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Winter Solstice – What it all means!

WSolstice1By Zak Klemm {Educational Program Specialist}

The Winter Solstice is a big deal, but there is no reason to get short about its true meaning. Every year we talk about the winter solstice as the shortest day of the year but why is it? Let’s take a look into why it is and its significance in other cultures.

WSolstice2During the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere we experience the shortest daylight length of the year. For example in Washington, DC the day’s length is 9 hours and 26 minutes, but in cities further North such as Reykjavik, Iceland only has a day length of 4 hours and 7 minutes! The winter solstice is caused by the Earth’s rotation around the sun since we are orbiting the sun at a staggering speed of 67,062 miles per hour which completes one cycle around the sun in 365 days, which equals one year. At this point in our orbit the northern hemisphere is exposed to less solar energy, however the overall energy reaching the Earth is up 6.9%. The reason we get colder is due to the Earth’s axial tilt which disperses the energy over a greater area, heating the atmosphere less. It is important to remember the earth’s tilt doesn’t change as we orbit about the sun always at 23.5 degrees.

WSolstice3The winter solstice obviously is an occurrence that only happens annually many cultures have noticed it and celebrated its occurrence some examples follow. In ancient Rome the festival of Saturnalia was celebrated in conjunction with the Solstice it was a festival to honor Saturn (the father of the gods). In this festival there were handmade gifts exchanged each with a symbolic meaning. For example, imitation fruit was given as a symbol of fertility, dolls symbolic due to the custom of human sacrifice, and candles symbolic of the bonfires associated with most of their festivals. The ancient people of England built Stonehenge as a solar calendar. Over 3500 people turned out this year to watch the sunrise at Stonehenge. Many ancient Cultures celebrated this occurrence as it marked the increase in day length from this point out. So if you don’t like being cold and these short days, bright side is we are on the upswing!

May you all have a safe and happy holidays!

~From us here at the Schrader Environmental Center!

Happy Holidays Seec

Picture Credits:

  1. http://www.hdwallpaperstop.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/winter-sunset-wallpapers.jpg
  2. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weather-gang/files/2013/12/Axial-tilt-and-seasons.png
  3. http://media1.shmoop.com/images/biology/biobook_biogeography_graphik_2.png

 

Late Bloomers at the Schrader Center

SunflowerphotoThe long awaited blooming of summer’s last flowers is here; the tall and mighty sunflower! All summer long Ms. Robin heard reports from various children from this past spring’s Preschool Days program, “Four Fingers and a Thumb”, where we learned about a plant‘s life cycle, made recycled pots and planted sunflower seeds in class. Reports included how tall their plantings were, “up to here” or “bigger than me”, often coupled with gestures to show height. Then, exciting news came in – they bloomed!

Four-year-old Allison beamed as she handed me a picture of her blooming sunflower when Preschool Days classes resumed last week. She also told me proudly that she now goes to preschool and nature preschool.  Allison has been attending Preschool Days programs at the Schrader Center with her grandmother, aunt or mother since she was just 2-years-old, and before words.

There are still openings in the Fall Preschool Days program, but look for a change in the name this winter.  Starting in January, the Preschool Days program (2- to 4-year-olds with an adult”) will be called “Roots and Shoots”.  “Roots” better reflects the often multi-generational participants (grandparents, grandchildren, parents and caregivers) in the program.  And “Shoots” captures the growth and transition of our smallest nature learners from no words to an understanding and interest in the natural world around them.

The “Budding Naturalists” program for transitional kindergartners without an adult will keep its name. Both programs will retain their high quality, interactive programming and educational outdoor components.  Check out our programs online, or call the Schrader Center at 304-242-6855 to register. –By Robin Lee, Education Program Coordinator

OI Hosts “LEXICON OF SUSTAINABILITY” Pop Up Art Show at Farm to Table Event

csaGuests at the 3rd Annual Farm to Table Culinary Tasting Event set for Sunday, August 18 at Oglebay Institute’s Stifel Fine Arts Center will have an opportunity to view a beautiful and educational photographic exhibit highlighting the language of sustainable food.

The Lexicon of Sustainability Pop Up Art Show includes large format “information art” photo collages and educates, engages and activates people to pay closer attention to how they eat, what they buy and where their responsibility begins for creating a healthier, safer food system in America.

Designed to educate the fast-growing group of people who want to eat better but aren’t quite sure how, this groundbreaking exhibit illuminates concepts, terms and definitions of sustainable agriculture and is based on a simple premise – people can’t be expected to live more sustainable lives if they don’t understand the most basic terms and principles that define sustainability.

Dr. Vishakha Maskey, an associate professor of management at the Gary E. West College of Business at West Liberty University, is the curator for the August 18 show at the Farm to Table event. She has hosted previous shows in places such as the Children’s Museum of the Ohio Valley and the Ohio Valley Farmers’ Market.

The Lexicon of Sustainability Pop-Up Art Show is included with the Farm to Table admission fee.

farm_to_table eatingThe Farm to Table Culinary Tasting Event includes a variety of farm-fresh dishes prepared onsite by some of the area’s top chefs. Guests will enjoy a diverse menu of seasonally fresh produce, lamb, chicken and beef, cooking demonstrations, a farmers’ market, organic wine and live music on the lawn of the Stifel Fine Arts Center.

For more information or to register, visit www.OIonline.com/farmtotable.

Add Some Nature to Your Life this Summer!

It seems that what we at the Schrader Center have known all along is now being proven by a wider group of scientists and researchers…Nature Rocks! It’s true. If you add in some time spent outdoors in nature, you can lessen the amount of stress that you feel and increase cognitive skills and creativity, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and a Natural Learning Initiative study at North Carolina State University. Richard Louv, the author of “The Nature Principle: Reconnecting With Life in a Virtual Age” and “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder”, describes how it’s time to get back to nature in a recent article for the New York Times online edition. 

trail hikers

Oglebay Institute makes it easy to connect in nature with a myriad of summer camp options for adults and children of all ages. Check out OI’s website, and click on the Camps tab for information on Mountain Nature Camp, Junior Nature Camp and Nature Day Camp. Plus, we have tons of summer activities that put you right out on the trails and up close and personal with Mother Nature. We have guided nature walks, a fossil hunt, campfires, family backpacking and exploration and even astronomy! You can find a complete listing of our summer programs here:  OI_SP_rack_card.

Visit the Schrader Center this summer, and step into the outdoors with your family. We’re just a few minutes up the hill in Oglebay Park!

Schrader Center Junior Naturalists Make an Interesting Discovery!

As Schrader Center Junior Naturalists, this is our fifth weak of volunteering this summer and our first blog post.  Within the last five weeks, we have found a lot of cool discoveries, and we can’t believe it has been this long!  Today, we decided to share the experience we had with a cicada we found while clearing out wood from an archery course.  While moving a log, one of our Junior Naturalists, Amelia, found a strange looking creature lurking in the ground.  After digging it out, and placing it lightly on a glove, she called over our instructor, Erica, who confirmed that it was a cicada!  After snapping a photo, we headed back to our office to find more information.  Using a new thing called the internet (you’ve probably never heard of it), we discovered that it was an “annual cicada”. These are different than the periodical cicadas. Periodical cicadas spend the first 17 years of their lives underground and emerge all at the same time in large swarms.Nymph4-29-07A

We scavenged some insect and wildlife books from around the building, and pulled out our nature journals to take notes.  We gathered tons of interesting facts!  For example, did you know that adult male cicadas only live for about a week?  Imagoes, another word for adult cicadas, look for mates by spending their time in trees and singing. When a male sings, females respond, which in turn triggers mating, and the cycle of life begins. Cicadas make their trademark mechanical buzz with an organ called a tymbal. The tymbal is made up of a thick membrane set in the chamber of the insect’s thorax. As the membrane vibrates, the sound resonates and amplifies, creating the cicada’s song. As you can see, we have a lot of fun, and make tons of new discoveries every day!

See you soon,

The Junior Naturalists

Dispelling the Daddy Long Legs Myth

“Daddy Long Legs are one of the most poisonous spiders, but their fangs are too short to bite humans. But if they could, they would be deadly.”

daddylonglegsHave you heard this common myth?  This creature has long held on to this untrue legacy. While the Daddy Long Legs or Harvestman is in the Order of arachnids, having eight legs, so do scorpions, mites and ticks. True spiders have two segments or body parts; the cephalothorax (Greek for head-body) and the abdomen or gut. The abdomen of true spiders also has spinnerets for producing silk for web making.  Daddy Long Legs (of the Order Opiliones) have a fused cephalothorax and abdomen, or a single body part, and do not possess spinnerets. They do not produce silk and webs.  If you see one in a web it has probably fallen victim to a true spider.  Other differences are that Opiliones have no venom glands in their chelicerae (mouth parts), where true spiders have both fangs and venom.

Daddy Long Legs or Harvestman are opportunistic, and may eat other small insects but their primary diet is that of a decomposer, eating dead plants and fungi and sometimes dead animal material. That is why you will find them under dead logs and in other dead forest and garden debris. Since they lack venom glands, fangs or any other mechanism for chemically subduing their food, they do not have poison and, by the powers of logic, cannot be poisonous from venom.

How do Daddy Long Legs defend themselves from their predators? There are two ways besides outrunning them. First, in their limited arsenal of self-defense is the art of distraction.  If a leg is lost (some species may have the ability to throw off their legs) the separated leg will twitch for a few minutes. Some species’ legs have been recorded to twitch for up to an hour. The twitching is an adaptation designed to hold the attention of the predator while the Daddy Long Legs escapes to safety. A final defense found in some types of Daddy Long Legs is their ability to secrete a substance with a strong odor from their abdomen to discourage the predator. This secretion may be poisonous if eaten.  I could not find any studies on how many or much of this substance a mammal would have to consume to be affected.

In summary, you are safe to capture and observe Daddy Long Legs to your heart’s content and should not suffer any negative consequences, as long as you do not eat them!  –By Robin Lee, Education Programming Coordinator

Earth Day Volunteering at the Schrader Center — April 20, 2013

IMG_1225Like the outdoors? Want to spend a little time helping improve the exterior grounds at the local nature center?

Schrader Center staff will host a volunteer work event in honor of Earth Day on Saturday, April 20 from 10:00 am – 3:00 pm at the Schrader Center. We’ll be pulling privet, and other invasive species, planting trees and clearing walkways, cleaning up around the butterfly garden, and more! We encourage volunteers all of ages to participate for any amount of time! Volunteers should wear long sleeves, work pants and boots. Work gloves will be provided, but volunteers may bring their own. Coffee, tea and snacks will be complimentary.

Bird Walk – We’ll start the day out with a morning bird walk hosted by Brooks Bird member and Bethany College Professor of Biology, Jay Buckelew, from 9:00 -10:00 am. Meet in the lower parking lot of the Schrader Center near the trail head a few minutes before 9:00 am.

observatoryatoglebay

Astronomy Day Activities — Other activities include Oglebay Astronomy Club’s Astronomy Day program with two sessions. The daytime session will be held from 1:00 to 4:00 pm at the Speidel Observatory and includes solar viewing (weather permitting– many sunspots are currently visible), meteorite display, space science demonstrations and activities, and Speidel Observatory tours. The nighttime session will be held from 8:00 to 11:00 pm, also at the Speidel Observatory, and will include telescope astronomy (weather permitting–Jupiter is spectacular now!), night sky tour of the constellations and special Speidel Observatory tours.

Call the Schrader Center at 304-242-6855 for more information.

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