LUMBERTON — Three-year-old Noah Heath filled his grocery cart to the brim with fruits and vegetables Tuesday.
Tyriek Davis, who is also 3, worked the cash register, carefully scanning his items, grabbing a fake $50 bill, and putting it in the cash register.
The two were enjoying the completely refurbished grocery store exhibit at the Exploration Station, one of two remodeled areas in the museum.
“It’s our 10th year anniversary and after 10 years of kids playing daily, all of the exhibits are in much need of repair,” said Brooke Hardee, the interim director of Exploration Station.
The grocery store exhibit was remodeled by Bo’s Foods Stores and the hospital exhibit was re-done by Southeastern Regional Medical Center, projects that took about a month to complete.
“The hospital was one of the sponsors that initially invested when this building was first turned into the Exploration Station and so we’ve had a display here for the entire 10 years,” said Ann McLean, the marketing director for SRMC. “It’s just evolved and grown and it needed freshening up. … We tried to make it as realistic on a child level as possible.”
In the hospital, rows of babies lay in beds, while a wall of light shows off authentic X-rays of hands, feet and legs. A child’s phlebotomy chair and miniature wheelchair are overlooked by a mural of SRMC.
Plastic shots and stethoscopes, along with doctor’s kits fill the shelves. Four-year-old Ashley Russell hobbled around on crutches Tuesday as 3-year-old Morgan Wilkinson got her ears checked out.
McLean said many of the items in the hospital were donated by Med Line.
Bo’s Foods Store’s shelves are stocked full of empty boxes and containers, as well as plastic fruit and vegetables. A scale hangs that enable children to weigh their produce and mini carts are lined up in a cart corral, complete with a sign that says “Please return carts here.”
“There’s not one corner in those two exhibits that was left untouched,” Hardee said. “They are brand new, just like the day we opened.”
The children playing Tuesday quickly filled their carts, and still product remained on the shelves.
“We think it’s important because we have grandchildren and we think it’s important to have a place for children to come and see how it flows in a grocery store,” said Jean Abbot, an owner of Bo’s. “You know, … you come in, get a cart, you weigh your vegetables. It helps them a little bit with numbers and that kind of thing. It’s important for them to have all aspects of life. They come here and they see a grocery store, a school, a bank, a hospital.”
Melanie Buck, who works at the grocery store’s corporate office, did the brunt of the remodeling work.
Hardee said two more of the museum’s 12 exhibits are going to be remodeled soon.
“Each exhibit is hands-on learning, so when you’re in the grocery store you’re learning not only how to grocery shop, but there’s things like the scales so they can learn how to weigh their fruit, there’s the food pyramid on the wall so they can learn the healthy food groups,” Hardee said. “In the hospital, there’s the X-rays so they can actually learn what doctors and nurses do in the hospital day-to-day.”
The Exploration Station, which had 19,000 visitors last year, will be holding its Easter Extravaganza in April and its Prissy Polka Dilly Tea Party in May.
“They’re having fun and they’re learning and they don’t even realize they are learning because they are having so much fun,” Hardee said. “… Those are truly our two favorite exhibits. They love the baby dolls and they will take their grocery carts all over the station.”
McLean said the hospital’s exhibit could help shape its future.
“We’re very, very excited and who knows, maybe some children that go through and see the exhibit will become future nurses or physicians and practice at our hospital,” McLean said.