A focus on STEAM initiatives results in fun new creative and educational activities for kids.
All it takes is a kernel of an idea. From there, a Possibilitarian can turn frustration to hope, stagnation to vitality, “Why bother?” to “How can I help?”
That’s what you’ll see in these stories: West Virginians whose love for their communities turns out to be fertile ground where ideas sprout, thrive, and fertilize the imaginations of those around them. Sometimes to their own surprise, their purposeful action is catalyzing lasting change.
Tres Ross, executive director of the Ross Foundation, is excited to work with his family to continue the legacy of generosity that his late father, Sam Ross, established for them long ago. The foundation is one of the driving forces behind the creation of a children’s museum in Parkersburg, and that’s just the latest in a long line of community projects that it has helped fund in an effort to give back to the community. To the Ross family, it’s simply second nature— something they were always taught to do by their patriarch, who was a successful businessman.
“My dad’s businesses had a policy where a portion of the operating income every year went to charity,” Ross says. “That was a belief in the business. And so now, we carry that on.”
The foundation was formed in 2006 by his father and kicked off with money the family invested. They started by focusing on smaller projects in the realms of education, the arts, disabilities, and animals. In 2015, Ross says, they took a step back to reevaluate what kinds of projects interested them and what size of projects they were able to take on. “We decided to do larger-scale initiatives, still really focusing on community development, education—pre-K through 12—and workforce development.”
This is when projects related to STEAM—science, technology, engineering, arts, and math—became a larger priority for the foundation. They started investing in “makerspaces” in the area, financing 3D printers, laser cutters, and more that could be used in community classes. Eventually, they wanted to think bigger. That’s when the idea for the children’s museum, Discovery World on Market, came along.
“We looked into different possible projects. There was no money goal attached to it—it was about what will make the biggest impact,” Ross says. “We threw some ideas around, and I said ‘Why don’t we expand on STEAM? What do you think about a children’s museum?’ So I spent six months reviewing it, looking at whether it would be a sustainable entity after we create it.”
The plans moved fast. Discovery World opened in April 2023 and is located in a former Masonic temple in Parkersburg. “We’re all very happy,” Ross says, noting that renovations are ongoing, but wrapping up soon. “The exhibits are our big project we’re working on right now.”
According to Discovery World’s website, these exhibits will be largely educational and interactive. They include a makerspace where kids can build and craft things together, a discovery zone that will be available to rent out for parties and other events, a design studio where different tools and puzzles will be available to tinker with, a ball factory where children can climb walls and explore other obstacles, a river adventure where visitors can learn about a river’s ecosystem, and a cafe where they can grab a snack to stay fueled during a long day of learning. And it likely won’t stop there. “There are even more opportunities beyond what it is right now,” Ross says.
Discovery World on Market is a worthy addition to the Ross Foundation’s long line of work for the community around the family. “The idea of giving back was instilled from back in the days of my father’s businesses,” Ross says. “And now, moving on, the foundation will continue to bring that on.”