Have you heard?  The Kaleidoscope Discovery Center is moving – into schools and libraries and homes near you! The current pandemic situation has challenged our new board and executive director and our volunteers to really think out of the box in continuing to serve the community with ESTEAM education opportunities.

“So what have you been doing this summer?” is an interesting question as students return to some form of school this year.  At a minimum, this Covid-19 pandemic has certainly forced all of us to do some reprioritizing in our own lives and that, too, has affected our students.  They see the way those around them face uncertainty and they learn that there is value in flexibility.  Sometimes the things or activities you had hoped for need to be postponed. 

Uncertain times call for a sense of stability. In July, the new Kaleidoscope Discovery Center Board made the difficult decision to postpone its own dreams in favor of supporting the immediately needs of students, parents and teachers in our area.  They Board voted to give up its facility of five years and move into a sustainable situation providing stability for ESTEAM opportunities.  Although the decision was reached with much thought and heart-felt consideration, it was still disappointing to have to put dreams on hold. It always is.

Moving in the summer, during a pandemic with volunteers in shorter supply and our S&T students all but gone prompted our Executive Director, Nicole Byrum, to call in the troops, literally!  Twelve Soldiers from Combat Training Company stationed here at Fort Leonard Wood heeded the call and came to help move items from the 612 North Pine Street facility to our new administrative offices at 900 North Pine and an additional storage location in town. Many of them joined us two weekends in a row!

The Soldiers from Combat Training Company cleared the basement and the upstairs, in the 95-degree weather and did so without a grumble or complaint.  Their help was a godsend.   Moving items was essential in reducing the Kaleidoscope’s overhead expenses while still preserving items needed for ongoing ESTEAM outreach grants and support of programs like FIRST robotics, Project MEGSSS, and Future City.  This will allow students from the area and around the state the opportunity to participate.  It is consistent with the Kaleidoscope’s sustainability focus.

These service members donate freely of their time and talent to help support community activities even though they may only be in the area for a few weeks, months, or years before moving on to their next post. Their investment in the communities in which they reside (no matter how short a time) has proven to be deeply impactful. 

This is not the first time that soldiers from the Fort have donated their time and talents to the Kaleidoscope Discovery Center.  Four years ago, they assisted the Kaleidoscope’s efforts by removing a large wall section in the exhibit hall.  Other years they supported the area Boy Scout District by serving lunches and sharing career advice with over 400 Boy Scouts at the annual Merit Badge Universities on the S&T campus.  These young men and women from across the country continue to be some of the most dedicated and hard-working individuals we are fortunate to have as part of our community.

While we are currently selling off larger furniture items that are no longer needed as we right-size our inventory, some have asked about our exhibits, displays, and teaching materials and supplies.  These items are being used to support outreach grants in area schools and libraries, and some are being lent to individuals and families through our lending programs.

Covid-19 has forced organizations to re-think their core purpose and delivery operations in order to reduce the potential spread of this virus through the population.  It has required decision-making in less than ideal circumstances in the interest of safety and stability against a novel virus with a global impact.

So, what did we do this summer?  We made difficult decisions, reached out to our friends for help, protected those served by our core purpose, reduced the excess, and positioned the Kaleidoscope to be in a stable supporting role for the students, parents, and teachers that we serve.  There will be another tomorrow and in the meantime, we look forward to creatively facing the future together.

Soldiers from CTC disassembling one of our conference tables.