure to use a large flat surface in between the clamp or weight and cardboard. This will protect the cardboard corrugations from damage.
  • Silicon sealant. This will help keep your cardboard dry when it’s in the water! Remember to seal the ends of the cardboard with caulk or silicone, or you’ll have great fun watching the water draw up into the corrugations just like in a drinking straw.
  • Paper tape/Reinforced paper tape. Paper tape helps join the pieces of cardboard and also works well over caulked edges and seams. This won’t shrink like duct tape when you paint it!
  • Water-soluble outdoor latex-based primer. Try saying that five times fast! This is for your initial coats of paint. Avoid oil-based paints, stains, caulk, and glue because the oil soaks into the cardboard, which weakens and damages it. The cardboard may never dry!


  • Try building a model first. Scale down your design and cut its “flat-pattern” shape out of a manila folder. Use stones or small weights to test the buoyancy. Tape together and seal it from the water using scotch tape. This could give you an idea if the boat will float the way you want.
  • Layer cardboard. This will give you additional strength. Layer the cardboard with the corrugations going in different directions. This will make for a stronger laminate. You can have strength and still keep your boat light if you place the second layer so that the corrugations run at a 90-degree angle to the first layer.
  • Fold your cardboard. To fold cardboard across the corrugations, consider scoring the line of the fold with the butt end of your utility knife or other rounded edge of a tool.
  • Building location is important. Try to build the raft in a warm, dry, low humidity location. This will speed up the glue drying process. Be sure your boat will be able to get out the door of wherever you build it!
  • Channel your inner Van Gogh. Remember to decorate your boat (highly rewarded by the judges on race day) and bring your own wooden paddles or oars.


  • A flat bottom is recommended. A V-shaped bottom is likely to tip over unless the V is very gentle.
  • The lowest center of gravity is the most stable. Kneeling or standing will cause you to tip over.
  • Longer boats go faster, but they are harder to turn.
  • Boats shorter than 10 feet are difficult to steer.
  • For height, allow about 18 inches for you to sit and paddle effectively without the edge of your boat blocking your arms.
  • Figure about 30 inches maximum for 1 person, 48 inches for two people.
  • Clear tape melts when it is painted.
  • Forget about “glue guns” because that type of glue melts on hot days.
  • Fold a lot and cut sparingly.