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FROM THE PAPER

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  • UPDATE

    New Discovery Room mixes education and fun

    By Sarah L. Smith
    Coastal Observer

    Filled with treasures and hands-on activities, the new Children’s Discovery Room at Brookgreen Gardens has been an immediate success.

    A recent weekend saw 74 people enjoy the room’s activities.

    Located in the Wall Lowcountry Center, the Discovery Room offers activities for children ages 4-12.

    Kids can learn about local history and nature at seven stations: “Dig in the Past” where they can dig for artifacts found at Hobcaw Barony and Caledonia; “Rubbing off Nature,” where they can take reliefs or make rubbings of alligator skin and turtle shells; plus book, magnifying glass and art stations.

    Younger children can play with animal puppets, color pictures of Gullah culture, build with tree-like building block, create artwork and dig for artifacts. And if they’re tall enough, they can even feel a beaver’s skull.

    Before the Discovery Room opened, Brookgreen offered programs to schools, but education specialist Linda Beckham didn’t think there were enough activities for daily visitors.

    “I just felt like we needed to do something for the children who come in the gate and pay the admission price,” Beckham said.

    The room adds another element to the “Brookgreen Detectives” book that takes children through the gardens. Now to get the answers, children must come and visit.

    Although geared toward children, adults are enjoying the Discovery Room too.

    Tiffany and Brandon Cotheran of Spartanburg liked the colorful mural with scenes from marshes on the walls, and checked out the activities as they tried to determine if they could bring their 3-year-old back.

    “I think he would just love being out in the open. He’d love the sand, most definitely,” Tiffany said.

    Marion Johnson, an 11-year Brookgreen volunteer, said the favorite activity so far has been digging in a huge sandbox for arrowheads, pottery shards and more. The children use small white stools to reach into the raised box.

    Once they see all the sand, children immediately get to work finding buried treasures.

    Other children just liked to dig.

    “I love digging,” said Sawyer Wolf, 3, of Detroit, as she used her hands and a paint brush to uncover a deer antler. “I like finding stuff.”

    She was more successful than her younger sister, Keaton, 2.

    Every time she found her treasure, Sawyer made sure she hid it again.

    “You have to let every kid find stuff,” she said.

    While children make their way through the stations, Johnson said parents generally stay with them.

    “I facilitate and make sure everything is left clean for the next person,” she said.

    Johnson said the Discovery Room has already been a big hit, and she thinks another volunteer will be needed when the busy summer months come.

    One night, “the last family I had was here from a quarter till four until I turned off the lights at 4:30 p.m.,” she said.

    Even on a cloudy day, Johnson said families and children come in.

    “They all seem to know exactly what they want to do,” she said.

    Patricia Gill of Murrells Inlet, a frequent Brookgreen visitor, is pleased to see the new space.

    “I think most kids nowadays don’t have an opportunity to see anything like this,” she said. “You might have a future archeologist come here.”

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