College Becomes a Partner in Play With ‘Ready Set Vet’
Reimagined area at Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh should expand not only knowledge about what veterinarians do but also dreams about who can be one.
Come June, NC State College of Veterinary Medicine coats will hang in the Marbles Kids Museum in downtown Raleigh, ready for excited children to wear as they decide whether a plush turtle needs X-rays, a cat requires a cast or a dog is headed for surgery – STAT – at the new “Ready Set Vet” exhibit on the museum’s first floor.
The partnership between NC State and Marbles began about a year ago when the Marbles team approached the college about sponsoring its existing Pet Vet space in the Around Town gallery. Once the teams got together, they uncovered an even bigger opportunity – reimagining the space completely to better spark interest in careers in veterinary medicine and to expand understanding of the field.
“Marbles just does an outstanding job expanding the minds of children about the world around them and who they can aspire to be,” says Dianne Dunning, CVM associate dean of advancement. “We are thrilled to be working with them to create this opportunity. Through our exciting educational programming and new interactive exhibit, children – and adults – can explore what it means to be a veterinarian.”
Once the exhibit opens, veterinary college professors, staff members and students will make regular guest appearances at the museum so children can learn even more about animals, the interconnectedness of the world and the profession.
“Marbles is excited to take veterinary play to a new level alongside the experts at NC State College of Veterinary Medicine,” says Sally Edwards, CEO of Marbles. “The new Ready Set Vet exhibit at Marbles is bigger, with more imaginative play, new lifelike tools and enhanced technology. Kids will diagnose, treat and care for all types of animals while building self-confidence and the skills to play an important role in our future workforce.”
Months of research, testing, planning, designing and engagement have preceded the approaching exhibit opening, with the museum’s design team visiting the NC State Veterinary Hospital for inspiration in July 2021 and college representatives participating in a day of testing potential exhibit activities with children at the museum in January.
Cattle, goats and other farm animals live on the College of Veterinary Medicine campus, and the Marbles designers were struck by the school’s cattle chute, which now will be replicated at the museum so children can use it to move their pretend animals from the adjacent On the Farm exhibit to Ready Set Vet.
NC State graduates abound on Marbles team
The Marbles team members who are developing and installing the exhibit – five of whom are NC State University graduates – also will integrate a realistic industrial play sink and surgery and diagnostic carts into the space.
“We hope this wonderful new play space will bring that sense of discovery that children love,” says Evan Cooper, Learning Experience developer at Marbles and an NC State graduate. “For kids to be able to use the X-ray or CT scanning station to see what a cow looks like on the inside or what the dog swallowed, they’ll be exploring the amazing technological aspects that veterinarians use every day.”
The pretend animals, which will include zoo animals, reptiles, amphibians and wildlife, will have computer chips that can be activated by the scanner. The children will see actual animal X-rays and ultrasounds that the college donated to the museum.
“Animal play is huge,” Cooper says. “Kids love animals, and we know that. This is a great example of how Marbles can expand what it means to be a vet for children. It’s not just dogs and cats. It’s other mammals and fish and birds, too.”
The exhibit’s surgical and diagnostic area will have medical charts, child-safe tools and tables arranged in a way that promotes several children working in the same space together.
“We want to provide a collaborative placement so kids will have opportunities to work together or be inspired by peers at other tables,” Cooper says. “Through this layout, we can encourage open-ended play in a collaborative way.”
The College of Veterinary Medicine hopes the exhibit expands not only knowledge about what veterinarians do but also dreams about who can be one, Dunning says. The museum serves a diverse population of families, school groups and community organizations and reaches a broad, multigenerational audience.
“With the Ready Set Vet exhibit, we hope to inspire a new generation of veterinary professionals and expose them to the possibilities through play of what a veterinarian can be and do,” Dunning says. “Our field is so diverse in career pathways from a small, large or zoo animal veterinarian to a specialty surgeon, cardiologist or internist, a research or clinical scientist and even an astronaut.”
A collaboration at Future Me Fair
In March, two CVM students, including Raleigh native Imani Anderson, participated in the museum’s Future Me Fair, where their veterinary care station was one of the more popular.
“Growing up in Raleigh, I remember being able to attend career and life-skill events at the Marbles museum hosted by a number of different organizations,” says Anderson, member of the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine class of 2025. “Attending this event was a full circle moment for me, and it helped me realize how far I’ve come and how much I’ve grown. I’m sure my 8-year-old self would be extremely happy and excited for me.”
It was also important for me as a minority to show the children what I didn’t get the chance to see growing up. I think it’s important for them to have some sort of representation and to see someone in this field that either looks like them or comes from a similar background as them.” – Imani Anderson, CVM student
Marbles Kids Museum opened in 2007 with a mission to spark imagination, discovery and learning through play. In 2020, Marbles shut down for six months due to the COVID pandemic. Since reopening in September 2020, Marbles has welcomed an average of 4,600 guests per week for safe and enriching play when families with young kids need it most.
“At the fair, I hoped that if the kids saw my excitement, it would spread to them,” Anderson says. “It was also important for me as a minority to show the children what I didn’t get the chance to see growing up. I think it’s important for them to have some sort of representation and to see someone in this field that either looks like them or comes from a similar background as them. It was nice to even talk to some of the families and tell them my story so they could see, regardless of background, you can get here!”
The museum is open Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday. Tickets must be bought in advance. Learn more here.
Burgetta Eplin Wheeler / NC State Veterinary Medicine