Beyond The Horizon

by | Aug 19, 2022 | Municipalities

If you attended school in the Rowan-Salisbury school system as a student; chances are you have visited Horizons Unlimited. Or maybe you and your family have visited the center when they offered one of their unique family friendly events like a laser show.  Throughout the years, Horizons Unlimited has continually offered the students and citizens of Rowan County the opportunity to learn about and enjoy science through exploratory activities. Many of their original exhibits are still on display, as well as they are currently renovating and adding new exhibits.

How It All Started

For over 50 years, Horizons Unlimited has served as the supplemental education science center to Rowan County school system and the citizens of Rowan County. Originally named as the Salisbury Supplementary Educational Center, Horizons Unlimited began from an initiative created by John Knox. Knox who the Rowan-Salisbury Schools superintendent at the time, paired with community partners to the doors in 1967. Horizons Unlimited vision states “We envision a world where every learner has access to impactful hands-on education.  We are committed to giving learners the tools they need to solve real-world problems creatively and passionately. In doing so, we ignite curiosity and scientific inquiry which will change how learners view and interact with the world around them”. With the opening of the center, Horizon Unlimited is “empowering learners to engage in science exploration and the natural world”. A unique fact about Horizon’s Unlimited is that they are part of the Rowan-Salisbury school system. This ensures that youth of all age groups have an opportunity to participate in their wide variety of learning opportunities.

Original Exhibits Upgraded

The Margaret Craig Woodson Planetarium, which is Horizon Unlimited most known exhibit, features a star ball and a 4k projector. Director, Elise Tellez noted that it is the original star ball that has been maintained over the years and still functions to offer visitors the opportunity to view planets and the night sky.

In addition to the planetarium, visitors can explore the Rainforest exhibit, which houses a waterfall wall, real banana tree, and active echo system.  Situated just before the entrance to the Rainforest, is Horizon Unlimited touch tank. Imagine a large open pool that houses a cool starfish named “Chocolate Chip”. Chip’s name comes from its unique color pattern. There are also hermit crabs, snails, a sea urchin, and shrimp. Visitors will also see a clownfzuniish and a royal blue tang fish. These fish are reminiscent of the popular characters ‘Nemo’ and ‘Dory’ who were featured in the 2003 Disney’s film “Finding Nemo”.  All the fish work together to keep a harmonious balance in the tank.

In the same room as the touch tank, you will find turtles living in their natural habit. The focus of this exhibit is Herpetology, which is the study of amphibians and reptiles. If you are interested interacting with the reptiles also known as snakes, they are housed in their own special enclosures one room over. As with most of the exhibits at Horizon Unlimited, a visitor has the opportunity to view the snakes up close and personal when the staff takes them out of their enclosures during tours. While these exhibits are original to the Horizon’s Unlimited, they have added new live animals and are renovating the spaces to grow their program offerings.

New and Exciting Programming

Horizon’s Unlimited offers “educational programming for all ages”. Director Tellez commented that they are launching diverse new programs that will be open to both the students of Rowan-Salisbury School system as well as the general public. Most notably, they are in the process of constructing a new dissection lab. Tellez reported that this new lab is sponsored by Novant Health and will offer programming for students up to 12th grade.

Not all of Horizon’s learning opportunities inside the building. If you venture outside their doors, you can walk the 1-mile nature trail that leads towards Catawba College Nature Preserve. Horizon’s Unlimited Science and Communication Specialist, Summer Howerton is a Catawba College alumni, who mentioned that she had the opportunity to intern with Horizon Unlimited which lead to full time employment. Howerton described the nature trail space and discussed that Horizon’s Unlimited was awarded a grant that allowed them to market the green space as part of Rowan County’s walking trails.

Family Centered Programs

To incorporate all of Rowan County’s residents, Horizon Unlimited has events scheduled that are open to the public. They will be hosting a laser show that will feature music by “The Beatles” is scheduled to happen on August the 19th. September will offer a 90’s themed show and the sounds of “Queen” & “Rocketman”. In later months, additional theme shows will be paired with the current season. They will even offer a holiday laser show on December 16th. If you are looking for something the entire family can participate in, there will be a Family Fun Friday on November the 11th and a spring community celebration at Hurly Park happening in the spring. To ensure you don’t miss any of their announcements and new updates, check out their Facebook page rsshorizons.

About The Author

Sherri Hill

I am a native of Rowan County, having lived here my entire life. I was educated and graduated from the North Rowan School System in 2003 and earned my Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a minor in Psychology from Catawba College in 2007. My professional experience has encompassed the roles of being a therapist, clinical director, grant writer, clinical supervisor, and working in program development. Currently, I am a Juvenile Crime Prevention Council (JCPC) Consultant for N.C. Department of Public Safety, Division of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency as well as a family therapist. My professional accomplishments were highlighted in the 2019 edition of Focus magazine in Davidson County, when I was nominated as “A Women Who Inspires”. I am a member of Zeta Phi Beta, Inc. and also serve as the Board Chair of Communities in Schools of Davidson County/ Lexington City Schools. Additionally, I volunteer with Rowan Helping Ministries, and I am a member of Rowan County Young Professionals. When I am not volunteering, I love spending time outside in the sun playing with my two dogs.