The museum at DaVinci Academy, a program of choice in Hall County Schools, will undergo a $1.75 million expansion in the coming months, more than doubling in size and providing more space for student-led education exhibits, which serve as field trip attractions for thousands of elementary students each year.
“We have to say no to a lot of field trips right now,” said Kelly Schollaert, program coordinator and museum director.
The Museum of Inspired Learning will grow from 2,800 square feet to 6,300 square feet once the expansion is completed in the fall of 2023. Between 2,500 and 3,000 elementary students tour the various exhibits each year. Next year, the museum will be able to accommodate 5,000 to 6,000 students.
“Bigger, better and brighter,” sixth grader Zlata Ivanovskaya enthused.
DaVinci Academy is housed within the Academies of Discovery at South Hall and offers hands-on learning in the arts and sciences. It enrolls about 240 high-achieving middle schoolers, divided roughly evenly between the three grade levels.
“It is geared towards service learning,” Schollaert said. “Our kids learn about all this stuff and then have to teach the K-5 kids in their standards.”
Parents who want to enroll their children must submit an application. The application window closes Dec. 2. Parents are required to volunteer at least 15 hours each year.
DaVinci students are working on an Australia exhibit, which will premier Nov. 29 and be open for about three weeks. It will incorporate lessons in history, science and culture. Visitors will learn about the adventures of Captain James Cook, the weapons used by aboriginal Australians and can even sit in some repurposed bus seats for a virtual-reality-type experience of the Great Barrier Reef.
“They’re pretty elaborate,” Schollaert said of the exhibits. “Every exhibit has to have a hands-on component. The kids have to design something for our guests to do with their hands.” She said they spend as much as $2,000 on each exhibit and raise the money by selling items at their in-house gift shop.
Sixth grader Julien Viviant said his favorite aboriginal weapon is the boomerang, used for hunting.
Sixth grader Garrett Halsell said he wants to be an architect when he grows up. While working on a bird exhibit, he said they are in real need of more space and is excited by the prospect of creating bigger and more elaborate exhibits.
“It’s fun to be a group and spend time building,” he said.