Schrader Environmental Center Provides A Welcome Summer Surprise

A few Fridays ago, my wife had a critical Zoom meeting.  We both continue to work from home, and presently my daytime schedule is a bit more flexible, so I take care of the kids as much as they will let me. I decided to get our daughters out of the house for a bit so my wife could conduct the meeting with the guarantee of no interruptions.

 

I quickly packed our typical summer bag of snacks, swimsuits, and a change of clothes.  I ordered pizza from DeFelice Pizza. We headed to one of our favorite summer hangout spots, the creek at Oglebay Falls on the backside of Oglebay Park. I have mentioned this activity in a previous post, my girls love wading the stream, chasing minnows and skipping rocks.  This was to be one of those days.

 

We picked up the pizza at DeFelice, which is conveniently located not far from the park entrance.  Wheeling is known for a particular type of pizza, where the cheese is placed on after the bake slowly melting in the minute prior to eating, sometimes referred to as cold cheese pizza. It is an acquired taste for most people not raised here.

 

DeFelice isn’t cold cheese pizza. It’s quite the opposite.

 

It is pan-fried, served with piping hot melty cheese, thick crust, and lots of crunch.  My girls love DeFelice.  At ages 6 and 2, we are still in the cheese pizza phase of life. I can live with that for now, though I can’t wait until they become a little more adventurous in their pizza-eating habits.

 

As we pulled into the Falls Drive, I was surprised to find that we would have the place to ourselves, though I suspected not for long as it is always a busy location.  We spread out blankets and devoured a few slices of pie. After a quick wardrobe change into their swimsuits, the girls and I were ready to tackle the creek.  We played for about an hour.

 

While we were playing, another car had arrived and unloaded buckets and nets and clipboards.  Another mom and two young kids had come as well.  My oldest daughter’s curiosity got the best of her, and she had to know what was going on.  A bright-eyed woman named Courtney informed us that she was there to lead the Salamander Search.

 

My girls squealed as they love wild critters of all kinds.  After years of watching the Kratt Brothers on PBS, the girls know more about animals, birds, and insects than mom and dad.  We have several acquired “pets” from the backyard.  We kindly paid the modest fee to join the other family in their hunt for salamanders.

 

Courtney works for Oglebay Institute’s Schrader Environmental Education Center. She spent the next hour helping us identify not only salamanders, but also crawdads, scuds, water pennies, and mayflies. We were also joined by two gorgeous baby deer that were just arms-length away from us bedding down in the high grass along the creek, presumably waiting for momma.

 

My family was simply enamored with the experience, some of that is due to it being a complete surprise to our day, an unexpected gift. However, a great deal of it must be attributed to the Schrader Center’s professional expertise.  Courtney was so well prepared and she was excellent with the kids as we roamed the creek.

 

I decided to call the Schrader Environmental Education Center Director Molly Check to let her know what a great time my family had that day.  Molly agreed that many of their offerings are ideal for vacationing families staying in the Wheeling area.

 

“Summer nature programs at the Schrader Center connect visitors to the natural world’s beauty and intrigue and are a great opportunity to learn while enjoying quality time together as a family,” said Check. “With most programs lasting an hour or less and no pre-registration required, they can conveniently be added to a day of activities in Oglebay Park.”

 

The Center conducts various drop-in workshops and classes throughout the year, like the Salamander Search.  The Salamander Search was $5 person with children under 2 for free, and Oglebay Institute members get to participate for free.

 

This is an excellent way for visitors to have a hands-on experience of Wheeling, learning about the local ecology and environment while possibly meeting a few local families.  And as Molly pointed out at just an hour in length, they make a short respite for a vacationing family from other planned activities. Most of the nature-oriented workshops are located in Oglebay Park, conveniently situated for park guests or a short drive for those staying at other local hotels.

 

This year’s programs will continue through August 14th.  There are self-guided excursions at the bottom of the list below if you are visiting after August 14th. The nature trails surrounding the Schrader Center are one of the best places in Wheeling to escape and view local wildlife. The Schrader Center offers these drop-in workshops every summer, so if you missed them this year, make a note to check the calendar next summer.

 

Note that current federal, state, and local guidelines will be followed related to COVID-19 safety for participants.  Face coverings are strongly encouraged.

 

 

2020 Summer of Wonder

June 1 – August 14

 

No pre-registration required.  All ages welcome.

$5, free for OI members or with Park wristbands

The following safety guidelines will be in place for all Summer of Wonder programs:

  • Program capacity set by current state and federal guidelines; check-in on a “first come, first served” basis
  • Check-in outside the Schrader Center with 6’ spacing enforced
  • Each participant maintains 6’ distance from anyone else not in their household
  • Households assigned their own exploration area, to maintain physical distancing
  • Households assigned their own program equipment (disinfected before and after use)
  • Instructor wears face covering when a 6’ distance is not able to be met
  • Hand sanitizer available at every program
  • Face coverings recommended for each participant

 

 

Mondays:

1:30-2:30pm:  Frog Frolic – Join us on our frog foray as we gently catch, study and release tadpoles, frogs, and turtles at Schenk Lake.  Nets and collection buckets provided.  Meet at parking lot by lower Schenk Lake, near the paddleboats.

 

Tuesdays:

8-9am: Bird Walk – Enjoy an early morning walk with the birds!  Our Naturalist will point out identifying field marks and songs of the local birds that visit our feeders and trails.  Binoculars and field guides provided.

 

1:15-2:15pm: Guided Nature Walk – Continuing the tradition of A.B. Brooks, our Naturalist will lead you along the trails of the Schrader Center forest, identifying animal tracks, flowers, birds, edible plants, and other elements of forest ecology.  Nature is always changing – you never know what we may see!

 

Wednesdays:

10:15-11:15am: Nature Story Time – The only thing better than reading a book is reading it outside!  We’ll head outside with a book from our Children’s Library to find a cozy spot in nature.  After the reading, our Naturalist will connect the stories to the natural world around you.  We’ll be sitting on the ground, so bring your own sitting blanket!

 

2-3pm: Salamander Search – Can you catch one of the salamanders living in our stream?  Join us for a fun afternoon as we gently catch, study, and release salamanders, crayfish, insects, and fish as we explore Waddles Run.  Nets and collection buckets provided.  Wear boots and clothes that can get wet!  Meet at pull-off by intersection of Warden Run Road and Falls Drive.

 

Thursdays:

8-9am: Bird Walk – Enjoy an early morning walk with the birds!  Our Naturalist will point out identifying field marks and songs of the local birds that visit our feeders and trails.  Binoculars and field guides provided.

 

2:15-3pm:  Live Animal Show – Meet the amphibians and reptiles that call the Schrader Center home.  Learn natural history information of each species as you get a chance to visit with a toad, turtle and snake!  In order to keep all our visitors safe, participants will not be able to touch the animals this summer.

 

8-9pm: Campfire – 2nd & 4th Thursdays of the month – Is there anything more relaxing than sitting around a crackling campfire on a warm summer evening?  Roasting sticks and s’mores provided, but households are welcome to bring their own if desired.  Program cancelled if raining. 

 

 

Fridays:

1-2pm: Salamander Search – Can you catch one of the salamanders living in our stream?  Join us for a fun afternoon as we gently catch, study, and release salamanders, crayfish, aquatic insects, and fish as we explore Waddles Run.  Nets and collection buckets provided.  Wear boots and clothes that can get wet! Meet at pull-off by intersection of Warden Run Road and Falls Drive.

 

SELF-GUIDED:

Nature backpacks:  Check out a themed nature backpack at the front desk and head out on your own to explore!  Each backpack includes everything you need to explore the pond, butterfly garden, or forest.  Includes a journal for observations.  Make way for adventure!  Free.  Backpack availability may be limited by cleaning schedule.

 

Self-guided Scavenger Hunt – Pick up your scavenger hunt list at the front desk and return it completed for a prize!  Free.

 

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