A new facility at Greenville’s Roper Mountain Science Center is expected to become a symbol of environmental stewardship and education for Upstate residents.
The science center, which is owned by Greenville County Schools, plans to construct a $14 million facility dedicated to environmental education and sustainability, according to Michael Weeks, director of Roper Mountain Science Center.
“The new environmental science and sustainability building will provide a unique and immersive educational experience that fosters exploration and stewardship of natural resources,” he said. “It will enable visitors of all ages to engage in hands-on learning about personal and global sustainability and encourage their commitment to create solutions to the challenges arising from human interaction with the environment.”
Weeks said design work for Roper Mountain’s new facility is well underway, with construction expected to begin sometime this spring or summer. It is tentatively scheduled to open in the fall of 2020.
Once complete, the two-story facility will feature approximately 28,000 square feet of interior space, according to Weeks. It will be located on a 5-acre parcel of land beside the Harrison Hall of Natural Sciences.
“This new facility features flexible teaching spaces, open-concept exhibits, and a host of new amenities unlike anything else we’ve been able to provide to visitors before,” Weeks said.
The top floor of the facility will include a lobby, a pledge wall, and three classrooms for in-depth learning labs, according to Weeks. It will also include a 1,200-square-foot orientation space with a history of Roper Mountain; a habitat overview; and a digital interactive map of the Upstate.
Weeks said a 2,200-square-foot museum exhibit, known as “Sustainable Future,” will feature a series of interconnected stations that highlight how decisions regarding energy, food, water, waste, transportation, and clothing “influence the future of our community and world.”
“Each station contains a featured activity that challenges students and visitors to measure their impact on the environment,” he said. “They also contain an explanatory graphic panel, action list, and stories of local organizations. These stations are visually connected by different-colored footprints that symbolize our impact on the environment and the interconnectedness of these topics and our global world.”
The ground floor of Roper Mountain’s new facility will include a dining space with 200 seats and four classrooms, Weeks said. It will also include a 2,000-square-foot exhibit, titled “Water Story,” that highlights the processes of the water cycle and the importance of the Greenville Watershed.
According to Weeks, the “Water Story” exhibit will also include graphics and models depicting the plants and animals that can be found within the watershed.
“Water is a finite resource that is essential to life on Earth,” he said. “It sustains an amazing biodiversity of plants, animals, and humans in the Greenville Watershed. Guests will learn more about the essential element of water and the amazing biodiversity it sustains in the Greenville Watershed through a collection of flexible, modular exhibit stations that can be customized for a variety of topics.”
Craig Gaulden Davis, a Greenville-based architecture firm, and Lee H. Skolnick Architecture and Design Partnership of New York are working with the Roper Mountain Science Center to finalize conceptual designs for the facility, according to Weeks. The design process has so far included input from a number of Upstate businesses and organizations, including Michelin North America, Fluor Corp., BMW Manufacturing Co., Greenville Water, and Renewable Water Resources.
Each of the facility’s museum exhibits will highlight how partnering businesses and organizations are working to help the environment, according to Weeks.
Leesa Owens, director of government and community relations at Michelin North America, said her company is “honored” to partner with the center on the new environmental science and sustainability facility.
“Michelin makes tires for almost everything that moves, but our purpose is to give everyone a better way forward through sustainable mobility,” Owens said. “This partnership highlights Michelin’s commitment to support the communities where we operate through community outreach and education. The exhibit will highlight Michelin’s sustainability initiatives including our focus on sustainable products, materials, manufacturing practices, research, and education. We look forward to the impact that Roper Mountain Science Center will continue to have on future generations as it continues to grow and evolve.”
David Bereskin, CEO of Greenville Water, said the new facility will help “engage people on the complex, and often hidden, work required to provide clean, great-tasting water where and when it’s needed.
“This facility will ensure that the leaders of tomorrow understand and embrace the issues we face, while inspiring them to consider careers in the water utility industry,” he said. “Together, each of us must take responsibility for our individual actions to ensure the long-term sustainability of our exceptional water resources for future generations.”
Roper Mountain Science Center is currently working with the David E. Shi Center for Sustainability at Furman University “to incorporate new learning methods and techniques into brand new lesson plans that will be made available in the new facility,” according to Weeks.
Greenville County Schools Superintendent Burke Royster said Roper Mountain Science Center’s new facility will ultimately help to expand the center’s middle school curriculum for earth and life sciences, subjects that were previously available only to elementary school students. The curriculum currently includes lessons about Earth’s weather and climate, plant and animal classifications, and more. It also includes lessons about current environmental issues.
“Environmental science and sustainability is a growing area of interest and focus, not just in Greenville, but worldwide,” Royster said. “These topics are woven throughout the science curriculum in South Carolina and are well-suited for hands-on lessons in which students study current data and use it in designing solutions to real-world challenges. Due to capacity constraints, Roper Mountain’s natural science programs have focused on elementary grades. The new facility will enable Roper Mountain to increase opportunities for elementary students and expand its reach by providing many engaging lessons and labs for middle-schoolers.”
Weeks said the new facility will allow the center, which already provides hands-on science programs for 50,000 Greenville County school students annually, to serve an estimated 20,000 additional students each year within three years of completion. It’s also projected to result in a 25 percent increase in public participation at the science center through events and expanded access to the facility during weekdays, weeknights, and weekends.
Current projections show the facility costing about $14 million to complete, according to Weeks, with about $10 million provided through the Greenville County School District’s “Long Range Facilities Plan and Capital Improvement Program.” Roper Mountain plans to launch a fundraising campaign in the coming months to secure the remaining $4 million.
For more information, visit www.ropermountain.org.