While the world waited for science to deliver a vaccine that would make gathering safe again, the specialists and educators at Roper Mountain Science Center were busy creating virtual lessons to inspire the next generation of scientists. At the same time, workers were completing RMSC’s new Environmental Science and Sustainability Center.
Starting June 1, the facility will serve as a welcome center for the campus, which opened in 1985 and comprises five educational buildings, gardens, nature trails and a living history farm. A facility of Greenville County Schools, RMSC currently provides standards-based lab experiences for 50,000 students each year and serves 45 school districts across South Carolina. The new building will better meet the needs of district students, while expanding RMSC’s reach, says Michael Weeks, director.
“This is a powerful new resource to equip future generations and the public with the knowledge and skills necessary to face the challenges of the future,” Weeks says.
Sustainability was considered in every detail, from the recycled glass reception counter and the building’s orientation to take advantage of natural light, to sustainable landscaping of the grounds. The stairs from the upper to the lower level were constructed of wood from the large chestnut oak tree that had to be cut down to clear the land for the building.
An interactive exhibit sponsored by Michelin orients guests to Greenville, the Upstate and Roper Mountain. An indoor waterfall invites visitors to learn more about the local water system and Table Rock Reservoir via Greenville Water and ReWa’s Our Water Story exhibit. In the Sustainable Future Gallery, sponsored by Fluor, students learn how the choices they make affect the environment.
Young explorers can bring treasures found in nature to the Nature Exchange, where a scientist will help them identify unusual items, look at them through a microscope and access reference materials, giving each a point value. Students can accumulate points then trade them for natural prizes at RMSC or other participating science centers.
“It gets kids excited about engaging with nature and encourages repeat visitation,” Weeks says.
In the space designated for traveling exhibits, seven ceiling-mounted projectors cast images on two adjacent walls, creating an immersive experience.
“This is something we saw at Disney with the imagineers called stitched projection,” Weeks says. “We can take kids literally anywhere, from the jungles of South Africa to a Marscape.”
This summer’s exhibit, Be the Dinosaur (https://www.eurekaexhibits.com/be-the-dinosaur), combines an interactive game with traditional displays to promote active learning. Students experience the ecosystem from the dinosaur’s perspective and learn about dinosaurs from fossil evidence.
In addition to exhibit areas, the building houses classrooms/labs, a cafeteria and event space. Greenville County School District contributed $12.2 million toward its design and construction, and early donations funded major exhibits. The Doing Big Things on a Little Mountain Campaign was launched March 22, with a goal of $1.65 million. The additional funding is needed to complete and maintain exhibits and provide expanded public programming.
Tommie Reece, RMSC Association board chair, said other generous donors include Appalachian Regional Council, Symmes Foundation, Daniel-Mickel Foundation and Piedmont Arthritis Clinic.
“RMSC Association is so excited to help bring this building to life, for our students and the community,” Reece says. “With custom-designed exhibits and high-tech, high-touch programs, it epitomizes the very best way to learn science, enables us to reach 15% more students and greatly increases the opportunities for the community. What better way to invest in our future than in environmental science and sustainability for students, our community and for our work force?”
For more information visit ropermountain.org.