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Science nerd leads benefit for Museum of Discovery

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09 November, 2018 By Cary Jenkins

Elizabeth Childers is a self-proclaimed science nerd, so when asked to be on the board of the Museum of Discovery in 2016, she jumped at the chance.

She says it was the perfect fit. "I was like, museums are my gig. This is my jam. I love this stuff. Love, love, love it."

Childers specializes in the M in STEM -- the mathematics in the acronym for Science Technology Engineering and Math. Originally an epidemiologist by trade, she studied how people's behaviors affect their health outcomes.

Childers now works for Dillard's. "I do the same thing," she says about studying people's behaviors, "I just apply it very differently. Instead of a health outcome, it's kind of shopping outcomes, so if you do X, Y, Z are you more [likely] to do A, B or C. It's just all math. I live in the world of statistics."

After a year of serving as a museum board member, she was honored as a Spark Star at the museum's annual fundraiser -- Spark! This year she is chairman of the Nov. 13 event at the museum.

In the past, the museum selected Arkansans in the STEM field to honor each year, Childers says. "This year we actually added an A so it is STEAM now. So Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math. How perfect of an acronym is that? This year, they've selected eight Arkansans who are rock stars in the STEAM fields."

The stars will be formally honored at a luncheon, says museum Executive Director Kelley Bass. He explains that the museum looks for a varied group, not necessarily the obvious choices, but someone making a difference.

This year's Spark Stars are Sharon Cone, media specialist at Conway Public Schools; Lisa Duke, owner/operator at Orangetheory Fitness; Gov. Asa Hutchinson; Chris Johnson, senior vice president and principal financial officer at Dillard's; Chris Jones, executive director at Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub; Dr. Lewis Porter, surgeon at Saline Health Systems; Dr. Chad Rodgers, Little Rock Pediatric Clinic and Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care; and Marilyn Woessner, systems analyst at Nucor Steel.

The luncheon, to be held at the museum Monday, allows the Spark Stars to be honored without "party stops," Bass explains.

"This is very different from a lot of fundraisers that we've all been to," Bass says about Spark! "There is no sit-down dinner, no rubber chicken, no head table, no speeches -- just a big, fun party with lots of science."

"It's a super fun event," Childers agrees, adding there will be food, drinks, a wine pull and silent auction. Also, there will be no need to hover around the silent auction to keep on eye on bidding. "This year we are adding technology," she says. "We're doing everything via phone. You can enjoy your friends and everything that's around and just get a notification when you've been outbid."

In the past, the museum had a fundraiser called Uncorked, Bass says. He explains that there wasn't really a connection with a wine tasting and the museum's mission. "You have to really differentiate yourself. You have to really focus on your mission and Spark! is exactly our mission."

"We want young people who come to our museum to turn into Elizabeth or turn into Spark Stars. That's what Girls in Stem is about," he says about a museum program for young girls that will benefit from the fundraiser. "Exposing them to women who are chemists, computer programmers, doctors and engineers and think 'I could be her some day.' That's what we are trying to do."

The Girls in Stem is a free program that will have expanded from about 30 girls in 2013 to 12 classes of 30 girls in 2019 and from classes only in Little Rock to classes in Jonesboro, Blytheville and Stuttgart. "This money from Spark goes directly to support that program," Bass says.

"One of the great things about Girls in Stem," Childers says, "is that our educators have said that year after year, they see the girls that started in 2013 come back and become mentors to those in classes behind them."

"The museum is a place where a child's creativity can be ignited as far as the science world," Childers says. "I call them aha moments," she explains about moments of discovery that she had as a child. "At the museum, kids can have their own aha moments."

About the fundraiser, Childers says, "I think it is really good exposure to see what is here in the museum. The more people know what's here, the more likely they are to tell a friend who has kids or tell about Science After Dark [a themed science night for adults.] The more time you spend at the museum, the more you realize how awesome it is."

Tickets are $125 per person and dress is business or business casual, Childers says. More information about the museum and the event may be found here museumofdiscovery.org.


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