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Get Schooled

Estimated Read Time:
3 minutes

Look beyond the textbook and the laptop; there's a world of learning right here in Durham.

Posted By Ashley Strahm

Some destinations say their attractions are enthralling enough to make the earth shift beneath your feet. Ours actually are.

A changing social atmosphere means that we're having thoughtful conversations around safety, while thinking intentionally about how to educate students who have been attempting to claim a new normal in the midst of so much uncertainty. What's been interesting about this time is how creative we've all had to be, finding new, socially distant ways to discover new things and enhance what has become an increasingly digital reality.

Here, we invite you to step out and into Durham's immersive learning landscapes.

Earth Moves. Really.

Earth Moves is a tactile, audio-visual stimulatory exhibit at the renowned Museum of Life + Science, and it's leading the way in family-friendly experiences for every body.

Nestled along an outdoor path past red wolves, farm animals, and sculptural installations lies the newest addition to the museum, years in the making. Engineers studied child development with local experts and took feedback from museum attendees of all ages and sizes before and during construction. "It's the perfect overlap between the arts and sciences, and is a tribute to intentionality," said Roy Griffiths, Earth Moves engineer. "Call it proof of concept. We couldn't do our work well without community."

Earth Moves

Photo taken pre-COVID. Museum of Life + Science has new guidelines enforcing social distancing and mask wearing.

Sensory-friendly events. Cool down kits. Wheelchair accessible waterfalls and caves. Organizers thought of everything a child would need as they navigate this geological wonderland. A water feature runs throughout the area, with paint brushes, buckets, and trays for sorting, sifting, and building rock-based works of art. It's an oasis of discovery for every body.

The Museum of Life + Science also hosts community days throughout the year to offer free admission to residents. Further accommodations can be made for visitors upon request, especially during COVID-19. Visit Earth Moves and the Museum of Life + Science.

Travel Through (Our) Time

With a history that begins as the home of two tribes of Native Americans and continues as a city praised for its work in technology, education and healthcare, it is of little surprise that Durham's past is filled with opportunities for education. But with three state historic sites within Durham county and tributes to civil rights figures and landmarks in numerous public spaces, were you aware that that information is right at your fingertips?

Historic Stagville was once one of the largest plantations in the South, and the piercing history of that land is articulated poignantly there. At Bennett Place, Durham would later host the negotiations that brought about the effective end to the Civil War, a historic site that can still be visited today (along with five Civil War Trail markers).

The war's end became the beginning of the South's industrial revolution, starting with the tobacco and textile industries, which can be explored at Duke Homestead and repurposed mills and warehouses. Each of these spaces are available for tours and have educational resources available to take home.


Photo taken pre-COVID. Historic Stagville has new guidelines enforcing social distancing and mask wearing.

Durham is also where the civil rights movement gained significant traction, and is where one of the nation's premier black universities made its home. Walk Black Wall Street. Explore the Hayti Heritage Center. Become acquainted with tributes to integration and progress at the Carolina Theatre, and murals throughout the community.

Pick up our African American Heritage Guide in our publications box when you visit the Visitor Info Center to find out where you can see, feel, and learn from the past.

Black Wall Street

Make More of Museums

Home to art, sports, history, and nature and science museums, there’s plenty of opportunities to spend an afternoon (or a few) in Durham exploring new subjects in educational and entertaining ways. The Museum of Durham History is a 21st century museum that uses stories about people, places, and things to foster curiosity, encourage further inquiry, and promote an understanding of diverse perspectives about the Durham community and its history.

Though temporarily closed, visit its Museum Without Walls page for information on how to investigate exhibits distributed throughout Durham on a variety of Durham topics. The Durham Museum of History has also been posting scavenger hunts on their blog that will guide you through some of the sources they use to help explore Durham’s history. In case you missed them, explore changes to Durham's landscape with Open Durham, browse historic yearbooks through DigitalNC, and enjoy a postcard collection and online Civil Rights exhibit from the North Carolina Collection. There is always the incredible Durham 360 AR virtual tour you can take at any time, anywhere.

Museum of Durham History

Established in 1891 by Edian Markham, a former slave, St. Joseph’s Historic Foundation (SJHF) is a non-profit organization that manages the Hayti Heritage Center. SJHF is dedicated to preserving Durham's African American heritage and the impact of the Hayti Heritage Center, a cultural and educational venue that houses a community room, two classrooms, a dance studio, the Lyda Moore Merrick Gallery, and the historic 400-seat performance hall. Beyond every corner lies an adventure. Discover the adventure of digging through the archives of Durham’s story.

Don't stop there! Take your own mural tour and make it an event by supplementing your art stops with good eats in and around downtown. Take time to comb through virtual learning opportunities at discoverdurham.com, too, especially to find out what innovative advancements we've taken part in and look forward to.

No matter what brings you to Durham, be it learning objectives or unfettered curiosity, there's much to uncover.

Join us.

About the Author

Ashley Strahm

Jersey roots, Durham fruits. Lover of all things edible, egalitarian and true. Find me clad in Birkenstocks, seeking Bull City Beautiful stories by trail, wheel and spoke.