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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!

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Spring Trip to Terra Alta with OI Naturalists

Spotted Salamander

Spotted Salamander

Oglebay Institute naturalists will be taking a weekend in early spring (between Feb. 16-Mar. 16, 2013–depending on weather) to visit our camp at Terra Alta, WV in search of mole salamanders and wood frogs.

Mole Salamanders, including the spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) and the Jefferson salamander (Ambystoma jeffersonium), spend most of their lives underground, thus relatively little is known about their life histories. These are large-lunged salamanders (4.5-7.5 inches), much larger than the Allegheny dusky salamander common in Oglebay Park. If timed right, you can catch them traveling to temporary seasonal ponds (vernal pools) where they lay their eggs. They make this trip on nights the temperature rises above 50 degrees and rain melts the snow. They emerge from the ground and migrate en mass to the vernal pools. They are especially intolerant of changes in forest cover and only bury themselves in mature forests with vernal pools nearby. Luckily, we have two pools like this in close vicinity to OI’s mountain camp.

Wood frogs, on the other hand, are more visible throughout the year, and they are the first frogs to breed. They use the same pools as the mole salamanders, and are a good indicator of mole salamanders about to emerge. To find the two amphibians, one must hike along in the woods until hearing a sound similar to a duck quacking. That “quack” is actually a wood frog in a vernal pool. If you return at night, and are lucky, you may find many mole salamanders and frogs breeding.

Jefferson Salamander

Jefferson Salamander

The public is welcome to participate in this migration. But be warned — participants must be flexible in scheduling and  “hard core” campers and hikers! It is likely to be snowy, rainy and cold, and the camp will not be opened for the season yet. That means no running water, heat or prepared food. The Lodge at the camp will be open for sleeping, but participants will need to haul in their own water and bring their own food (which can be cooked using our propane range). Necessities for the trip include decent rain gear (jacket, pants, boots); multiple layers; a headlamp; a good sleeping bag; and good spirits!

The dates for this trip are EXTREMELY weather dependent. As such, any interested participants can be added to our email list and will be notified of the trip on the Monday before we leave. The trip is free except for organizing your own transportation and food, and is an uncommon adventure for even the most experienced naturalists. To RSVP, contact Jake Francis (jfrancis@oionline.com) or Greg Park at the Schrader Center at 304-242-6855.

Family Nature Camp Offers Something for Everyone

Bring your family and join in the fun with the opportunity to camp together at Oglebay Institute’s Mountain Nature Camp on the weekend of Aug. 24-26, 2012.  As a mother and nature educator, I am looking forward to this opportunity to join other families at OI’s Mountain Nature Camp near Terra Alta, Preston County, WV for a weekend of camping and outdoor play.

Schrader Environmental Education Center naturalist, Greg Park, will be on hand as well as nature educators and other families for a weekend of outdoor fun in a comfortable, safe environment. The Family Camp weekend will offer programming suitable for beginner outdoors people and seasoned naturalists alike.

Facilities include a bathhouse and a small lodge with a dining room and lounge. Campers arrive Friday evening for check-in, set-up, dinner and campfire. Saturday will include a wide range of activities for beginners and experienced outdoors people including nature instruction, hiking, fishing, canoeing, camping gear demonstration, outdoor creative play and campfire. One additional activity will be provided Sunday morning before check-out. Each family will leave with a small gift to help them play outside!

Cost is $75 for each parent with a child and $25 for each additional child. Oglebay Institute members pay $65 for parent with a child and $20 each additional child. Call the Schrader Center at  304-242-6855 to register.

This camp rounds out the host of the Schrader Environmental Center’s camping and nature education programs including Nature Day Camp (https://sites.google.com/site/seecndc/), Junior Nature Camp (www.juniornaturecamp.org ) and Mountain Nature Camp (www.mountainnaturecamp.org ).

Natasha Diamond has a B.S. in Wildlife Resources and a Master’s in Public Administration. Her love for wildlife, the outdoors and for helping children and families experience them, has led her to her most recent projects; program director for Oglebay Institute’s Junior Nature Camp and Mudpie Magic, an outdoor play and learning group for children and families in the Morgantown area. She also serves as full-time adventure guide for her two children, ages 6 and 3. www.wildplacesopenspaces.wordpress.com