Discovery Place KIDS-Rockingham is preparing for exhibit installation now that carpet and paint have been added to the interior of what used to be the old McKenzie Furniture building on East Washington Street that now looks more like a children’s museum.
Blue and yellow paint and dark blue carpet invites visitors in through the glass doors and Director Katie Rohleder explained how the front entrance will welcome guests at an admissions desk along the wall.
“Over here there will be a beautiful bench,” said Rohleder as she motioned toward the glass front of the building from inside the lobby. “We’ll have artwork and on this wall we’ll have CanCan who will tell the story of Discovery Place KIDS-Rockingham.”
CanCan is the mascot of Discovery Place KIDS, and Rohleder said a mural on the wall will depict CanCan, and will detail the opportunities Discovery Place, Inc. saw in Rockingham and how the visionary gift from the Levine Foundation made the museum possible.
The first exhibit visitors will see is the tennis ball launcher, geared toward the theme, “I CAN wonder why.” The two-story exhibit will be visible at night through the glass front.
“Kids can go to whichever exhibit in the order they want; it’s not linear,” said Rohleder.
As Rohleder guided media guests through the building on an exclusive tour, she explained that each area of the museum will have specific exhibits geared toward the themes, “I CAN Grow,” “I CAN Be Anything,” “I CAN Wonder Why,” “I CAN Imagine,” and “I CAN Be Healthy.”
Rohleder talked about the exhibits, how the children will be able to play with them and how they will benefit. One exhibit is a “gizmatron,” and “kids will have to work together” to make the exhibit function. Another area is geared towards demonstrating different professions. One exhibit is set up for farming experience, and a market-type exhibit introduces the concept of farm-to-table cooperatives. These fall under the theme “I CAN Be Healthy.”
The 1940s firetruck recently rolled into the building before the new glass front was added will be upfitted with a GPS, and kids can play inside the firetruck and practice fire training, said Discovery Place, Inc. staff.
According to officials, the area behind the truck will feature a mural of The Rock’s grandstand, and will be set up as a speed shop, in which children can practice being part of a pit crew and can build a race track. Rockingham’s racing heritage and Rockingham Speedway are highlighted in this experience, which is an example of how Discovery Place Inc. staff have aimed to gear the museum toward Richmond County heritage, officials said.
Other exhibits include a filming studio, a pulley challenge, a science experiment area and an area for babies and toddlers to play. Like in the two other Discovery Place museums, this one will include a water table, where small children can play with water and toys.
Rockingham Mayor Gene McLaurin was present for the media tour. He said he is excited for the museum to open and wants to bring his grandchildren to play. He spoke fondly of the former building owner, the late Jim McKenzie, and wished he could be present to see the transformation the building has undergone since construction kicked off in March. McLaurin also said he is grateful for Leon Levine and the Levine Foundation, as well as the residents of the area.
“We are sure grateful for the Levine Foundation,” said McLaurin. “They really helped us out with the $2 million challenge grant. I had a chance to meet Leon Levine recently. I had heard about him for years.”
McLaurin remarked that the Levine family’s first store was an example of free enterprise, and that Levine is an example of someone from a small town who is doing well.
“These are lessons in being fair with people and being respectful,” said McLaurin. “What he learned here, he learned at an early age. He is a humble man with great memories of growing up in Rockingham. The citizens are also responsible for this. The citizens have supported this and bought the building. The whole region contributed and part of it belongs to everyone. This is an example of the City Council being good stewards of the taxpayer dollars. This will serve generations to come throughout the region. I hope people will come from everywhere and see what a great community we have.”
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.