Just days away from coming through the open doors of Discovery Place KIDS-Rockingham, child care professionals and educators are getting excited for what awaits students and children alike in the new museum geared towards interactive play and learning that has been in the making for years.
Located at 233 E. Washington St. in Rockingham, the new museum — scheduled to hold its grand opening Saturday morning at 9 a.m. — is based around the theme “I CAN,” and has areas that have sub-themes such as “I CAN wonder why.”
Melanie Carnes, manager of Sandhills Children’s Center at 108 Crow Run in Rockingham, said she has already planned the day care’s first field trip to the museum.
“I’m very excited to get inside and I want to go to the grand opening if I’m in town this weekend,” said Carnes. “As a lifelong citizen of Rockingham I think this is a wonderful opportunity.”
Carnes said she thought it was “really neat” that the museum had exhibits modeled after things that are found in Richmond County, such as produce stands and the racetrack.
“In our classrooms we do an ice cream shop, like the Berry Patch, and we talk about farms in our classrooms,” said Carnes. “It sounds like Discovery Place KIDS is an extension of what we’re doing in our classrooms.”
Carnes said she felt as though the museum held something “for those of us who are young at heart,” and plans to volunteer to chaperon the first field trip children from her child care center take to the museum.
“We are encouraging parents to buy memberships because we really want to use this resource in our county,” said Carnes.
Museum Director Katie Rohleder has been busy putting finishing touches on the museum, making sure the exhibits are in order, screens are functioning and computers are running the way they should. As she rushes around among her new staff, she said she is “just thrilled to pieces.”
“I really think that when kids come here it will be so different from the experience they have in school,” said Rohleder. “They will have so much fun and they will learn at the same time. The upstairs part of the museum will be so much fun and kids can try out all types of role play and I hope it sparks an interest in a profession.”
Rohleder said she thinks that while children are playing and trying things out on their own, they may consider a career they may not have considered before.
“I hope it gives them motivation to keep learning,” said Rohleder. “Everyone that has been involved in this process hopes it will provide opportunities for kids here who would otherwise not have them. We can take it above and beyond what they are learning in the classrooms and the kids won’t even realize they are learning anything. I really can’t wait to see the ‘a-ha’ moments on their faces, that’s one thing I miss about not teaching anymore, seeing the looks on their faces when they figure things out on their own.”
Rohleder said there will be “volunteers there to help teachable moments along.”
“I really hope this makes learning cool,” said Rohleder. “The museum has the potential to inspire kids to think about what they could do, like different careers. It could open up a world of potential they didn’t know they had before. I love the way the whole museum is themed around ‘I CAN.’”
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.