Back in 2013, a pretend news helicopter appeared in the Marbles Kids Museum's Around Town exhibit and quickly became the focus of about a million different imaginary storylines.
In the popular first floor exhibit, home to a kid-sized town complete with a fire truck, stage, grocery store and more, the helicopter is one of the more popular destinations as kids vie for one of the handful of seats inside.
Now, there's a new addition to this already popular spot. Right next to the helicopter, there's now a What's the Weather attraction where kids can experiment with a green screen as they report the weather.
"It's been really popular," said Chris Alexander, Marbles' director of exhibit. "It's really activated the space."
The small space, right next to a window and Around Town's animal clinic, once was home to a trilon, which kids could spin around to show different weather conditions. But, as Alexander said, "we like to activate every single square inch" and the space wasn't getting much use. In late April, Marbles boosted the activities, adding the new What's the Weather features.
Here, visitors will find several things: A camera with a teleprompter and TV so kids in front of the camera can read a script, if they like, and see themselves on camera. The camera also has six different weather reports that kids can pick from to report about - the seven-day forecast, current temperatures, a cold front, extreme weather, a blizzard and, of course, a puppy parade (because that's just adorable).
My seven-year-old especially enjoyed attempting to report the current temperature as she tried to line up her fingers to point at the right temperatures as she watched herself on the monitor. (It's not easy!).
The space also includes a monitor so parents and others can watch their kids on screen. Plus, there are a handful of costumes so kids can actually dress as the weather - a rain storm, a thunderstorm or a hurricane. And, there's also a green cloth (the most popular of costumes). When they hold it up, kids can disappear on the green screen or appear only as a floating head.
Marbles also has made some changes inside the helicopter, including some new aerial footage of the museum and downtown Raleigh. More changes to the helicopter will come over the next six weeks, including a new camera, which kids will be able to move around with a joystick to more fully report the news from within Around Town.
All together, the aim is to help kids along as they do what they're so good at - using their imaginations.
"This enhances those play stories that kids are already playing with each other," said Michelle Ward, design specialist at Marbles.
What's the Weather is open now and free with admission to Marbles, which is $5 per person. I chatted with Ward and Alexander about the exhibit during a Facebook Live interview on our Facebook page on Wednesday. Watch it below.