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What Makes Objects Float?

This week, the Junior Rangers teach team helped out with Nature Day Camp by teaching a lesson about water. H2O was this week’s theme and our team had prepared a lesson about buoyancy, surface tension and cohesion – aka what makes certain objects float. Buoyancy is defined as the upward force exerted by a liquid that opposes the weight of an immersed object. Each member of our team was responsible for teaching a section of the material. Junior Ranger Luke Knollinger introduced the topic by showing campers how to calculate the density of an object. If an object is denser than the water, it will sink. We also talked about animals that use surface tension to float, like the Water Striders (Gerridae). This group of true bugs distributes its weight to make it less dense and allow it to glide on the surface of the water.
During the lesson, the campers treated us to a rousing chorus of The Water Cycle Song – a song about how water is recycled through evaporation, condensation and precipitation. It was great! After we explained why things float, we needed to test out this new knowledge. The campers broke up into teams and constructed their own boats, using what they had learned to make them buoyant and fast. Once the boats were built, campers were able to race them against the other teams. Even though the power went out shortly after we left the building, we all still had a blast. ~Jr. Rangers Teach Team

Jr. Rangers Awarded Grant to Replant Native Species in Oglebay Park

For those of you who haven’t been following the process of our junior ranger grant project, we have been awarded $100 to pull out invasive plant species and replant native ones in the area.  We started replanting trees by digging holes for arrowwood viburnum seeds.  Then we took tree cuttings from box elder, red osier dogwood, and arrowwood viburnum and dipped them in rooting compound and put them in pots.  Today we dug holes to plant our native species of trees in.  While digging we noticed that 4 native species (wingstem, poke weed, White Ash, and box elder) were starting to grow where we cleared privet.

Poke Weed

Phytolacca americana is the scientific name for Pokeweed, which is native to North America. It is a herbaceous perennial plant. Pokeweed can grow up to ten feet in height. This plant is highly toxic to livestock and humans, that’s why deer probably won’t eat it. Pokeweed plants are usually found in edge habitats, meaning they are on the edge of forests where there is lots of sun and disturbed areas. That is why pokeweed is growing in the area we pulled privet.

White Ash

Acer negundo commonly known as Box Elder, is a species of tree that is part of the maple family.  It grows from 10 to 25 meters tall and stays less than 1 meter in diameter.  The Box Elder is fully dioecious, meaning separate male and female trees are required for reproduction.  It grows across the United States and Canada, even as far south as Guatemala.  It is generally a bottom land tree, meaning it grows on heavy wet soils, and requires full sun to partial shade.

White Ash (Fraxinus americana) is native to the Eastern North America from Nova Scotia to Florida, and west to Texas.  It grows up to 25 meters tall and grows very rapidly in hardwood forest gaps.  It readily grows in high light and well drained areas.

Wingstem

The fourth plant we found, Wingstem (Verbesina alternifolia), is a very tall perennial herbaceous plant that can reach up to 3 meters tall and has bright yellow flowers.  It prefers pasture, field and roadside habitats with high light, and is found from the East Coast to Texas.  Some people consider it weedy, but we consider any native plant an upgrade from privet.

The discovery of these plants is good news, because it shows that native plants are growing back where we removed an invasive species.  Even though we plan to plant some tree in the area, these native pioneers will help stop privet from re-invading the area before our planted trees get large! ~Jr. Ranger Trail Team

Jr Rangers Working to Remove Privet

In the past few weeks, we’ve been working on a grant application to replace the invasive privet we have pulled among the native trees and plants around the Schrader Center. To start our project today, we took a walk with Jake Francis, our trusty Jr. Ranger leader, who taught us how to properly take cuttings from Arrow-wood Viburnum and Box Elder. After doing some research, we learned Arrow-wood Viburnum was one of the native plants that would grow best from a cutting. To take a cutting, we needed to make sure we had cutting tools that were sharp and sterilized to prevent the spread of plant diseases and fungi. After the plants had been cut, we learned our next step would be to put the cuttings into a rooting compound (Indole-3 butyric Acid, a chemical that helps roots to grow from cut plants).

We did not take the cuttings today, but we were able to pick some of the ripe berries from the Arrow-wood Viburnum. We planted the berries in moistened soil and marked their location so we can follow their progress.  We will keep you updated on our restoration efforts over the rest of the summer! ~Jr. Ranger Trail Team

Spark Night at the Schrader Center!

Join members of the Kids+Creativity Network for an evening of environmental education, as we explore the importance of outdoor play!

Spark Night will emphasize the relationship between outdoor play and creativity, and the unique bond between children and nature. It will feature a presentation of educational activities available at the facility by Schrader Center director, Eriks Janelsins,  as well as a tour of the grounds and a reception. Attendees are welcome to extend their visit to Oglebay Park after Spark Night by joining in one of the public programs offered at the Schrader Center on Thursday nights st. Join the campfire at 8:00pm for singing, story-telling and marshmallow roasting, with Astronomy in the Park following at 9:00pm.

When: Thursday, July 12, 2012, 6:00pm – 8:00pm

Where: Oglebay Institute’s Schrader Environmental Education Center, located in Oglebay Park, Wheeling, WV, 26003 (465 Lodge Drive)

This event is free to attend, but registration is limited. Be sure to RSVP! Feel free to call 412-325-0646 with questions.

Baby Bluebirds Have Arrived at Oglebay Park

The bluebirds are hatching all over Oglebay Park! Check out these little cuties living in one of the dozens of monitored bluebird boxes located throughout the Park.

During the summer, bluebirds feed mainly on insects. In the winter, they depend on many kinds of wild berries for their food supply. Even though the bluebird population has greatly decreased, the future can still be promising for them. According to the National American Bluebird Society, the most important step we can take to help bring back the bluebird is to provide nesting sites by setting out a bluebird box or starting a bluebird trail. A bluebird trail is a series of bluebird boxes placed along a prescribed route. In areas where nesting boxes have been put up in suitable habitat, bluebird populations are increasing. For more information on how to get your own bluebird box started, check out the “Getting Started” fact sheet from the National American Bluebird Society. 

Albert Dague, a retired steel fabricator of 45 years, took up birding after retirement and today he monitors 50 bluebird boxes in Oglebay Park, Wheeling, WV every week during the spring and summer. With his particular interest in bluebirds and along with his carpentry skills, he has had logged hundreds of hours in constructing blue bird boxes as well as monitoring and recording data on nesting success.

If you visit Oglebay Park, please don’t bother the bluebird boxes. With Mother Nature’s help, and a little luck, our staff and volunteers at the Schrader Center are helping to boost the bluebird population in WV!