Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Your Guide to Roper Mountain Science Center

With summer vacation upon us, we put together this guide to Roper Mountain Science Center, one of our favorite places in Greenville. It has everything you need to know about the various trails, gardens and other features, as well as the must-attend event info and other tips to help make your time at RMSC this summer memorable for the whole family!


What is RMSC?

In the early 1980’s the Greenville County School District saw a need for a science center that could provide hands-on science enrichment activities to the district’s 68,000 students. In cooperation with the community and with corporate support, the Roper Mountain Science Center Association was born, opening its doors in 1985. Since then its annual student attendance has grown from 4,600 to over 120,000, with 400-600 students visiting every day for learning labs to supplement their classroom education.

However, RMSC isn’t just for Greenville County School students. The facilities are open to the general public during Second Saturday activities, Friday Starry Nights, and Butterfly Adventure as part of admission. Also, during the school year and during daylight hours, families can visit the nature trails, outdoor play area and gardens at no charge.

Exploring the Ecology Lab in Harrison Hall of Natural Sciences

What’s at RMSC?

The 62-acre campus is accessible from Roper Mountain Road, just north of the I-385 exit. A one-way, mile-long driving loop takes you to the various buildings, with three main parking areas located throughout. The largest of those is located just to your right as you enter, and is used for most large events with shuttle buses providing transportation among the various areas.

Just next to the parking lot is the amphitheater, familiar to many local families from Roper Mountain Science Center Holiday Lights. While the holiday light display celebrated its 26th and final season last year, visitors will soon be making new memories on the site of the old amphitheater; construction will soon begin on a 24,000-square-foot facility that officials say will focus on environmental science. The two-story facility is expected to open by 2022.

The RMSC Marine Lab is home to more than a few animals
Next on the loop is Harrison Hall of Natural Sciences, home to the Fred W. Symmes Tropical Rainforest Conservatory, Nancy Hall Eskew Rainforest Lab, the Daniel Keating Norris Discovery Room, the Palentology & Earth Science Labs, the Computer Lab, an Ecology Lab and Marine Lab. The Harrison Hall is open to the public only during special events, however there are plenty of opportunities to explore the newly renovated building during Second Saturday events and the upcoming month-long Butterfly Adventure (see events section below for more on these fantastic opportunities).

Related articles: The Ecology Lab at RMSC

At the very heart of RMSC is the Giant Dome Theater and Hooper Planetarium. The state-of-the-art planetarium opened in 1989 and just underwent a $1 million renovation, featuring a new 360° full immersion dome, 4K projection, state-of-the-art lighting, dynamic 5.1 surround sound, interactive lobby exhibits and more. The facility is open to the public during the Friday Starry Nights program (see more below in events section) and on 2nd Saturdays.

Hooper Planetarium

Adjacent to the planetarium is the Symmes Hall of Science, also newly renovated, and home to STEM, Physical Science, Weather and Forensics programs, as well as 300-seat Hipp Auditorium. Symmes is open to the public during special events.

At the east end of the campus is Daniel Observatory. Home to a 23″ refractor telescope which is the 8th largest of its kind in the US, the Observatory is open each Friday evening from 7-10pm for public observation. The facility is also utilized for astronomy classes, special events, and organized activities by the Roper Mountain Astronomers.

Looking through the telescope in Daniel Observatory

The adjacent David H. Wilkins Conference Center houses facilities for meetings, events and classes for school and public programs. For more information on facility rental please call RMSC - 864.355.8925.

Outdoors at RMSC

Adjacent to the Harrison Hall is the Butterfly Garden, a joint project of the Roper Mountain Science Center, the roper Mountain Science Center Association, and the Greater Greenville Master Gardeners. The garden is open during daylight hours when the center’s main gate is open, and a pavilion overlooking the wildlife pond is a perfect spot for a picnic lunch.

From the butterfly garden it is a short walk to both of the RMSC treehouses. The one closest to the main loop road is ‘Anatomy of a TREE House’ and uses elements that resemble the trees that inspired it including exposed concrete "roots," a wraparound squirrel's nest with a real tree growing through it, and a slide. Overlooking the pond is ‘Treetop Clinic’ which focuses on environmental issues: the water cycle, the solar cycle & path of the sun, and the plant life as seen from the treehouse.

Related article: Treehouses at RMSC

On the opposite side of the pond from the butterfly garden is the Wildwood natural play area. A relatively new addition, children can play with natural materials such as stumps and sand, building, digging and creating to their heart’s content while parents comfortably watch from one of the benches. A big part of Wildwood is in the shade, and the little play house along with various slides, bridges, seesaws and even a canoe will keep the kids busy learning and exploring.

Beyond Wildwood and Harrison Hall of Natural Science are the arboretum and the Living History Farm & Schoolhouse. The farm is open to the public only during special events but is definitely worth a visit during one of the Second Saturdays; history comes to life with authentic log cabins, corn cribs, a barn, a blacksmith shop, a school and a former slave cabin. Gardens, fields, pasture, a farm pond, and farm animals typical of life in the Upstate in the early 1800′s complete the scene.

Winding through the RMSC forest are a 1-mile asphalt nature trail and multiple forest trails. The Nature Trail loops along the hardwood and pine forests of the science center grounds and features signs informing visitors about native plants and animals that might be found in our region. The BeWell fitness trail (which utilizes a portion of the Nature Trail) starts by the main parking lot, and has ten fitness stations that include different stretches and exercises along with instructions on properly completing them. There are several picnic areas along the way, and multiple loops on the east end, connecting the Living History Farm to the butterfly garden and Wildwood. You can find a map of the trails here.

On the Symmes/Daniels Observatory end of the Nature Trail you might notice another of RMSC’s new activities, the Low Ropes Course. Visiting groups can schedule sessions for team-building activities by contacting the Roper Mountain Science Center.

Another fun feature along the Nature Trail is the Stegasaurus near Harrison Hall. RMSC is hoping to add a dozen replicas of herbivorous and carnivorous dinosaurs to field stations along the trail, with panels giving details about the dinosaur and its habitat. Keep your eyes open for the 19-foot Tyrannosaurus rex! The Dinosaur Trail is expected to be open the summer of 2020.

Events at RMSC

Starting this Friday, June 1st, Butterfly Adventure is returning to RMSC for its third year! Visitors will be able to enter the living exhibit in the Fred W. Symmes Tropical Rainforest where hundreds of colorful butterflies will be flitting about until July 13 from Tuesday through Saturday. In addition to the up-close butterfly sncounter, visitors will be able to explore the Harrison Hall of Natural Sciences including the Marine Lab, and experience life in SC in the 1800s in the Living History Farm.

Another great way to experience RMSC is during one of the Second Saturday events. On these select Saturdays the Living History Farm, Harrison Hall, Hooper Planetarium, Daniel Observatory and Symmes Hall of Science are opened to the public for STEM and other programs with hands-on demonstrations and special exhibits. Upcoming 2018 Second Saturdays include Blueberry Festival on July 14, Star Wars on October 13 and the Fall Harvest Festival on November 10.

Related articles: Blueberry Festival at RMSC

On Friday nights (January through November) the Planetarium opens for Friday Starry Nights with 6pm and 7:30p Planetarium shows that include Carolina Skies (a live sky talk), the feature show, and the SpacePark 360 Virtual Rollercoaster.

During the months of July and August the Planetarium is also open select Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights for planetarium programs. There are shows suitable for all ages; for a schedule and more info check out the calendar here. If music is more your thing, check out one of the laser shows featuring music ranging from pop to country, from the Beatles to Pink Floyd. Laser Shows in the Planetarium will be taking place from July 17-28, see website for schedule.

RMSC also has summer Science Exploration camps, however all the programs for the 2018 season are currently full. The robotics, Lego, nature and other programs are in very high demand, often filling up during the first weeks of registration.

Patch programs and group programs are available for Cub Scouts & Boy Scouts ranging from a self-guided program to Webelos Activity Badge Workshops in Harrison Hall. See website for more information.

Admission Info

Fee info for the various RMSC programs can be found on their website, here. However possibly the most convenient option is to purchase an annual family membership. We have been RMSC members for years, enjoying free admission to Friday Starry Nights, Second Saturdays and Butterfly Adventure. Members also enjoy discount ticket prices for special events such as the laser shows, and early registration and discount to summer camps. Family memberships are $65 – see website for details.

Along with a RMSC membership you’ll also get the benefit of admission to more than 300 different science centers and museums through the ASTC (Association of Science-Technology Centers) Passport Program. They include nearby favorites such as EdVenture Children’s Museum in Columbia and the Spartanburg Science Center, as well as North Carolina’s Greensboro Science Center, Morehead Planetarium and Science Center in Chapel Hill, the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, and the Western North Carolina Nature Center in Asheville.

1 comment:

  1. This place sounds amazing! Who doesn't love baby animals and butterflies?


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