ROCKINGHAM — Discovery Place KIDS in Rockingham sets its eyes on the future as it closes out its first year in town.
The highly anticipated children’s museum finally arrived in Rockingham after five years of planning and fundraising to a crowd of 2,241 people in its first weekend on Feb. 23 and has since been serving thousands of patrons. Discovery Place KIDS is a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization.
From its opening to the end of the year, the museum in Rockingham had a targeted a goal of hosting 40,000 to 45,000 attendees, said Kaitlin Rogers, manager of public relations and marketing for Discover Place KIDS, in an email to The Richmond County Daily Journal. The museum has accommodated some 41,000 customers this year.
“We are very pleased with the number of kids we have served in that time,” Rogers said.
The museum has sold around 5,400 student tickets and over 1,000 family memberships. Single admission tickets were and will continue to be $8.
“We hope to continue to grow those numbers and continue to serve more students and families in the coming year,” Rogers said.
The year has turned out to be a productive one for the museum, but Discovery in Rockingham is still looking to future programs it intends to offer its customers. One such program that will be getting revamped is the Summer Camp program.
Discovery in Rockingham offered a week-long camp during the summer months of June, July and August. There were programs for ages 3 to 6 as well as ages 7 to 10.
“It was our very first summer since our opening,” said Katie Rohleder, facility director. “While it was a successful summer, we still want to get the word out for the summer coming up.”
The museum received some feedback from this year’s summer camp and are changing it up accordingly.
“(We) are going to bring back last year’s favorite topics to be even bigger and better,” Rogers said.
The museum will be bringing back topics such as junior science, Lego camp and the very popular Storybook Cooks series. The week-long camps will be brought back as well as the brand new ability to select from one-day camps from the storybook series.
“The ability to choose and be a part of the one-day camps is very beneficial for those that come from out of town and may not be able to drive down everyday of the week,” Rohleder said.
The storybook series, which happens each Tuesday in July, allows the kids to take different foods and recipes from books and make them right in the museum.
“There is a lot of science behind v food,” Rohleder said. “So it is a learning process for them while they are having whole lot of fun.”
Another thing that Rohleder would like to see improve and increase is the adult volunteer program.
“The apprentice volunteer program this summer was very successful,” Rohleder said. “It’s for ages 12 to 17 and these kids assist us in everything v do, but it would be great to see an increase in the adult volunteers.”
Lauren VunCannon, program specialist at Discovery in Rockingham, believes that adults really offer a lot to the museum.
“For example, we have a dental hygienist here that helps out in teaching the kids the importance of keeping your teeth clean,” VunCannon said.
One of the more focused parts for the new changes in the museum will be attempting to grow birthday parties for local families as well as a birthday celebration for the museum.
The museum hosted around 100 parties in 2013 and had six popular themes available to families. Discovery would like to see these numbers increase. So to show how much fun a birthday party at the museum can be, Discovery will be hosting its own, Rogers said.
On the weekend of Feb. 22 and 23 Discovery in Rockingham will be celebrating its one-year anniversary since its opening weekend.
“We’ll be celebrating our own birthday,” Rohleder said. “We’ll have cake and balloon animals. Admission tickets will be half price that weekend as well just like they were the first weekend we opened. It will be a lot of fun.”
To continue on with the birthday fun, the museum will be throwing a larger birthday party on March 29 in downtown Rockingham.
“That day we’ll be rolling out our first 5K run, The Big Fun Run, and we will also have events throughout the day at the museum so everyone can help us celebrate,” Rogers said.
Rohleder and VunCannon could only smile at the idea of the new things that are coming in the future. Both of them have a background of teaching children, but their work at the museum is totally different from that of a teacher in the classroom.
“We get to do all the fun stuff with the kids,” VunCannon said. “Stuff that you couldn’t do in a regular classroom.”
Rohleder agreed with VunCannon. The museum offers her a new adventure every time she walks through the door.
“Every day at Discovery Place KIDS is so much fun, but I personally really love the days when we have field trips and group classes,” Rohleder said. “Seeing kids so attentively engaged in our classes with hands-on, informal learning, is very exciting. Our programs are not only designed to build foundational skill sets, but we hope to introduce new concepts in a fun and innovative way that captures the excitement of our guests’ young minds. I really love seeing that creative spark in their eyes.”