Even though many people in the Upstate may only be familiar with the Roper Mountain Science Center (RMSC) because of the annual holiday light show that drew tens of thousands of families every December, the center’s primary mission has been to provide hands-on science education to area students.
First of all, it’s been around a long time
According to Director Michael Weeks, since its opening in 1985 the center has turned the abstract scientific concepts taught in classrooms into something tangible for students.
“This is a great equalizer for kids,” Weeks says. “I think that’s one of my favorite things about Roper Mountain — it inspires kids who might not be inspired in the classroom.”
From learning about the cosmos at the Charles E. Daniel Observatory — home to the eighth-largest refracting telescope on the continent — to interacting with and learning about animals from a variety of South Carolina habitats, students can see how science explains and describes the real world.
‘A place of ‘yes”
The interest and excitement of students was palpable during a recent field trip to the science center by Kristy Peace’s second graders from Stone Academy, who hadn’t been on a field trip in two years due to COVID-related restrictions.
“They have been so excited because they haven’t been on a field trip since they were in kindergarten,” Peace says
She adds the experience for her students is especially impactful as many of her students may never travel to a salt marsh or get to see animals and plants found in other regions of South Carolina.
Amanda Lenar, RMSC’s community engagement specialist, says this is one reason she likes to describe the science center as the “place of ‘yes’” where students are encouraged to touch and engage with many of the exhibits, demonstrations and animals.
50,000 students a year pass through
Weeks says that, as part of Greenville County Schools (the state’s largest public school district), the center can serve students without charging fees and only charges a small fee for students from other districts.
Overall, the center sees more than 50,000 students a year from 45 school districts in 23 counties in South Carolina.
Weeks says the types of interactive experiences students have at the center can have a huge impact on their future educational outcomes and career choices.
“What we are able to do is take something that is words on a page or a picture and bring it to life,” he says.
For more information about Roper Mountain Science Center, visit ropermountain.org.
Open to the public
RMSC is open to the public afternoons and weekends. The popular Friday Starry Nights programs at the Daniel Observatory feature indoor holiday laser light shows in December. Visit ropermountain.org for times.
Fast facts about the Daniel observatory telescope
- Width: 23 inches
- Built: 1882
- Past homes: Princeton University and the U.S. Naval Observatory
One of the interactive features of the Sustainable Future exhibit. Photo by Alex Cooper.
The Environmental & Sustainability Building: 7 classrooms, multiple exhibits related to water’s critical role in plant, animal and human lilfe.
Nature Exchange where students can bring in items they’ve found exploring outdoors. They learn about the items and earn points toward the “purchase” of things like shells, geodes and other interesting items.