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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

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

Cupcakes for Volunteers!

Oglebay Falls By Jake Francis, Director of Environmental Education–One thing that sets the Ohio Valley apart from other places I have lived is the intense pride that many of us hold for our natural resources.  It might have something to do with the massive body of water that we use as a reference for almost everything, or perhaps it has something to do with the rich tradition of sportsmanship in this valley. But I believe it has a lot to do with the amazing and unique city parks that are inextricably tied to our city’s identity.

In my two years here, I have met students who are willing to slave in the heat of summer working to conserve our forests, young adults shaping our food landscape and bringing green space to our downtown, and octogenarians who have given their entire life over to the our city parks and Oglebay Institute.  And, as I was trying to write a post about our upcoming volunteer opportunities, all I could think of was how much thanks we owe to you all!

In light of that, I want to share a couple of organized volunteer days we will be having at the Schrader Center which will focus on doing some much-needed maintenance on our trail systemphoto2 and continuing our battle with invasive exotic plant species that are threatening our forests.  We will be holding workdays from 9am-3pm on February 23 and April 20.  We will have all of the tools needed and can provide work gloves, as well as some hot beverages, snacks, and congratulatory cupcakes to thank you all for everything you do.  If you can’t make those days, don’t fret. You can call me at the Schrader Center at 304-242-6855, and I’ll make sure you get a cupcake, but you’ll have to spend some time discussing birding, botany, herpetology, or the like!  I hope you can forgive this departure from my normally scientific blog posts, and that you can come see us in the next couple of months!

What: Volunteer Days at the Schrader Center

When: February 23 & April 20

Where: Schrader Center, Oglebay Park

Time: 9am-3pm

Info: 304-242-6855

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Spring Seed Sowing Topic of Public Garden Lecture Series

Pink_petuniasIt’s the time of year when gardeners are eager to get back to the soil. Wheeling Park High School’s Floriculture Instructor, Don Headley, will give a hands-on demonstration of starting seeds for the upcoming gardening season Monday, Feb. 25 at the  Ohio County Master Gardeners’ February Public Garden Lecture Series held at the Schrader Environmental Center at 7:00 pm. All lectures are free and open to the public.Tomatoseedlings

Mr. Headley will show different ways to get seeds to germinate, whether on a windowsill or in a greenhouse, and he is even experimenting with something called a “seed sock.” (No, it’s not footwear–it’s made of woven agricultural fabric.) Mr. Headley is also planning to bring various types of vegetable and flower seeds and will address the differences between hybrid and heirloom varieties, as well as explain how to time your seed-starting so your plants are ready to be transplanted into the garden at the right time and how to protect the seedlings from frost if you happen to jump the gun a bit.

220px-CabbageMr. Headley says his students already have cabbage, tomato, pepper and petunia plants popping above the soil in the greenhouse at Wheeling Park High School. He’s been teaching at WPHS for 22 years, both floriculture and auto body collision repair. He’s hinted that he may have a free gift for everyone attending the lecture–something to take home and put on a windowsill…

For more information about the Public Garden Lecture Series, please call the Schrader Center at 304-242-6855.

Last Trail Maintenance Day for 2012

Last volunteer Trail Maintenance Day for 2012 will be this Saturday, Dec. 15 from 10am-12pm at the Schrader Center. We’re continuing to focus on the removal of invasive exotic species, such as European Privet, and to clean up the trail for visitors. 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 provided. Call the Schrader Center at 304-242-6855 for more information.

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Trail Maintenance Day this Saturday at the Schrader Center

Like the outdoors? Want to spend some time pulling weeds? We’ve got the job for you!

Trail maintenance days will focus on the removal of invasive exotic species under the guidance of Schrader Center naturalists.  One of the major threats to a healthy ecosystem at Oglebay park is the invasion by non-native plants that were introduced for ornamental or horticultural purposes. In particular, this summer and fall the focus has been on controlling European Privet, a shrub that shades out native species and is given a competitive advantage because it is largely ignored by deer.

Volunteers should wear long sleeves, work pants and boots.  Work gloves will be provided, but volunteers may bring their own. Dates are set for Saturday, Nov 17,  Dec 1, and Dec 15 from 10am-12pm. Coffee, tea and snacks will be provided. Call the Schrader Center at 304-242-6855 for more information.

Funky Phenology

By Jake Francis, Director of Environmental Education —   Yesterday I got to take a hike along the falls vista trail to check its condition after the high winds and heavy rains from the recent super storm, Sandy.  Luckily we did not lose any large trees, especially considering the losses we had during July’s gale.  Despite the rainy weather and muddy trails, there are still interesting things to see along the trails of Oglebay park.  A variety of fall mushrooms have been popping as a result of the moist weather and changes in forest microclimate (particularly in the gaps formed by fallen trees).  As I came to the end of the Falls Vista Trail , and walked on the overlook to photograph the falls, I noticed one of my favorite autumn flowers the American Witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginina).

This small shrubby tree produces small spindly flowers in the fall.    They are structurally interesting with long needle shaped petals, almost non-existent sepals, and anthers that open with two Mickey Mouse-esque flaps to release the pollen.

The most interesting part of this plant’s reproductive biology though is its phenology.  Phenology is the study of timing and changes to periodic life cycle events in organisms.   American Witch-hazel differs from all other witch-hazels in that it flowers in late fall.  Competition for pollinators in the spring is likely what has driven the evolution of this novel phenology; H. virginiana is able to attract pollinators who have little other options with its meager nectar production.  After the flower has been pollenated in late autumn the pollen sits on the stigma (female flower part) until early spring when fertilization occurs.  In late spring or early summer the plant produces pods of seeds that shoot seeds several meters from the parent.  Despite the ballistic dispersal, American Witch-hazel are commonly found in dense patches in our eastern forests.