Friday, July 1, 2011

S.A.N.E. Goes to Bays Mountain!

This last Wednesday June 29th of 2011 the Skeptics and Atheists Network at ETSU (S.A.N.E.) had an awesome outing to the local Bays Mountain Park. Several members attended to take part of the awesome surroundings of nature and fill our minds with rationality. The park is chock full of opportunities to better understand science and nature.

The first thing we did was carpool from the ETSU campus to the local Earth Fare to purchase some snacks for our picnic style lunch in the park. The park has a few tables that allowed us to not have to leave the park literally for the entire four hours we were there. We went from Earth Fare in Johnson City straight to Bays Mountain and upon arriving went straight to the Nature Center.

The Nature Center is where you can go to check things like the gift shop out as well as various dioramas and cool science related things. It is a cool place to get out of the warm weather and to also purchase the needed tickets for things like the Planetarium Show. I was able to get six passes to the Planetarium show from my family membership to the park and I purchased on extra to make up the difference in attendees. We also got to check out the indoor aquariums and beehive areas. The beehives were an interesting look into the social characteristics of bees from a safe area with glass between. The aquarium was great to see the various local wildlife in the area held within the aquariums so we could see that Tennessee is full of valuable lake life.

Right after getting the tickets and checking things out indoors we went straight to the animal enclosures to take in the awesomeness of the park. We made our very first animal stop to the turtle habitat. The turtles were quite playful and fun to just watch within their area. We then went to the nearby raptor bird enclosures. We got to get fairly close to Bubo the Owl as well as check out the other birds hanging out in their cages. It was a great initial experience that then led us to the bobcat, wolf, raccoon, and deer enclosures. We really spent about an hour or so checking out these various enclosures and animal habitats before going to the area known as Lilypad Cove where you can relax in the sun checking out the bridge that goes fairly deeply into the lake within an alcove. After relaxing there for about ten minutes we then headed to the not so playful otter habitat. It seemed with the weather being somewhat warm most animals were mor than fine with staying in the shaded areas away from out prying eyes.

After checking out the awesome animals for about two hours total we then headed back to the parking lot to eat lunch at the picnic tables before heading off to the Planetarium Show at 1pm. We then headed back to the Nature Center and much to our surprise our guide for the Planetarium Show was one of our very own members Joel Shelton. He is currently employed at Bays Mountain and is the individual that does the interactive show in the planetarium. We were served with a treat because not only is he a member but is able to provide science to younger crowds as we experienced that day.

We happened to attend the same day that Coalition For Kids was there with several busloads of excited children ready to be immersed in science and nature. When we went to the planetarium show we were met with about fifty of those kids super excited about space and science anxiously awaiting the impending show. The show is an interactive trip through our Solar System in the guise of being transported in a spaceship. We got to see the excited faces of young people witness what it is like to travel through the Solar System virtually via the awesome 360 degree view of the planetarium. We also got to get some basic information about the planets in our system and some information on the other objects within our system like the Oort Cloud. It seemed by the responses everyone had an amazing time at the planetarium show and left with full smiles ready to tackle the future.

After leaving the theater we then headed back to a few of the animal habitats to check out some of the animals some more. We got to witness the feeding of the wolves and see the kids reacting to that event. After watching that for a bit we then headed out of the park to head back to Johnson City but not with great excitement. It was truly a fun experience to see the various animals and local wildlife available to us from a great vantage point. This might have to be a yearly event with eventually leading to us perhaps volunteering or bringing more local people so they can be more in touch with our local nature.

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