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Returning Home: Spartanburg Science Center’s New Educational Director Returns to Spartanburg

March 18, 2020 | Features
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Intro by Mary Levens, Executive Director, Spartanburg Science Center:

The Spartanburg Science Center wants to welcome our new Educational Director, Jesseca Kusher!  

She brings knowledge and expertise to the center along with a sense of history.  She was raised in Spartanburg, and attended the Spartanburg Science Center as a child.  

She won the Regional Piedmont Science Fair as a high school student twice!  

Please drop by and meet “Jess” and observe the many additions and changes she has made to our animal room!  

I know you will be as happy as we are she is a major part of our center!

Blog post by Jess Kusher, Educational Programs Director, Spartanburg Science Center:

The day the Chapman Cultural Center opened in 2007 my family showed up late to the ceremony.

I’m sure it was the fault of no one person, but as the older sister of two rambunctious little brothers? You do the math.

I can remember some helpful Spartanburg stranger helping us climb the enormous concrete wall that faces East St. John Street so we could see the stage. There were hundreds of people crammed into the courtyard chanting, “CCC! The Chapman Cultural Center!"

Lateness aside, that day marked the opening of a significant place throughout my adolescence. Prior to its creation, I frequented the old Arts Center on Spring Street across from Montessori Academy, my school. As a young student I tried ballet with Ballet Spartanburg, Irish Step Dancing, and summer camp with SAM. That said, the most exciting room in the old center was the ancient classroom sitting at the end of the left hallway littered with artifacts and smelling distinctly of moth balls: The Spartanburg Science Center. 

For us Spartanburg natives, Mr. John Green of the Science Center is a local celebrity. When he showed up to your classroom with a battered plastic bin— that was the most exciting day of the month. Like Mary Poppins he carried a collection of fantastical props and used them to weave stories that transported us to all kinds of exotic locales. From finding alligators in the Everglades to exploring the vast expanse of space— Mr. Green could take us there from the safety of a circle sitting on the classroom rug. 

Outside of school, Mr. Green taught the best summer camps. We explored Glendale Shoals, hunted for salamanders in the back of Hatcher Gardens, and scared far too many turtles off their happy basking logs. For my birthdays as a child, Mr. Green was a constant. He took us into the inflatable star lab planetarium, introduced us to every animal in his tiny zoo, and always hung around for cake. After I grew out of his birthday parties and summer camps, I visited Mr. Green during the Science Center’s first robotics club (the Montessori Molecules), and occasionally before Spartanburg Youth Theatre play rehearsal.

I feel some pressure sitting in Mr. Green’s office chair. His legacy is so important to the people of Spartanburg and it is an honor to carry it on. That said, continuing his legacy is a task too large for one person on their own. Over the past 43 years the Spartanburg Science Center has added a number of programs and partnerships throughout the community. I am indebted to Peter, who filled this role before me— in addition to a passionate young team of interns and college students from Wofford, Converse, and Spartanburg Community College. Believe it or not, The John F. Green Spartanburg Science Center has outgrown the ability to be managed by just one magical man. With over 1000 hours of teaching provided to the larger Spartanburg community each year? We’ve grown, and we just keep growing! There, I did the math.

My plans for the Science Center are grand, that’s for sure— but it’s no fun to give them all away at once. Right now we are remodeling the Science Center’s animal room: we have over 50 animals, and will soon have representation from every continent, including Antarctica!

Additionally, we have the most exciting summer camps planned, with a full lineup released at the end of March. From “Archaeology,” to the “Science of Filmmaking,” these camps are super! I hope to bring new energy to collaboration across partners in the Chapman Cultural Center! We will maintain our excellence as a science educator in the Upstate while also growing to anticipate the needs of our community.

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