PHOTO: Spring Hill High School teacher Gwynne Evans (third from the left) stands behind the newly constructed museum model with Spring Hill High students. / Photo by Alexander Willis
By ALEXANDER WILLIS
Gwynne Evans and his team of student engineers, woodsmiths and planners publicly debuted the Maury County Museum and Educational Facility on Thursday.
The museum will be designed, run and managed entirely by Spring Hill High School students.
In the dining room of the historic Rippavilla Plantation, Evans and some of his students gave a presentation to a select few Spring Hill residents, hoping to spread the word and garner support from the community.
“As a teacher, it’s hard to find something to interest kids these days… it’s almost impossible,” Evans said during the presentation. “Maury County needs a history museum. We don’t have an all-inclusive museum. We want this to cover places that no longer exist, because each and every day, we’re losing our history.”
The project is planned to include a main museum complex filled with numerous historical items, a STEAAM facility, and a boardwalk that would house shops and stores – all tied together in a 19th century western aesthetic. The estimated cost of these three components is $650,000, $300,000 and $280,000, respectively. The completion date for the main complex is set for 2019.
STEAAM stands for science, technology, art, agriculture and math. The planned STEAAM facility would house educational classes in these subjects. During the presentation, Evans shared that the Tennessee College of Applied Technology had already partnered with the museum, and will aid in the educational component of the project.
During the presentation, Gwynne unveiled a newly-built scale-model of the museum’s main complex, constructed and designed entirely by Sky Wilson, a senior at Spring Hill High. The model included multiple floors, and was conceptualized with Revit: a piece of modeling software used by architects, engineers and designers. Wilson said she was first exposed to the program in her engineering class at Spring Hill High.
The inspiration for the project came to Evans when he visited Scott County, which is just outside of Knoxville. Upon visiting, Evans went to the Museum of Scott County. The museum was 100 percent funded, designed and built by high school students – the first of its kind in the United States.
The feat that is Museum of Scott County was constructed in spite of Scott County being ranked the fourth poorest county in the state. If Scott County could reach such heights, Evans said, so could Maury County.
While having a history museum dedicated to Maury County would be considered a win in and of itself, the project has other benefits. As one student explained, such a project can often give purpose to students who may be struggling.
“In Scott County, the teacher actually took the kids that were fixing to drop out of school and fail,” said Madelyn Kocak, a senior at Spring Hill High working on the project. “He took them, and said ‘this is a hands-on project, try this,’ and they graduated just because they did this project.”
When first hearing about the project, many students thought the idea was crazy. After a few months of work, however, the students have not only seen that the project is feasible, but they are already anticipating its impact decades into the future.
“I know that we’re not going to see it in our time in high school, [but] down the road, I want to come back home and be like, ‘I was a part of this, I helped this,’ and I think that will be really cool to see down the road,” Kocak said. “My children can come back and see what I had a part in.”
Peter Maher, a senior at Spring Hill High, said he too thought the idea was far-fetched when he first heard it.
“I thought it was out of reach, to even think about high school students building a 7,000 square foot structure,” Maher said. “But now that I’ve been a part of that, I think it’s really possible.”
The teacher and student group behind the project officially received nonprofit status back in October, and soon after received their first monetary donation in the amount of $1,000 from Spring Hill resident Catherine Whitwell.
As the project is intended to be funded entirely through donations and grants, Evans, along with Spring Hill High students, are currently seeking any and all assistance available. Monetary donations, historical item donations, and volunteering are all being sought by the team. Those who would like to help can call Evans at (931) 698-5804.