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Posts Tagged ‘Educational Things to Do’

Huge Catawba Science Center is a Fun Day Trip in Hickory, NC

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The Catawba Science Center in Hickory, NC has so much to explore! See animals, build, learn about physics, space, gardens and more! We checked it out and have all the information you need to enjoy a fun day here as a day trip from Greenville, SC, or Charlotte, NC, or anywhere in between!

Catawba Science Center

Ever since I got my Roper Mountain Science Center membership, I’ve started planning day trips and homeschool field trips according to where my family can get in for free or half-price using the reciprocal membership benefits. The Catawba Science Center in Hickory, NC was on the list so that’s where we went. 

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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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Search for Owls at Night at Congaree National Park During a Ranger-Guided Hike near Columbia, SC

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Are you interested in learning about Congaree National Park events? Many people don’t know that our national and state parks have pretty cool events all throughout the year. One of them – the Owl Prowl – is quite the adventure at Congaree National Park in Columbia, SC and Kristina has all the details. 

The more I’ve visited local, state, and national parks, the more I’ve learned about the Ranger programs offered, and wow, every single one I’ve been to or done with my kids has been awesome. When I saw an event for the Ranger-guided Owl Prowl in Congaree National Park in Columbia, SC, I immediately signed up. 

Owl Prowl at Congaree National Park
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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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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.

Hiking Through History: Musgrove Mill State Historic Site

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Looking for a fun outing where you can enjoy the great outdoors and take in some history too? We’ve got just the place! Local mom Maria took her kids to Musgrove Mill Historic Site and is sharing her experience with us. This beautiful outdoor destination includes lots of territory to explore plus American history to share with your family.

This park is new to the free incentive program to get kids exploring the outdoors! Learn all about it in our review of the Kids in Parks Program

On a hot, humid August day in 1780, 200 Patriot militia defeated over 500 Loyalist troops at the Battle of Musgrove Mill. Today you can visit the beautiful Musgrove Mill State Historic Site to walk the steps of those soldiers and militiamen. If you do, you’ll also enjoy a beautiful, wooded hike alongside a clear, clean creek and waterfall.

A Day at Musgrove Mill State Historic Site

You’ll want to begin your visit at the Visitor’s Center, where park rangers will play a short audio presentation about the battle, accompanied by a map with lighted markers, which will give your family a birds-eye view of the movement of both patriot and loyalist troops. Then you’ll need to choose to hike one of Musgrove Mill’s two trails. Will it be the one-mile hike to the loyalist camp along the Enoree River?  Or will it be the 1.3-mile battlefield trail beginning at Horseshoe Falls along Cedar Shoals Creek? My family is studying the Revolutionary War this fall and have visited several Southern Campaign battlefields, so we decided to follow the battlefield trail. We were not disappointed!

Hikers will find the camp trail at the end of the Visitor Center parking lot, but if your family decides to visit the falls and the battlefield trail, you’ll need to get back in your car and drive about three miles to cross the Enoree River and get to the park’s other parking lot. The ranger at the Visitor Center will provide you with a map! You can also follow the road signs for Horseshoe Falls. When you arrive at the trailhead, you will find a gravel parking lot and sign, just before the metal bridge that crosses the creek.

Musgrove Mill in South Carolina

The battlefield at Musgrove Mill

The battlefield trail begins with a couple of hundred yards of concrete, wheelchair-accessible trail that takes you to Horseshoe Falls. Hikers of the battlefield trail will continue on past the falls, where the trail is no longer paved. The battlefield trail is a 1.3-mile loop, with frequent signage that describes the backcountry’s roll in the Revolutionary War, the key players in the Battle of Musgrove Mill, and takes you to step by step through the battle.  You’ll walk the soldiers’ path to the ridge where the outnumbered patriot militia waited to attack the loyalists. Of the Revolutionary War sites my family has visited, these signs were the easiest for my children to understand. My 8-year-old was able to read the majority of them aloud to the rest of us, and the pictures were clear and helpful. It was wonderful to gain a clear understanding and appreciation for what happened that day on the exact ridge upon which we stood.

The battlefield hike does have some hills, but our little group didn’t find it too difficult. My 5-year-old was able to hike it without any difficulty, and my 3-year-old needed a piggyback ride for just the last bit of the loop. For young children, a carrier backpack would be helpful.

On our hike back to the car, we stopped at Horseshoe Falls to enjoy the waterfall and have a snack before heading for home. The nature-loving, rock skipping, critter hunting little ones among you will love exploring the edge of the sandy pool at the bottom of the falls.

Musgrove Mill State Historic Site is located at 398 State Park Road in Clinton.  The Horseshoe Falls and battlefield trail is open sunrise to sunset daily, and the gate to the visitor center and the camp trail is open 9 am – 6 pm daily.  The visitor center is open 10 am – 5 pm Friday through Sunday, and other times depending on staff availability. (We went on a Monday morning and there were two very helpful staff members at the Visitor’s Center.) There is a small fee for admission since it is part of the SC State Park system (if you have an SC State Park pass, it’s free).  You can find more information and directions here.

Curious to learn about the battle before you go? Check out this site, which gives an overview of the battle.

We hope you love your hike through a bit of American history. If you enjoy the trip, you’ll be happy to know that there are many state and national parks at the site of revolutionary war battles in the upstate and throughout South Carolina. You’ll find an excellent overview of the war in South Carolina, and links to sites you can visit today here.

Would your kids enjoy a historical field trip to Musgrove Mill State Historic Site?