We’ve been talking about all of the big things coming to High Point. How does 75,000 square feet sound? That’s the size of all the activity space at High Point’s newest attraction: The Nido & Mariana Qubein Children’s Museum! At 60,000 square feet indoors and 15,000 square feet of outdoor activities, the museum will be one of the largest children’s museums in North Carolina, drawing people from all over the state and beyond to discover High Point.
But this children’s museum isn’t just going to be large; it’s going to be life-changing for our city, for our families, and for the kids who grow up in High Point. Executive Director, Megan Ward and Director of Marketing and Communications, Olivia Pekkala, discussed the museum’s origin, the exhibits inside, and its future impact on High Point’s story.
“The vision began with Dr. and Mrs. Qubein,” Megan begins, noting the Qubeins’ deep involvement with High Point’s Catalyst Project. The Catalyst Project, which encompassed the construction of Truist Point and the genesis of the High Point Rockers, was developed to infuse the city with life and engagement year-round.
“Dr. Qubein was really instrumental in developing the Catalyst Project to expand the vision outside of baseball,” Megan adds. “So he and Mrs. Qubein came up with the idea of the children’s museum.”
Megan points out that children’s museums are known to revitalize and strengthen their surrounding area. From a strategic city planning perspective, 30% of all city economic development plans include a children’s museum.
“Children’s museums can change a neighborhood and the community around them,” she explains. “The presence of a children’s museum shows how a community feels about its children.”
And if that’s true, then the Nido & Mariana Qubein Children’s Museum will demonstrate the High Point community cares deeply about the education, development, and well-being of our children. From the museum’s inception, the board of directors took an extremely intentional approach to selecting exhibits and programs. To ensure that every piece of the museum is educational (and just plain fun!) the museum board partnered with High Point University, as well as Argyle, a museum exhibit design firm that has built exhibits all over the country.
The team conducted studies with HPU faculty and staff, Guilford County Schools and educators, parents, students, and kids to uncover their priorities when it came to the museum.
The answers varied from STEAM learning to water games, to easy parking, to an on-site café. But two questions served as the primary filter for Megan and the board when it came to crafting exhibits: “Is it fun?” and “What will the kids learn?”
That exercise resulted in exhibits like the Mars Academy, where children will learn about astronomy and aerospace; Water Works, where kids will test out spouts and hydraulics; the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) lab, the HPU Maker Lab with LEGO, and more.
And unlike many children’s museums where students age out after elementary school, the Nido & Mariana Qubein Children’s Museum is designed to serve children from infants to tweens. Exhibits like Ginormous! – which draws inspiration from the World’s Largest Chest of Drawers – are perfect for even the smallest kiddos to explore safely. Other exhibits like the Congdon Hall of Mysteries are appropriate for older kids, featuring escape room-like quests with clues, secret passageways, laser mazes, and more.
But one of the biggest values that the Nido & Mariana Qubein Children’s Museum will add to our community is the early cultivation of a love of learning in our children’s lives. While the museum is a separate non-profit from HPU with its own board of directors, HPU faculty are bringing university-level knowledge to the museum’s programming.
“The Stout School of Education at High Point University has raised the level of how these kids will learn,” Megan explains. The Dean of the Stout School, Dr. Amy Holcombe, has been instrumental in helping the museum staff create and design programming that will expose kids to STEAM education, which they may not otherwise encounter at their age. Another faculty member in the Stout School, Dr. Shirley Disseler, is bringing her LEGO Education Trainer expertise to the HPU Maker Lab and STEAM programs.
Not to mention, the museum already has HPU students interning and more students looking for ways to volunteer and give back through teaching opportunities.
“This museum will be a real, meaningful bridge between High Point University and the city of High Point,” Megan says. “Children will be able to interact with bright, young college students, and HPU students will be able to practice teaching, interacting, and connecting with children in the students’ temporary town.”
She notes how often college towns keep distance between their students and citizens; High Point has long since been the exception. The museum will give both HPU students and High Point residents more chances to interact and mutually invest in one another. Volunteer positions are also being created for High Point citizens, as well as work study opportunities for high school seniors and area community college students. Learning and community building will be infused into the museum’s DNA.
“It’s going to be a hub,” Megan describes. “It’s going to be like a living lab for education.”
Megan, who was a board member for the museum before she was hired as Executive Director, also points out how thankful she is that this space is so centrally located for High Point families.
“When I worked on the museum as a board member, I just felt joy thinking about it,” she says. “I’ve been a patron of children’s museums for a lot of years with my kids, and it’s going to be so nice for High Point parents not to have to take their kids all across the county.”
She jokes about how she would take her daughter to children’s museums in other cities and her daughter would fall asleep on the car ride home, undoing any progress Megan made towards nap time. Now, parents in High Point will have one of the most premier children’s museums in the state right in their backyard.
Olivia, a High Point native who has worked as a volunteer with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, shares her own passion for seeing High Point kids find a safe and fun place to explore their interests in High Point.
“My heart has always been with children,” Olivia says. “I have adoption and foster care throughout my family, and my heart has always been with helping those grow in our community to make it a better and brighter place.”
She notes as a child growing up in High Point, she didn’t have a space like this to experience. Now, Olivia says she is excited about the memories High Point children will have to look back on from their time at the museum.
Because ultimately, the entire museum was designed as a gift to the High Point community. Megan and Olivia aren’t the only ones who care deeply about serving High Point families and children. Dr. & Mrs. Qubein, parents and grandparents of their own High Point family, saw the opportunity to give generously and change the way people raise their families in our city.
As kids grow up in High Point – exploring Mars, digging for dinosaur bones, building their own robots, engineering their own inventions, and producing their own broadcasts – the museum will breed a generational love and appreciation for their hometown. And it will encourage them to raise their own families in the city that gave them so much.
“One of our goals was to create the happiest place in High Point,” Megan says. “The museum is really going to change the way kids grow up in High Point.”
Discover our High Points,
The HPD Team
To learn more about the museum and to follow along with its progress, make sure to follow them on Facebook and Instagram! To find out how you can visit or volunteer with the museum, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photography by Red Cardinal Studio
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