FLORENCE, S.C. – After 16 years of serving the Pee Dee, ScienceSouth will close on June 30.
With STEM-based education, or science, technology, engineering and math, becoming more prevalent, the ScienceSouth board of directors decided to end the organization during an operating board meeting in March, ScienceSouth executive director Stephen Welch said.
“It has truly been an honor and a privilege to educate children and watch their eyes sparkle as they learn to love science," Welch said. “We have seen over 220,000 in the last 20 years throughout the Pee Dee and beyond.”
Welch said the board decided to close ScienceSouth because it was becoming more difficult to obtain grants on the federal and state level. He also said a lot of schools are beginning to invest in their own STEM-based programs.
Over the years ScienceSouth has provided the community with hands-on learning opportunities through summer camps, Saturday programs, field trips, home school programs and in-school visits. The organization has also provided education for teachers through camps and seminars for school districts, as well as Science on Wheels outreach programs.
ScienceSouth was started out of a desire to further Pee Dee children’s science education, according to the organization.
“ScienceSouth brought STEM education to South Carolina before STEM was cool,” said Tom Ewart, the ScienceSouth board of directors president. “We were the original hands-on, science based, facility in the Pee Dee. It has not been an easy decision to close ScienceSouth, but with STEM funding becoming more prevalent for school districts' own STEM programs and competition growing; we felt it was time for it to sunset. Our mission has been fulfilled and science is now fun in the Pee Dee.”
One former ScienceSouth camper, Madeline Love, said her memories at ScienceSouth are some of the best of her childhood.
“Every summer I would be fascinated by Mr. Tony and the knowledge that he shared,” Love said. “It truly inspired my love of science and I learned more there than I did in school.”
Welch said the organization is looking at doing a final free community event during the month of July to give back to the community. The date for the event hasn’t been set yet.
ScienceSouth began when educators and business leaders came together to address the science and technology education gap in the Pee Dee in 2000, according to the ScienceSouth website. Nearly three years later, ScienceSouth began hosting programming.
On March 28, 2008, the ScienceSouth Pavilion opened near Freedom Florence, which served as a home for hands-on science workshops and events, according to the ScienceSouth website.