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Posts Tagged ‘Educational Things to Do’

Volunteer Service Hour Ideas for Teens and Families

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Looking for service hours for teens? So you have a child in high school and it’s time to start thinking about volunteer hours. While most public schools do not require volunteer hours, most private and charter schools do have a quarterly requirement. Whether your child attends public school, private school, or is homeschooled, volunteering looks very good on college and job applications, demonstrating a well-rounded and outward-looking individual. Ultimately though, we volunteer because there are people who need us, and it’s a wonderful way to give back when we have been given so much.

Be sure your teen keeps a notebook dedicated just about volunteering. Make sure to document hours and even have supervisors sign off on their hours.  I have looked into local opportunities and have put these ideas together for you. If you have anything to add, please let us know and we’ll incorporate it into our list!

More volunteer opportunities in the Upstate can be found in the Kidding Around Guide To Volunteer Opportunities

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See Minerals Glow in the Dark at the Emerald Village Mine in Little Switzerland, NC

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Did you know Emerald Village Mine has a cave where you can see minerals glow in the dark? If you’re looking for a bucket list adventure in Western North Carolina, the Black Light Tour at the Emerald Village mine near Little Switzerland, NC is it. Kidding Around’s Kristina took her kids for this unique experience and tells us about it. 

I thought Geology was a pretty boring subject until we studied it for a homeschool science unit. I was completely taken with the cool rocks, how the cycle of minerals, magma, and sedimentary rocks form. I loved learning about the chemical makeup of minerals. And when I took my kids to the Geology Museum at Clemson, the fluorescent black light room was a favorite. So when I heard that the Emerald Village Mine near Little Switzerland, North Carolina, was offering a very limited Black Light Mine Tour, I was in. I didn’t hesitate to get tickets when they went on sale back in the early spring and good thing, because they immediately sold out. 

So start planning your 2023 adventure right now! As of January 29, 2023, tickets are now on sale for the 2023 season.

Glowing minerals
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Discover Gold and a Nugget of History at Reed Gold Mine in Midland, NC

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Have you heard about Reed Gold Mine in Midland, NC? The very first gold ever discovered in the United States was at Little Meadow Creek and what would soon become the Reed Gold Mine. Visit Little Meadow Creek, tour the underground gold mine, and try your hand at panning for gold. Reed Gold Mine State Historic Site is an amazing place to visit. Admission is totally free. Here’s everything you need to know to plan your own visit to Reed Gold Mine.

Bridge over Little Meadow Creek
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Explore Revolutionary War History With a Hike Through the Blackstock Battlefield in Enoree, SC

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Have you checked out Blackstock Battlefield in Enoree, SC? One of the benefits of living in South Carolina is the chance to bring history to life by visiting the hundreds of historical sites across the state. We’ve visited Musgrove Mill State Historic Site many times, as it covers all the bases for my kids: Revolutionary War battlefield to explore, Tyger River trail to hike, and Horseshoe Falls to cool down in. But did you know Musgrove Mill manages a second battlefield?

Located only 7 miles to the north, Blackstock Battlefield preserves the site of the Revolutionary War battle where the infamous British Lt. Col. Tarleton was foiled in his attempt to defeat Patriot Brig. Gen. Sumter in 1780. We recently received a tour of Blackstock Battlefield during the South Carolina 7 Wonders Expedition, and wanted to share with you more on this little-known historic site just 40 minutes from Spartanburg!

Revolutionary War Action

Some months after the Battle at Kings Mountain, Sumter had gathered troops in preparation to attack the British post at Ninety Six. The British summoned Tarleton from his pursuit of the “Swamp Fox” Marion down near the coast to intercept Sumter, and the British Lt. Col. managed to secretly cross the Broad with his feared Dragoons before a defector informed Sumter he was being pursued. Sumter chose to make a stand at Blackstock’s Plantation on the Tyger river as Tarleton raced towards his position with his cavalry and mounted infantry.

Historical Map of Blacksotck Battlefield
Historical Map of Blackstock Battlefiled

When the British caught up with Sumter, they were at a disadvantage; they had gotten ahead of their infantry and artillery in hopes of catching Sumter unawares, and instead were themselves caught in the open under heavy fire from the high ground. After suffering heavy losses and regrouping, Tarleton retreated to join his infantry and artillery – but without half of his men, who had been lost in the battle. Sumter was badly wounded, and was evacuated overnight. Tarleton pursued the Patriots for two more days, and although he claimed a victory for dispersing Sumter’s militia, it was a costly defeat for the British in that they lost numerous officers, horses, and equipment. The Battle of Blackstock’s was a precursor to the action later at Cowpens. 

Blackstock Battlefield view

On Your Visit to Blackstock Battlefield

Directions: From Exit 44 on I-26, go east on SC Hwy 49 about 5.5 miles to the Blackstock’s Historical Marker. Turn left onto Blackstock’s Road, then go about 1.2 miles and turn right onto Monument Road. Continue until the pavement ends, and park in the parking area before the gate. 

For the best vantage point of the battlefield, continue up the gravel road to Monument Hill. Standing with your back to the monument, Blackstock’s Ford of the Tyger River is down the hill to the right. The open meadow was much larger when the Blackstock family lived there, and the British would have come charging up the hill to meet the forces lined up along the top. On the far end of the meadow was where the house and barn were located. 

Take a Hike

The parking area is also the trailhead for the Blackstock Battlefield Passage of the Palmetto Trail. This 1.6-mile loop descends to the Tyger River, and then follows the river for about ½ mile before climbing up to the battlefield. Skirting the edge of the open field, the trail re-enters the woods and returns to the parking area. 

The SC Park Service asks that you remain on signed roads & trails while visiting the battlefield. Going off-trail can be hazardous, especially to children, as there are many deep holes from when the area was logged and the stumps were buried. On our visit, we also saw fire ants, bees, and snakes. Highlights of our hike included seeing an eastern box turtle, taking in the view from Monument Hill, and experiencing another piece of the Revolutionary War puzzle that we have been piecing together during our southeastern travels.

Blackstock Battlefield Monument and fencing

Things to do near Blackstock Battlefield

After hiking the Palmetto Trail Passage, my kiddos were more than happy to make the 15-minute drive to Horseshoe Falls, a small waterfall on a tributary of the Enoree River that is located in Musgrove Mill State Historic Site off Battlefield Trail. Just across the Enoree is the main portion of the State Park, including a Visitor Center and British Camp Trail. A little farther to the east is another State Historic Site, Rose Hill.

Just to the southeast is the Enoree Ranger District of Sumter National Forest. In addition to camping, cycling, OHV, fishing, horseback riding, and hunting, the Enoree is home to the Enoree Passage of the Palmetto Trail, with 36 continuous miles of trail linking Newberry, Laurens, and Union counties.

If you are headed north, towards Spartanburg, on your way home, you will pass near Glenn Springs, a small community with a lot of history, as well as by Croft State Park.

Blackstock Battlefield Passage of the Palmetto Trail
Blackstock Battlefield is open 9 am – 6 pm daily.

Musgrove Mill State Historic Site
Admission to Musgrove Mill is $3 adults; $1.50 SC seniors; $1 children age 6-15; age 5 & younger free.
Musgrove Mill is open 9 am to 6 pm daily.

Carolina Raptor Center: Here’s Your Chance to Hang Out with Raptors!

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Carolina Raptor Center is located just north of Charlotte in Huntersville, NC. The center is home to falcons, hawks, owls, eagles and vultures from all over the world. Visitors can view these magnificent raptors up close, and learn about their individual stories and unique characteristics that help them survive in the wild.  The center also offers educational programming for groups. KAG contributor, Maria Bassett, shares a visit she and her children took to the Carolina Raptor Center.

What is a Raptor?

Raptors.  We see them in the sky far above us, soaring and circling, their sharp eyes keenly searching out their next meal.  They don’t sing, or entertain us with their bright colors at our feeders. They don’t visit our backyard feeders at all (except maybe to snack on the songbirds themselves). In fact, we rarely get the chance to see anything but their silhouettes overhead. And yet they catch our attention. What makes these birds so unique? If you want to know, you will find the drive to Carolina Raptor Center well worth it!

Raptor Center

Raptors are meat eating birds that catch their prey with their talons (unlike other birds who may eat meat that catch their prey with their beaks- think birds and worms, or penguins and fish).  They are equipped with many special features that give them the ability to accomplish this task.  From sharp talons, to third eyelids and tiny bones that act as sun visors, you’ll be amazed at all you’ll learn in just a few hours at the center.

Raptor Center question and answer with an owl

How About a Field Trip?

Educational groups who plan a visit to the center can schedule a presentation from a very knowledgeable staff member.  Our group was able to view and learn about three different raptors. We learned about each bird’s special features, how they train the raptors, where the birds come from, what they eat and more, all while getting an extremely close view of these magnificent creatures.

This presentation was easily the best part of our visit. The children (and adults) in attendance were so excited to see each bird as our guide brought them out. The guide kept everyone interested and engaged.  Being a homeschool family that likes to school as much as we can through experiences, I have to say, this was one of the best educational presentations we’ve ever had the pleasure to view.

Raptor Center presentation

Fieldtrip groups also have the added benefit of a significant per person discount. The center has pre-planned programming, but will also customize for your group.  Homeschoolers, you do not have to be part of an organized group to schedule these field trip programs!  Gather some adventure-loving homeschool families with children of similar ages and make your own group! 

Raptor Center owl

The Trail

The trail at CRC is open to all paying guests. The trail area is where you will view the center’s various raptors in their habitats.  It’s a mostly shaded, gravel path and easily walkable. We had a few strollers in our group who had no problem with the path. Along the trail you’ll see raptors divided by their types; a grouping of owls, a loop of falcons, a section of vultures, the eagle aviary, and lineup of hawks. This allows you to easily compare them within their raptor families.

The trail also contains an exhibit showing the center’s raptors who regularly help out in the educational presentations, as well as an exhibit showing some of the work the raptor hospital onsite does regularly. The hospital is not regularly open to the public; however, they offer a behind-the-scenes tour and the exhibit “A Day in the Life of a Raptor Hospital.”

Raptor Center enclosure

Spending the Day at Carolina Raptor Center

If you plan to spend a large portion of your day at CRC, you should know that there is no onsite food vendor. The gift shop sells snacks, ice cream bars, and popsicles. If you plan to have lunch, you’ll need to bring it with you. (There isn’t much in the way of fast food nearby, either.) 

The center has several places to picnic, one is alongside a nature play area.  The play area contains teeter totters made out of sanded logs, a sand pit, sliced log blocks, a wooden play house, and a small area where children can view pictures of raptor nests and try to recreate them with nearby materials.

Getting to CRC

Carolina Raptor Center is located about 20 minutes north of Charlotte.  As you approach the center, follow signs for the nature preserve.  As you pass the preserve, you’ll soon approach the raptor center on your left. The first entrance is for the raptor hospital, the second entrance is the clearly marked main entrance to Carolina Raptor Center.  Google Maps brought us right to the visitor center parking lot with no problem.

Address:
Carolina Raptor Center, 6000 Sample Road, Huntersville, NC 28078

Admission and Hours

Hours are 10 am to 4 pm daily. They close from 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm, meaning the gift shop, ticketing and restrooms are closed from 12:30 to 1:30 pm, but guests already on the Raptor Trail do not have to leave.

Admission: $12 adults, $10 seniors, teachers, military, $8 Students ages 4 and up, Free for children ages 3 and under.

Bring the Learning Home

Here are some great books you can find on Amazon or at the library about raptors:

  • Birds of Prey (Peterson Field Guide)- J 598.9L
  • Discovering Birds of Prey by M.J. Thomas- J 598.9 T
  • Animal Lives: The Barn Owl- J 598.97
  • Eyewitness Book: Eagle and Birds of Prey- J 598.9

Your family might also enjoy reading My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George, as well as the sequels.  The main character in these stories trains a peregrine falcon to help him hunt as he tries to live on his own, off of the land.

Consider having students bring a sketchbook and sketch a few of the raptors they see.  Clearly label the sketches.  When you get home, have students look up information about the raptors they drew.  Consider a writing assignment, creative poster, flyer, brochure, or some other type of assignment that incorporates the sketches.  Similarly, families could take photographs of the birds and complete a family project, like a bulletin board or scrapbook, about what they learned.

Love Raptors?

Enjoy your visit to CRC?  Looking for a little more?  Consider visiting Caesar’s Head State Park this fall to observe the migration of thousands of raptors as they pass above the cliff on their way to their winter homes.  Check out the Kidding Around Greenville story on Hawk Watch.  You are likely to only see them from the sky, but they are still quite impressive.

Hub City Railroad Museum: Take Your Tiny Train Lover To This Railside Museum in Spartanburg, SC

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If you have a train lover in your family we have all the info you’ll need to make the most of an afternoon at the Hub City Railroad Museum! Our review includes a brief history of the Hub City, some history and details about this free museum, and when to go.

COVID-19 Museum Opening Update
According to the website, After a year of being closed, the Hub City Railroad Museum is open again. Come by on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 am to 2 pm and check out our recently added display about the Pullman Company. We also have a new order of tee-shirts that have just arrived. There are some restrictions in place due to the virus. We will request that you wear a mask and we will be limiting the number of visitors at one time. We will be periodically sanitizing the museum, especially frequently touched items. Your understanding is appreciated. The caboose is still undergoing a major renovation, but there has be significant progress made. Stop by and peek in to see how the construction is going.”

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Be Amazed at Stingrays, Sea Turtles, & Bald Eagle at the South Carolina Aquarium: Charleston, SC

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Thinking about making a trip to Charleston, SC to visit the South Carolina Aquarium? We were able to experience all the SC Aquarium has to offer and we’re ready to share it with you! If you’re looking for South Carolina Aquarium reviews or information on how to plan your visit, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve got all the info you need to plan your trip and have a blast with your family at the aquarium.

A visit to the aquarium is a fabulous day trip or an awesome part of an educational trip to Charleston.

Thank you to the South Carolina Aquarium for providing media tickets for our review. All opinions are genuine and those of our team member. 

SC Aquarium
Scenes from the South Carolina Aquarium

About the South Carolina Aquarium

In 2019, the SC Aquarium was one of ten recipients of the National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the highest honor for an aquarium to receive. They received it “not for having a massive living collection of exotic species from around the world, but for keeping its collection’s focus local.” This focus is entirely evident as soon as you step foot into the Aquarium.

If someone asked me what the focus of the Aquarium is, I’d tell them conservation and education. It is easy to see how dedicated this nonprofit is to educating the public on the local species right there in Charleston and throughout the state as well as ways to conserve the beautiful animals you’ll see.

Bald eagle at the SC Aquarium
Bald eagle at the SC Aquarium

My favorite parts of the Aquarium were the two interactive talks given by the volunteers and staff at the Aquarium, which I’ll tell you about shortly. When you visit the beautiful Aquarium, you will no doubt walk away with a greater appreciation for the different climates and environments of South Carolina as well as the incredible work being done by the Aquarium in areas of conservation and the treatment and rehabilitation of sea turtles.

The Exhibits at the SC Aquarium

The South Carolina Aquarium is the perfect sized-aquarium for really getting to understand the different exhibits and spending time learning about sharks, stingrays, sea turtles, river otters, and even the resident bald eagle, Liberty. My daughters and I took our time going through the exhibits and attending the two educational talks and in total, spent about two hours there. We probably could have stayed longer if we had a snack at the Sea Turtle Snack Bar or fed the stingrays!

Spoonbill at the SC Aquarium
Spoonbill at the SC Aquarium

There are two public floors to the aquarium: the first floor houses the sea turtle hospital, the stingray touch tank, the gorgeous balcony overlooking the USS Yorktown and the Ravenel Bridge, and the bottom level of the Great Ocean Tank. The upper level has the kids play area, the salt marsh exhibit, the jelly fish, the mountains to Piedmont exhibits, and the upper viewing area of the giant tank.

There are many hands-on exhibits all throughout the Aquarium, which really any kid will find entertaining and fun. When you enter the Aquarium, you can scan the QR code located at the visitor stand or if you would prefer to print out a copy for your visit, here is a map of the South Carolina Aquarium Exhibits.

The Educational Programs at the SC Aquarium

At the advice of the Aquarium’s public relations staff member, we timed our visit so we could see the Dive Into the G.O.T and Turtle Talk programs.

The Dive Into the G.O.T. was phenomenal! The G.O.T. stands for the Great Ocean Tank, which holds more than 350,000 gallons of water and is 42 feet deep. There is a diver inside the tank who does a question-and-answer session with an Aquarium staff member and then takes questions from the audience.

Diver at the SC Aquarium
Diver at the SC Aquarium

We learned all kinds of cool things about how the volunteers and staff feed the animals in the tank, how they clean the tank, and ways to practice conservation on our own. The Turtle Talk was also amazing. The sea turtle care center is really neat and an active place where the sea turtles are taken when they are stranded or injured. Many are cared for and rehabilitated and then released back into the wild.

Sea turtle hospital at the SC Aquarium
Sea turtle hospital at the SC Aquarium

There are also animal encounters throughout the day. We saw a couple of volunteers and staff offering guests the opportunity to pet a snake. My kids passed on that one unfortunately.

The staff we met were all so, so kind and helpful. They all seemed to really love their jobs and were happy to be working at the Aquarium. The passion they had for the animals and education about them was easy to see.

Also, to add on some more educational fun to your visit, consider doing one of these onsite activities at the Aquarium, which include scavenger hunts, discovery bins, and deeper dives into the exhibits that are grade-level appropriate – looking at you, homeschoolers.

Interacting with the Stingrays

I personally think stingrays are pretty cool and just beautiful to watch, although I’m terrified of accidentally stepping on one while wading on the shore. Yet, seeing them up close and learning about them is fascinating. All of the times I’ve ever seen them in touch tanks and aquariums, they have been very playful and fun.

Stingrays at the SC Aquarium
Stingrays at the SC Aquarium

The ones at the SC Aquarium are no different. They have a huge tank to swim and play that overlooks the Charleston Harbor and it’s just gorgeous. The stingrays will come right up to the edge of the tank like puppies and basically beg for pets. It’s really adorable. They are a little slimy but once I got over that, I was all about it.

You can feed the ocean puppies for $5. I didn’t do that but I saw others who did and they looked like they were really enjoying the experience.

Trading Post at the SC Aquarium

I was really excited to see that the Aquarium has something called “The Trading Post”. If you’re familiar with the Nature Exchange at all at the Roper Mountain Science Center, this is a similar concept. You can bring in up to two natural items found in nature and earn points, which are redeemable for other cool things that the Aquarium has like shark teeth and pretty shells.

There are a few items that the Trading Post will not accept. This includes bird items (nest, egg, feathers), live animals, sea turtle bones, or anything else from an endangered species. 

A great opportunity to find shells and fossils can be found with the Sandlapper Water Tours that launch right around the corner at the maritime center. You can go on a morning eco-tour and then head to the aquarium. 

The trading post at the SC Aquarium

Visiting the South Carolina Aquarium

The Aquarium is located just minutes from downtown Charleston and right next to one of the places you can take a boat tour to Fort Sumter. The view from the deck is worth the experience alone!

You can purchase tickets in advance using the Aquarium’s dynamic ticketing system. Admission is determined by day of the week, school calendars, local events, weather, and holidays. You can see what the prices are for different days and purchase up to 60 days in advance.

There is an on-site gift shop as well as a snack bar, which is open 11 am – 3 pm daily. Parking is easy at the nearby Aquarium parking garage, which is $2/hour.

The Aquarium is open daily 9 am – last ticket sold at 3:30 pm and the building closes at 5 pm
Closed Thanksgiving Day & Christmas Day, closes at 1 pm on Christmas Eve.

South Carolina Aquarium
100 Aquarium Wharf, Charleston
843.577.FISH (3474)

This Local Rabbit Park Has Over a 100 Rabbits: Garden Gate Rabbit Park

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Are you looking for a unique, family-friendly place to visit with your kids near Greenville? Garden Gate Rabbit Park is just the place. Read below to find out all about Anna’s visit to this special local rabbit park that welcomes visitors.

Spring is usually filled with images of rabbits, painted eggs, and baskets. Build springtime memories with a visit to South Carolina’s only Rabbit Park!

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Baby Goats = Pure Happiness at Split Creek Farm in Anderson, SC

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Do you love baby goats? KAG’s Kristina Hernandez sure does. She visited local farm, Split Creek Farm in Anderson, SC, and got to spend some time with baby goats. You can head to Split Creek Farm and see goats, too. This farm offers tours, events, a farm store with delicious cheese and more.

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3 Simple Snow Science Experiments You Can Do With Your Kids

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Looking for some simple science experiments with snow? If snow is in the forecast, you might be ready for a little fun with the kids, nce you’ve stocked up on your bread, milk, cocoa, and marshmallows. Why not turn a snow day into a science lesson with some simple experiments your kids will love? Here are some snow-day science experiments to try!

snow experiments

Snow Science Experiments for Kids:
Snowflakes: Catch and Examine
What Makes a Perfect Snowball?
Snow: Playing with volume
Bonus: Snow Art

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