“The Sandhills region, a narrow ribbon of rolling land stretching from North Carolina to Georgia, preserves some of the best remaining pockets of longleaf pine forests in the Southeast,” says the introductory panel in the Sandhills Discovery Room—the newest way for families to learn about Weymouth Woods-Sandhills Nature Preserve.
The new room still tells some of the same stories about longleaf pine forests as the museum from which it was created, but now in a brighter, more family-friendly, interactive atmosphere that encourages both playful exploration and quiet reflection.
New playful elements in the room include a collection of activity boxes with loose parts, puzzles, and games. There are dress-up activities for role-playing and a puppet theater for child-centered storytelling or events staged by park staff. For those who remember the museum, one element will be familiar: the room retained the forest diorama and the tunnel through which children can climb and find vignettes of underground life.
Adult visitors enjoy the more challenging puzzles on the magnet board and making art with magnetic poetry, Sandhills-style. Children and parents enjoy experimenting with natural objects from the park with the user-friendly microEYE microscope.
The most striking feature of the discovery room is the sprawling longleaf forest itself, presented by the new bank of windows that were added to connect the discovery room with the outdoors. Sitting in one of the new rocking chairs, visitors can reflect on the forest and maybe catch a glimpse of a red-cockaded woodpecker as they scan the woods.
To encourage observation, many of the areas’ natural treasures are highlighted on panels that combine art from a North Carolina watercolorist with park staff photos.
The walls of the discovery room encourage visitors to “wander the trails at Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve to discover … this landscape shaped by thousands of years of frequent lightning-sparked wildfires.” That’s good advice—but be sure to also stop by the new Sandhills Discovery Room during your trip.
Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve is a unique peek into the longleaf pine forests that once covered millions of acres in the southeastern U.S. The towering pines – some of them hundreds of years old – canopy expanses of wiregrass and rare and intriguing species, including the red-cockaded woodpecker, pine barrens tree frog, bog spicebush, fox squirrel and myriad wildflowers. A network of short, easy trails provides an outdoor classroom for ranger-led hikes that teach about this ecology or for quiet contemplation.