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You may donate by phone, in person, by mail by printing our pledge card, or on-line.

Our Story

A volcanic eruption blasts 40 feet into the air, splattering the sidewalk with effervescing lava. The eruption—a science experiment involving carbon dioxide, surface tension, and pressure —is met with peals of laughter and exclamations of delight from the on-looking, wide-eyed children. “Awesome!…How does it work? Can we make it reach higher?”

The purpose of Hands On! Discovery Center is to get kids asking these types of questions. Now it is time for grown-ups to ask the same questions. How does it work, and can we reach even higher?

Hands On! Discovery Center has been open for since 1987 serving children and their families with interactive permanent exhibits and programming that inspires discovery and understanding of science and the arts.  70,000+ guests from our region and beyond visit Hands On! each year and we want to keep them coming back!

In five years we would like to serve the region with additional exhibit space and this is the first step on that path!  Your gift will help us reach our goals!

What We Need & What You Get

Many people may not realize that it costs more per visitor to operate than we charge for general admission and reduced or even free rates are available for those who qualify, leaving us with a shortfall for each and every visitor.   It is our goal that every child can visit with his or her family or school group, regardless of that family’s ability to pay.

Did you know that for our facility the utility costs (for gas, electric, and water) are $500 each week? Our staff works hard to keep costs as low as possible and to be good stewards of our donors’ money but many costs aren’t negotiable – insurance, employee costs, utilities, etc. – are all a part of our business.  The average cost to install a new exhibit is $300 per square foot!  Exhibits have to be highly specialized to be safe for our visitors and very durable to withstand the many hands that touch them each year.

Every dollar we raise helps supplement these operational costs and allows us to keep our admission prices low and offer reduced and free admissions.

Your support fulfills our mission: to inspire discovery and understanding of science and the arts in a place where learning and fun go hand in hand.  A child experiencing the joy of hands-on learning is the first step toward a love of life-long learning.  An investment in Hands On! is an investment in our community and the next generation.

The Impact

On a community level, attendance is expected to reach 75,000 this fiscal year.  Hands On! has become a destination for children both with their friends and families as well as school groups.  Each year, we sees families visiting from nearly all 50 states and school groups from a 40 county area in Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, and Kentucky.  This makes an economic impact on our community as well as increasing tourism dollars as visitors to Hands On! stop to eat, enjoy other amenities, buy gas, or spend the night.

Hands On! is not only a treasured part of this community, it is a part of what it means to grow up in this area. Hands On! holds a special place in the childhood memories of thousands of individuals across our region. After 30 years of operation, former visitors are visiting again with children of their own. While many of the exhibits are different, there are still a few old favorites and the joy and excitement of a Hands On! visit is still found every day.

Sustaining and growing the Discovery Center to serve new generations is the best tribute that can be made to the Hands On! legacy.  The families in this region deserve a Hands On! Discovery Center.  At Hands On!, we envision serving this community from a new facility within 5 years—a goal we can meet with your help. The first step is getting a solid foundation of operational support on which to build.

Other Ways You Can Help

If you are interested in other giving opportunities, please contact Heather Watson at heather@visithandson.org or (423) 434-HAND (4263) ext. 802.

Become a Donor

Current Donors

Contributing to Hands On! is a great way to support its mission to create a dynamic, educational, fun environment, which stimulates discovery, thought, and understanding through hands-on exhibits, programs and events. An investment in Hands On! Discovery Center has a powerful and positive impact upon the people and businesses in our region. Make a donation or pledge today! Donations don’t have to be money. You can also donate in-kind. Please see our Wish List for ideas.

All contribution levels work together as building blocks… Building Hands On! Discovery Center… And most importantly, building the future of our children!

Thank You!

Hands on Museum - colorfully drawing of a pencil, magnifying glass, ruler, and protractor