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How a Children's Museum is Changing One North Carolina Community

I hope that all of my American readers had a great Thanksgiving! If you're traveling today, be safe. (And to everyone else, I hope your Thursday was at least passable. Safe travels to you, too, if you're going somewhere!)

We're almost to the end of my Lake Lure/ Rutherford County posts which makes me a little sad. It really was an unforgettable trip, and I'd highly recommend that corner of the world as a place to visit. 

One of our stops while traipsing around western North Carolina was Rutherfordton (home to both the Bechtler House Museum and the worth-every-calorie cheese fries at Gregory's Original).

As the parent to a very active toddler, I'm always happy when I come across museums or attractions that my daughter can enjoy, too. To my surprise, Rutherfordton not only had a children's museum, but it had a children's museum that rivaled ones I've seen in cities that are ten times Rutherforton's size.

Kid Senses Museum, Rutherfordton, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

While Britton gleefully exhausted herself in the museum's twelve themed rooms, I talked with the Kid Senses museum director, Williard Whitson about the space, the museum's future, and the town that made this place possible.

Mr. Whitson began his director's position with the Kid Senses museum early in 2014 after he moved from the Washington, D.C., area with his wife. Like me, he was amazed to find such an incredible resource for children tucked away in the western North Carolina mountains. "The textile industry is gone," he told me. "We're trying to do something to fill that gap."

After many of the textile companies left the inland portions of North and South Carolina as the jobs moved overseas, the workers were left without any reliable income. Not surprisingly, the children of those households were greatly affected, and a huge portion of the families in Rutherfordton and the surrounding areas are barely making ends meet. Providing STEM skills in a fun environment to those families is what Mr. Whitson sees as one of Kid Senses' primary goals.

"We are a part of the community," he said. "We want the children to come in and see the places they visit with their families." To this end, Kid Senses has partnered with local businesses--including the Family Dollar, a Mexican restaurant, and a veterinarian--and has replicated these locations on a smaller scale.


In one of the most unique areas that I've come across, my daughter could choose one of the stuffed animals (she went with a dog because she's obsessed), x-ray the animal, give it oxygen on the operating table, and use a microscope to examine its fur.

Kid Senses Museum, Rutherfordton, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

Rutherfordton may only have 4,500 residents, but the resources that the children's museum provides far exceeds what you'd think a town this size could provide. In other words, the Kid Senses museum is the little museum that could--but it still has plenty of work left to do. "We serve over 65,000 patrons a year," Mr. Whitson shared. "One of our focuses is getting families in, so that they can play together. We want the children to see their parents having fun while learning."


That parental influence goes a long way, Mr. Whitson believes, so the museum has worked on offering more opportunities to families of all socioeconomic backgrounds. "We go out into the communities and do presentations," he said. "We're also offering a free admissions day once a month." Through that free day, the museum hopes to attract families that wouldn't otherwise be able to afford the $5 per visitor (both adult and child) fee.

It's these families that Mr. Whitson hopes to affect through the museum; since there's such a large group of underpriviledged children in the area, getting them involved in learning and education will change the fabric of this community as that generation grows.

On a basic level, Kid Senses was a great place to take my child for a fun afternoon. On a deeper lever, I was pleased to hear that the museum has done so much during its ten year existence--and continues to try and improve the lives of the people who make up this community.

Kid Senses Museum, Rutherfordton, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

Kid Senses is an easy drive from Henderson (NC), Asheville (NC), and Greenville/ Spartanburg (SC). It's open every Tuesday through Saturday.