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Once the site of a peanut factory, the Rowan County–Salisbury School System and the Davie County School System have built a facility that is used for a supplementary education center called Horizons Unlimited. From the outside, one would never know that this building has nearly 20,000 square feet of exhibit and classroom space which includes a planetarium, a Native American museum, a rainforest with tropical birds, and much more. All exhibits and programs are aligned to the grade level curriculum of the North Carolina Standard Course of Study. The surrounding grounds include 32 acres of natural wetland preserve accessible from the Tom E. Smith Nature Exploratorium, and an original one-room log schoolhouse.

Lisa Wear, the director of Horizons Unlimited along with Anne Ellis, Theresa Pierce, and Patsy Wilson, have developed programs in which K-12 students participate in innovative learning experiences. These programs are designed to increase knowledge and understanding of local and national history as well as physical and biological sciences. The center has partnerships with Duke Energy, Catawba College, Ducks Unlimited, the National Water Council, and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission to develop the largest WILD Education Site in North Carolina that focuses on environmental science.

North Carolina Indian history and culture is explored in the American Indian room of Horizons Unlimited. Third graders, learning about Native Americans, will see an extensive collection of stone tools, weapons, furs, clothing, and other artifacts from the different periods of early history. They will learn how these articles were used in daily life. There is even a full size replica of a dugout canoe that spans the length of a wall.

The natural sciences area of the Center strives to make students aware of the fragility of plant and animal life on Earth. A rainforest–aviary exhibit has an enclosed area with tropical plants and birds. The plants represent the canopy, the understory, and the forest floor. Zebra finches, parakeets, and other tropical birds fly from branch to branch overhead. In this area, students will learn about endangered species and see exhibits featuring products made from these animals that have contributed to their diminished populations. Rounding out the natural sciences area are aquariums with fresh water fish, displays of fossils and shark teeth, exhibits of native North Carolina and North American animals, and even an 800 gallon touch tank with catfish, trout, and other freshwater species.

Fourth graders, learning about North Carolina history, will compare life in North Carolina today with the way of life that their great-great grandparents may have experienced. The staff conducts off-site tours of various local historic sites.

A short walk from the museum is the Setzer Schoolhouse that was built in 1842 in China Grove, North Carolina, and moved to our location for student visits. Students will experience what it was like learning in a schoolroom with students of all ages and they will compare how going to school in the 1800s was different from going to their own school today.

The Margaret C. Woodson planetarium seats 70 visitors. Here students can follow the daily positions of the stars and planets in the North Carolina sky. They will learn about space travel, the solar system, and deep sky objects. Multimedia shows highlight the wonders of the universe. The planetarium has a SkyLase full-dome, full-color laser system that offers visitors a fast-paced, entertaining musical light show experience.

Horizons Unlimited holds programs by appointment only. All programs for students in Rowan County and Davie County are free of charge. Other school groups can schedule visits for a small fee. Teacher resource kits are available for checkout. Horizons Unlimited is located at 1636 Parkview Circle in Salisbury. Call (704) 639-3004 for information and to make reservations for a program for your class.

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