The final countdown is on for the blast off of Discovery Place KIDS–Rockingham, the new children’s museum that will offer a whole new world of creative play and educational opportunities. The museum officially opens to the public at 9 a.m. Feb. 23, at 233 E. Washington St., in downtown Rockingham.
Discovery Place KIDS–Rockingham grand opening ceremonies will begin promptly at 9 a.m. and the museum will remain open until 5 p.m. Operating hours on Feb. 24 will be noon to 5 p.m. To celebrate, admission on both days will be half-price; $4 for adults and children age 1 and older (younger than age 1 are free). Admission proceeds from the weekend will be designated to a fund that will provide future access to the museum to those without the financial means to support a visit. The fund is not available for use during opening weekend.
“Discovery Place KIDS’ home in this community would not have been possible without the generosity, hospitality and diligence of the people that live and work here,” said John Mackay, president and CEO, Discovery Place, Inc. “But the most important part of this story — the young visitors who will soon walk through our doors — fed our inspiration for the project and are the pioneers who get to discover, create and learn. We can’t wait to welcome them.”
Exploring the theme of I CAN, Discovery Place KIDS–Rockingham offers developmentally-appropriate activities for children ages birth – 10 with activities intended to develop cognitive, motor, language, social and critical thinking skills. As a community-based organization, the museum features connections to the culture and heritage of the Sandhills including an emphasis on farming and agriculture. Exhibits encourage experimentation, role-playing, innovation and physical activity, and live programming includes story time, puppet shows and lab experiments. Educational classes, summer camps and birthday parties are also available.
“Play is a way for children to discover more about themselves like how to cooperate, solve problems and make their own decisions,” said Katie Rohleder, director, Discovery Place KIDS–Rockingham. “Play is extremely important work and it helps enable our little ones to develop skills to be successful later in life.”
Discovery Place KIDS explores the concept of I CAN, encouraging children to gain confidence, build muscles, expand their worldview and begin lifelong learning. The museum has five theme areas which include:
• I CAN Grow: Specially-designed for the museum’s youngest visitors; children from birth through 36 months can toddle, touch, take risks and explore a sensory world.
• I CAN Be Anything: Role play in careers that children see daily such as firefighter, veterinarian, cook, actor, mechanic or farmer.
• I CAN Wonder Why: Explore, experiment, discover and uncover while building an understanding of the relevance of science to everyday life.
• I CAN Imagine: Using water, air, blocks and “garbage,” young minds are stretched to innovate, communicate, generate and celebrate.
• I CAN Be Healthy: Celebrate a healthy, active lifestyle and get moving in an unstructured play environment that showcases the outdoors.
Five years in the making, the Discovery Place KIDS–Rockingham project was launched by a leadership gift of $6.6 million from the Cole Foundation and the Richmond Community Foundation, a visionary contribution that was facilitated by Foundation For The Carolinas. Their funds are intended for the long-term sustainability of the museum.
The City of Rockingham is the facility partner, and purchased the former McKenzie Furniture building in downtown Rockingham to be renovated as the permanent home of Discovery Place KIDS–Rockingham. As the museum partner, Discovery Place, Inc. developed the exhibitions and educational components and will manage day-to-day operations. A campaign cabinet led by honorary chairmen Russell Bennett and Neal Cadieu guided the community funding effort on behalf of Discovery Place KIDS–Rockingham, raising awareness of the project and garnering widespread support from corporations, foundations, professionals and individuals throughout the Sandhills. Discovery Place also received a $2 million challenge grant in early 2012 from The Leon Levine Foundation.
“We are very excited that our community was such a great fit for Discovery Place, Inc.’s expansion outside the Charlotte market,” said Steve Morris, mayor of Rockingham. “We know this new museum will change the face of Rockingham with a reach far beyond the Sandhills region and we anticipate a long, successful partnership.”
“Discovery Place KIDS–Rockingham has been a community project and would not have been possible without extraordinary widespread support from foundations, organizations, individuals and corporations in Rockingham, Richmond County and the entire Sandhills region,” said Gene McLaurin, N.C. senator and former mayor of Rockingham. “Discovery Place, Inc. has more than 60 years’ experience developing and operating museums large and small, and their expansion into this region provides a new learning adventure for our young people.”
Discovery Place KIDS–Rockingham’s regular operating hours will be Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday noon to 5 p.m., and closed Monday. Admission to Discovery Place KIDS is $8, younger than age 1 are free. All children must be accompanied by an adult throughout their visit. Discounts are available for groups of 15 or more.
For more information about the museum, call 910-997-5266, ext. 300, visit rockingham.discoveryplacekids.org or email email@example.com.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.