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Schrader Center: Kid-Friendly Fun

The thing I find the most meaningful about my day-to-day duties at the Schrader Center is when I get to happily be hands-on. I like being able to not only promote our programs, but to get to participate in them. I like to interact with visitors and ensure they get to personally know the Schrader Center. That’s why, last summer, after a family had come to visit the Center and stayed to let their kids cavort, I was stunned to be told, “I had no idea this place was kid-friendly.”

Sure, our building is a green building and nationally recognized for its sustainable architecture, and that’s a perspective we are proud of. Yes, our history is rooted in A.B. Brooks, Oglebay Institute’s original naturalist and the first person to graduate with a forestry degree, whose nature walks were so wonderful that they drew a capacity crowd. Clearly we have a variety of public programs that cater to kids, but that’s certainly not all we offer. Any time someone stops by just to browse or pass the time, or decides to come in just because we’re open, without knowing what we do or who we are, I try to make their visit personal.

Any time a child comes through the door, I want to show them all we have to see. I don’t want them to just look at the turtle in the tank, but to get to hold him, know his name and never forget that he can live in both land and water. I want them to be able feed him a worm and say, “Wow!”, when he eats it, and then laugh because he’s so shy that once it’s in his mouth he turns his head away from the tank to eat all alone. I want them to find the toad that is hibernating and listen to it sing its song. I want them to feel that a snake is not slimy and to feed the birds. I want them to want to come back.

One particular beautiful little boy that I have the privilege of playing with every week is Marcus. He and his family are new to the area; they came from Colorado, and are still touring the town. The Schrader Center is one stop that they have found to be fruitful for them. Every week Marcus comes and calls out for me. He helps me with all the animals – I get to watch him giggle as the toad uses his tongue to catch the worms we find to feed it, see excitement exude from his eyes when we read the books that populate our kiosk, and exercise his imagination when he plays with the puppets.

We can be called a lot of things: Schrader Center, Nature Center, Environmental Education Center. We can be called a green building. A lot of people even get us confused with the zoo! What I think you’ll find at the top of that list, though is that we’re extremely kid-friendly. Come and see for yourself!

By Sara Fincham, Customer Service Representative and special programs facilitator at the Schrader Center

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