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New discoveries await: Port Discover to reopen Feb. 2

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Duffy Danish, the new director of Port Discover, Elizabeth City's downtown hands-on children's science learning center, demonstrates a new game called Bernoulli Basketball, inside the center, Tuesday.

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Families in the Elizabeth City area who want their children to learn and love science should take note: Port Discover reopens next weekend.

“For the Love of Port Discover,” a grand-opening event offering a day of educational activities, will be held at Port Discover on 611 E. Main Street, Friday, Feb. 2, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Port Discover is a hands-on science center for children, and parents and educators alike praise it for helping kids understand and enjoy science in myriad forms, a few examples of which include teaching principles of flight, introducing robotics, and exhibiting small animals. 

Despite community support, Port Discover closed abruptly in August due to a lack of funding.

Concerned about the loss of a community asset, Annya Soucy and a few other members of Port Discover’s Board of Directors agreed to try to reopen the center. A new director, Duffy Danish, was hired in October and work began on revamping Port Discover’s first floor.

In an interview Tuesday, Danish showed that work continues ahead of next weekend’s grand reopening. The work includes repairing and cleaning up old exhibits, such as the water table, and setting up new ones, such as a “Farm to Table” nutrition exhibit. Port Discover has items and equipment to support many different activities and exhibits, but Danish explained she’s tried to refocus its offerings around local resources, environments and industries.

For the grand opening, Danish said she’s planning a Valentine’s Day theme to the decorations and some activities. Every hour, kids can check out an experiment, titled “The Science of Dancing Candy Hearts.” The details are a surprise, she added.

Kids will also be able to check out Port Discover’s 3D printer, which will be printing little trinkets for them, thanks to a grant from Walmart, she said.

Danish also showcased one activity Tuesday that’s already up and running. It’s a sort of basketball game that employs the Bernoulli Principle, which details the relationship between speed and pressure within liquids and gases and helps explain lift. At the Bernoulli basketball table, Danish showed how hair-dryers can levitate ping-ping balls, and then dunked them through small hoops.

In keeping with the grand opening’s theme, and showcasing Port Discover’s commitment to promoting the arts, kids will also be invited to make Port Discover-themed drawings, which will help create window art for the month, Danish said.

Children will also be able to meet Danish’s new, quadrupedal assistants: Orville and Wilbur, two guinea pigs adopted from the local Society for Prevention for Cruelty to Animals. A returning animal is Lily the corn snake, who, from her cage, has watched the guinea pigs with possibly less-than-innocent eyes.

The grand reopening also seeks to rebuild Port Discover’s membership: Danish said the hope is get at least 100 families to visit. Port Discover’s top membership ever was around 200, she noted. If parents would like to see the new space and meet Danish before the grand opening, Port Discover will be open during the First Friday ArtWalk on Feb. 1, she noted.

Admission to the grand opening will cost $5 for the first child a family brings, plus $2 for each additional child younger than one, according to Port Discover’s website. 

In charging admission, Port Discover is trying to generate stable revenues so it can stay open. However, both Danish and Soucy said in interviews Tuesday that they want families of all incomes to be able to use the center, and so it will offer some free passes for families of limited means. The passes will be available before the opening at the Pasquotank County Library, according to Port Discover officials.

To assist its funding efforts, Port Discover has already been able to raise several thousand dollars from local businesses. Danish said businesses that have given Port Discover funds include Walmart, Piedmont Natural Gas, TowneBank, and Biggs Cadillac.

Following the opening, Danish said Port Discover’s regular hours will be Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Expanded or different hours are possible, however, if Port Discover gets back on its feet and learns what hours work best for families.

Danish also invited local schools to reach out to Port Discover about making it a destination for field trips or activities. For more information about Port Discover, call the office at 338-6117.

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