Summer Adventure at the Roper Mountain Science Center in Greenville, SC is back and bigger than ever. KAG contributor Kristina tells us why this should be on your summer bucket list and why you’ll want to go back over and over!
Thank you to Roper Mountain Science Center for sponsoring this story.
Summer Adventure is back at the Roper Mountain Science Center (RMSC) and we are here for it! I went on the very first day it opened because I’m that excited. Let me say that I’ve loved all the cool exhibits that have been featured at RMSC but this new one, the Mystery of the Mayan Medallion, is really neat, not only for what you learn there but because the exhibit isn’t just in one place on the campus but rather tied into all the buildings and even the Living History Farm.
Plus, the Dinosaur Adventure Trail has been extended and there are three new permanent exhibits. Summer Adventure is something you won’t want to miss with your family.
Mystery of the Mayan Medallion Exhibit
This new traveling exhibit is only at the Roper Mountain Science Center for Summer Adventure and is awesome. I’ve personally been fascinated by the Mayan culture and archaeology (thanks, Indiana Jones) for years but I didn’t know a lot about it so was excited to walk through this exhibit. But you don’t actually walk through it – you experience it through figuring out what different glyphs (drawings that mean certain words, phrases, or events) mean and finding the lost Jade Medallion. You can also search for clues and use problem-solving skills to figure out the number system that the Maya used and answer questions to learn about the unique culture.
The Mystery of the Mayan Medallion exhibit is set up like an abandoned archaeological camp with mysterious ruins called Site 25. When you walk into the exhibit, which is on your right after you enter the main Environmental building, you’ll see clipboards and pencils. Grab those and then head to the television screen where an archaeologist will give you the backstory on your mission. You can choose to do either page of the worksheet on your clipboard first. We did the deciphering of the glyphs first by figuring out what each meant and cracking the code to find the lost Jade Medallion. If you can’t figure this out on your own, don’t worry, just ask an RMSC volunteer. I nearly have my Master’s degree and had a tough time!
The back of your clipboard worksheet is set up to learn more about the Mayan culture by matching the Mayan numbers to those found throughout the exhibit and answering the questions. So for example, you’ll see three black dots (you are searching for the black numbers, not the red ones) on your page, which translate to the number 3, and you have to find the matching three black dots somewhere in the exhibit, which will lead you to the answer for that particular question on your worksheet. My kids and I loved this part! We learned all kinds of interesting fun facts like how the temples were designed to catch the sun at certain times of year to determine major holidays or how one of the kings drank a chocolate drink or how the birthdays of my children are written using glyphs. This took us around 30-40 minutes to complete altogether.
The exhibit doesn’t end there though. Keep reading.
Ultimate Trader & Scavenger Hunt
Head next to the Nature Exchange, the only of its kind in our region where you can bring in treasures from nature, earn points, and then spend those points to get something cool like gems, bugs (not live ones), or other things from nature.
At the Nature Exchange, you will need to pick up your scavenger hunt and Ultimate Trader sheets to continue your Mayan mystery journey. With the scavenger hunt, you’ll be searching throughout the lower portion of RMSC for medallions, which you’ll have to find based on the close-up photos and clues given on the sheet. I feel like I know RMSC pretty well since we go a lot but we were definitely stumped on some of these. There’s a letter on each medallion that you find, which you will write on the scavenger hunt page to crack the code. I don’t know yet what it says because we didn’t find them all, which means we are going back!
For the Ultimate Trader sheet, you will have a series of challenges that can be completed throughout the summer to earn prizes. For example, one of the items is to find four new facts about dinosaurs that you can learn from the Dinosaur Adventure Trail. Others are to go on a hike, pick up litter, and read 10 science books. It has to be completed by the end of Summer Adventure on Aug. 6 to be eligible for prizes.
Friday Starry Nights
Another option for continuing your Mayan adventure is at the planetarium during RMSC’s Starry Nights shows. They have added a 4:30 p.m. show in addition to their 6 and 7:30 p.m. shows.
Currently, the 4:30 and 6 p.m. shows, which are geared for younger kids, are showing “Magic Tree House: Space Mission.” This includes a tour of the night sky and the Mars roller coaster ride plus access to the Observatory near the planetarium if the weather is clear.
The 7:30 pm show is “Tales of the Maya Skies,” which is geared more for kids in 6th grade and above. This show “ immerses viewers in the wonders of Maya science, cosmology and myth, as we are taken back in time to the jungles of Mexico and to the cities and temples of the ancient Maya.” It also includes a tour of the night sky, roller coaster, and visit to the Observatory.
Friday Starry Nights usually sells out quickly so be sure to grab your tickets if you want to catch any of these shows. Tickets are $6 for adults and $5 for kids ages 4-12. Shows generally aren’t recommended for kids under age 4. If you have an RMSC membership, Friday Starry Nights tickets are free but you still have to reserve them online ahead of time.
Laser Days of Summer
Back by popular demand is the Laser Day of Summer in the planetarium. These are high-energy shows set to chart-topping musical artists and genres that appeal to all musical tastes, including Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Pop, 80’s, 90’s, and more, with lots of flashing lights. It’s not recommended for kids under 8 years old.
These shows start in July at 9 p.m. following Friday Starry Nights and then are shown at 6, 7:30, and 9 p.m. on Aug. 5, 6, 11, 12, and 13, 2022. Tickets are $8/person. For RMSC members, tickets are $4/person.
Eating Bugs and Watching Cockroach Races
The popular Eat-A-Bug Club and cockroach races are back for 2022. If you’re wondering if these are real bugs you’ll be eating, they are. And yes, there are also real cockroaches that race. I prefer to watch people eat bugs than actually eat them but I have always been surprised at the number of people who line up to eat bugs. If you down a bug or two, you get a commemorative pin that tells people you are a member of Eat-A-Bug club.
Storytimes have also been added for Summer Adventure. Here’s the schedule:
Tuesdays: Eat-A-Bug at 11 am
Wednesdays: Story Time at 11 am
Thursdays: Nature Bingo at 11 am
Saturdays: Eat-A-Bug at 11 am, Cockroach Race at 11:30 am
Three New Exhibits
RMSC has three new permanent exhibits debuting at Summer Adventure.
The first one is located in the Sustainable Future exhibit, which is where you’ll exit out of the Mayan exhibit, and all us kids who grew up in the 1980s and 90s will be sure to recognize the colorful, interactive LED giant Everbright, which should remind us of the Light Brite! Instead of pegs into holes, the Everbright exhibit lets guests turn individual circles to change colors, which is all powered by energy-saving LED lights. It’s a simple, yet fun and interactive exhibit that is accessible to anyone of any age and ability.
The second permanent exhibit is a tribute to our great South Carolina farmers as it highlights the importance of agriculture and demonstrates how food goes from farm to table. The exhibit is along the wall next to the Connections Café on the lower level of the Environmental Science and Sustainability building and it is sponsored by the South Carolina Farm Bureau. Visitors can see how the health of the environment impacts the food we eat and why eating locally is so beneficial. And you can go home with a packet of collard green seeds for free, which is the state’s official vegetable. Bet you didn’t know that (I didn’t!).
Continuing on the environmental stewardship theme, the third permanent exhibit is the Litter Letter Walk, presented by Greenville County Litter Prevention. This is located on the path from the Environmental Science and Sustainability building to the Harrison Hall of Natural Science and demonstrates the importance of not littering and how long it takes for certain items that we throw out to decompose. Spoiler alert: years and years and years. You’ll be able to access the website via QR code of Greenville County Litter Prevention where you can find opportunities to volunteer to join a litter clean-up crew. The exhibit is part of a national art installation initiative and is the first Litter Letter project installation in South Carolina.
Dinosaur Adventure Trail
The super popular and super cool Dinosaur Adventure Trail remains at RMSC and you can visit all summer long. Besides being nice and shaded, the trail now has not only new kiosks that tell you all kinds of fun facts about dinosaurs, but there are two new dinosaurs on the trail this year. Be sure to keep track of your dino facts for the Ultimate Explorer scavenger hunt.
RMSC is planning on expanding the Dinosaur Adventure Trail, which is both paved and natural surface, so this year they started by adding the two new dinosaurs and adding a little more to the trail. There is plenty more space for more dinos and we can’t wait to see which ones show up next!
On select Fridays, Roper Mountain will celebrate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Days with featured partners from the community. These will look more like the former Second Saturday events that RMSC used to have where there are different companies and organizations like Greenville Water and the Farm Bureau that have interactive exhibits and demonstrations for guests to enjoy and learn from.
We’ve gone to some of the bigger Afternoon Explorations where RMSC partners had fun demos around the campus and learned about water filtration, seed cultivation, and even egg and cloth dying. I love these events as there is always something new and interesting to learn. For one of the events, we actually took home seeds from the Farm Bureau – and they are now growing in our garden!
Living History Farm, Wildwood, and Harrison Hall of Natural Science
All of these areas are open during Summer Adventure – and you’ll need to visit all of them to find the medallions on your scavenger hunt sheet!
The Living History Farm will have demonstrations over the summer of pioneer living and kids can also do gem mining, which comes with your admission to Summer Adventure.
At Harrison Hall, kids have the opportunity to get up close and personal with stingrays, chocolate chip starfish, sharks, snakes, and bearded dragons. Plus, this is where the awesome rainforest is that you can stroll through. You’ll find a giant Mayan Calendar there (and maybe one of the hidden medallions for your scavenger hunt) plus a little waterfall. RMSC has put up a lot of new signs around the campus for guidance and I love the new ones in the rainforest as they tell you the different trees and plants that are growing there.
Lastly, Wildwood is the great play area next to the pond and across from the Butterfly Garden. There are slides, a little play house, and other things to play with. The bonus is that most of this area is shaded.
Free Lunch for Kids
Another great thing about Summer Adventure is that kids ages 18 and under can get a free lunch between 11 am – 2 pm at the Connections Cafe downstairs in the Environmental building. There are lots of tables set up and the kids just go to the counter and pick up lunch, which is usually an option of a hamburger or chicken sandwich plus some kind of a vegetable like carrots and fruit. Milk is also available.
This is made possible through the Greenville County Schools Food and Nutrition Services. For adults, the purchase of lunch is available with cash (which can also be easily accessed from the onsite ATM).
Hours and Admission
If you don’t have an RMSC membership (a family one is $95), now would be the time to get one. I already got tickets to one day of Summer Adventure for my kids and myself and the Mayan planetarium show for my family of four – all free because I bought an RMSC membership. If I didn’t have a membership, it would have cost me $60. I’m planning to go to RMSC for their STEM events plus multiple other times for Summer Adventure so that membership will be well worth the annual cost! Additionally, I plan to visit science centers and museums over the summer that have ASTC Program reciprocal agreements where we’ll get in free with our RMSC membership. This membership is a thousand percent worth the cost.
If you don’t have a membership, admission is $12 for teens and adults (ages 13+); $10 for children (ages 3-12), and for senior citizens (age 60 and over). Ages 2 and under are free. Planetarium shows are $6/adults and $5/ages 4-12.
Summer Adventure hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 am – 4 pm – with final admission at 3 pm. The Living History Farm closes daily at 2:30 pm.
Roper Mountain Science Center
402 Roper Mountain Rd, Greenville