Home Local News DPK, an asset to kids and community, reopens in Rockingham after renovations

DPK, an asset to kids and community, reopens in Rockingham after renovations

Rockingham Mayor John Hutchinson and WCCB reporter Adam Wurtzel compete on the pulley seats at Discovery Place Kids on April 12. See more photos below. Photos by William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM — Discovery Place Kids is “replacing the sounds of saws and hammers with the sounds of kids again,” as it reopens its doors this weekend after nearly three and a half months of renovations.

The science museum opens to the public on Saturday with several new exhibits in addition to some that have been in place since it opened in 2013.

Catherine Horne, president and CEO of Discovery Place, said the museum was originally geared toward children under 7 years old.

“Now we see middle school students and even a few high school students…it’s such an important community asset for all of us to enjoy,” Horne said.

Plans for the renovations — with financial help from the Cole Foundation, Community Foundation of Richmond County and the Richmond County Tourism Development Authority — were first announced in September 2022.

Click here to read that story.

Discovery Place Kids-Rockingham is one of two satellite museums of Discovery Place in Charlotte. The other DPK is in Huntersville, which opened in 2010.

“Discovery Place loves this museum in Rockingham,” Horne said. “It is such an integral part of the downtown redevelopment of the city and an important educational tool for the schools across the Sandhills region.

“We couldn’t be more proud of what our opportunities are here to expand our audience in terms of age and to be a meaningful part of every child’s life in Richmond County,” Horne continued.

The new exhibits include several research stations:

  • a nature station, with interactive displays of insects and a nature reserve with binoculars to take a closer look at a wall mural
  • an astronomy station with a satellite and telescope and weather exhibit
  • an underground station featuring a root system and display of burrowing animals

Museum Director Angela Watkins said she is looking forward to reopening after being closed for several months.


“Being from Richmond County and being a former educator, to be a part of this is amazing,” Watkins said. “That we have this opportunity in our county for our kids to be here and feel this and see this is just amazing.”

A sneak preview was held Thursday evening for donors and there was a ribbon-cutting Friday morning that aired live on WCCB-TV in Charlotte.

Reporter Adam Wurtzel went live several times, showing off various exhibits in the museum. He also challenged Rockingham Mayor John Hutchison to a race on the pulley contraption.

Hutchinson said DPK serves as an economic driver for the downtown area.

“The museum brings tens of thousands of people to Rockingham each year to learn and to explore,” Hutchinson said. “That’s good for the surrounding businesses as well, so it’s been a really important part of rebuilding downtown Rockingham.

The more important benefit, Hutchinson added, is what it brings to the children.

“We’ve got a whole group of …young adults graduating Richmond Senior High now who grew up with this museum and we’re going to begin to see the impact that it has on their lives in just the things that they’ve come here to learn and explore and be a part of.”

Starting next week, there will be a school group visiting every day the museum is open for the next three weeks, according to Watkins.

DPK opened at 9 a.m. for members only and one of the first in the door was former educator Kelly Shelley with her family.

Shelley echoed Hutchinson’s sentiments on the educational impact.

“For those children that don’t get to go and travel, it gives them the chance right here in Richmond County to be able to experience …in a rural community what people in cities get to do,” Shelley said. “And I think that’s important for our kids.”

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Managing Editor William R. Toler is an award-winning writer and photographer with experience in print, television and online media.