The arboretum is a Roper Mountain location that is lovely year-round, but it is especially glorious when the azaleas and Carolina jessamine are blooming in the spring. First established in 1987, the arboretum displays landscape specimens and identifies them with markers that show both the botanical name and common name for each plant. The natural setting located adjacent to the entrance of the Living History Farm provides a pleasant backdrop for displaying understory trees, shrubs, vines, perennials and annuals. The public is welcome to stroll through the arboretum during daylight hours when the center’s main gate is open.
The butterfly garden
The butterfly garden, near the pond and adjacent to the Harrison Hall of Natural Science and Technology, is a joint project of the Roper Mountain Science Center, the roper Mountain Science Center Association, and the Greater Greenville Master Gardeners. It contains many varieties of plants that attract butterflies and bees, and is lovely during each season of the year.The Greater Greenville Master Gardeners maintain the butterfly garden at Roper Mountain Science Center. In 2002, it was certified a National Wildlife Federation Schoolyard Habitat. This certification means that wildlife is provided food, shelter, water and a place to raise the young on these grounds. Visitors may stroll through the butterfly garden during daylight hours when the center’s main gate is open.
The Charles E. Daniel Observatory
The Charles E. Daniel Observatory features a very historic 23″ refractor telescope, the eighth largest of its kind in the nation. The “Great Refractor” was completed in 1882 for Princeton University and was the main instrument in their Halsted Observatory. The lens was “figured” by Alvan Clark and Sons of Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1933, the telescope was entirely rebuilt by J. W. Fecker Company. The U.S. Naval Observatory owned the telescope from 1964 until 1978, when it was offered to the School District of Greenville County.
The telescope is used to educate, to inspire, and to entertain visitors. Each Friday evening, the observatory is open from 7:00-10:00 PM for public observation, in conjunction with programs shown in the planetarium. Astronomy classes for students, special events, and organized activities by the Roper Mountain Astronomers round out a busy schedule for the most highly visible facility on the mountain!
The Natural Science Department of Roper Mountain Science Center
The Natural Science Department of Roper Mountain Science Center occupies most of the Darrell W. Harrison Hall of Natural Sciences. Studies in life science, microscopy, geology, environmental studies, ecology and marine science enrich the lives of the students and visitors who explore this building.
The Living History Farm
The past comes alive at the Living History Farm. Authentic log cabins, corn cribs, a barn, a blacksmith shop, a school and a former slave cabin have been reconstructed on the lower part of the 62-acre Roper Mountain site to demonstrate life in South Carolina’s Upstate in the early 1800′s. Gardens, fields, pasture, a farm pond, and farm animals typical of this period complete the scene. Volunteers in period costumes make candles, cook, spin, weave, quilt, and care for animals as our forefathers did.
Visiting classes of students can have a lesson with the “school marm” in the old one-room school house, or learn how early settlers grew their own fibers, dyed them using natural dyes, then spun them into yarn. All visitors to the Living History farm, young and old alike, gain admiration and respect for the pioneers who settled the mountain and foothills areas of South Carolina. Explore the various buildings, structures and gardens on the Living History Farm:
The Nature Trail
Over a mile in length, the nature trail winds along the hardwood and pine forests of the mountain side, through the butterfly garden and beside a pond filled with aquatic and insect life. Signs on the nature trail educate the visitor about native plants and animals that might be found in such a setting. Several picnic areas border the nature trail. The nature trail is open to the public during daylight hours when the center’s main gate is open. Markers identify the plants and trees along the trail, and refer to the nature trail map that is available in the Symmes Hall of Science at the top of the mountain. The asphalt trail is accessible year-round, and varies from a gentle incline to a rather steep grade.
T.C. Hooper Planetarium
The planetarium was named for T.C. Hooper who was instrumental for the early fund raising of monies for many of the facilities now at Roper Mountain, including the planetarium. The Hooper Planetarium features a Spitz Sci Dome HD. Visitors will enjoy full-dome, full-color, full-video, surround sound and dynamic programs. Programming includes entertaining, inspiring, and educational classes in astronomy and other sciences for students and the public.
The public can come to the planetarium during the Friday Starry Nights program and on 2nd Saturdays. The schedule on Friday nights includes Carolina Skies (a live sky talk), the feature show, and the ever popular Mars Rollercoaster.
The David H. Wilkins Conference Center
The conference center houses facilities for meetings and events and classrooms for school and public programs in astronomy. Meeting facilities, enhanced with audio-visual, internet, and teleconferencing equipment, are available for rent by calling (864) 355-8925.
Roper Mountain Science Center is a model of collaboration between public and private resources. How was it created? School District of Greenville County teachers and administrators had a vision for a science center that could provide the district’s 68,000 students with innovative opportunities to experience hands-on science enrichment activities.
In 1982, the district school board appointed an advisory council of parents, educators, and business leaders to assist in developing the science center. In 1983, the school board hired Darrell Harrison as director to pursue the science center’s future. Under his direction, the council proposed a comprehensive master plan that included facilities to teach life, earth, and physical sciences.
Over time, the advisory council evolved into the Roper Mountain Science Center Association, a nonprofit membership organization designed to support the science center through fund-raising and volunteerism. The association has raised the funds-over six million dollars to date-to build all the buildings at the center and sponsor capital improvement projects. Special revenue-generating projects of the association, such as the Christmas lights display, provide additional funds for the facility.
Roper Mountain Science Center is a tribute to those individuals who are committed to providing science education for all students, regardless of their intellectual or financial capabilities. As a model of collaboration between public education and the private sector, it shows other school districts how they can effectively use community support to reach their visions for the future and provide the best education for their students.