Creative Discovery Museum will receive almost $148,000 as a recipient of the 2012 Institute of Museum and Library Services' Museums for America Grant.
The funds received will support the launch of the Youth Spark Initiative, which will serve individuals ages 11-16. Through Youth Spark, young teens will have an opportunity to contribute their ideas and voices to future program development.
During a focus group last year, the staff of CDM learned that the teens of Chattanooga are interested in making the CDM a place for them and their peers, not just for young children.
Some dedicated teen events are going to be launched, said Lynda LeVan, director of external affairs.
"Our teen volunteers already do a great job for us, and this grant will let us strengthen this program and reach out to many more teens throughout the community in exciting and innovative ways," Henry Schulson, the museum's executive director, said in a news release.
The initiative will include a focus on technology and educational standards and will launch several activities, such as the formation of a youth advisory board and a teen media collaborative.
"While we have some ideas, we really want to see what they come up with," said LeVan. "They're going to help us learn how we can get more teens involved in what they're doing."
The teen media collaborative will use technology and media for the museum. A goal, LeVan said, is to have young people create videos to show what's going on at the museum and possibly around Chattanooga.
It also will emphasize an expansion of the Museum Apprenticeship Program, which trains 11- to 17-year-olds to provide support in all areas of the Creative Discovery Museum.
Currently, about 70 children participate in the apprentice program. Participants help with the exhibits, assist small children at special events or in creative activities. Long-term volunteers can become involved in more complex projects, LeVan said.
"When the kids are involved and giving input, they're gaining life skills," she said.
She said the volunteers have gone on to strong academic and post-graduate careers. One graduate, Steven Smith, is in medical school at Mercer University. In his application essay, he mentioned wanting to become a pediatrician based upon his experience working with children at CDM.
"This program is unlike any other around," Raewyn Duvall, a 2012 Girls Preparatory School graduate, said in a news release. According to LeVan, Duvall will enter Tufts University this fall as a mechanical engineering major.
"Not only did I connect with my peers, but I developed life skills in the process," Duvall said.