The OUS Nature Center education programs address all disciplines in an outdoor setting. By using the environment as the integrating framework for learning, K-12 student programs are organized around environmental themes or projects, which include elements of science, math, social studies, arts & humanities, and history. Activities are easily adaptable to many settings from the classroom to land labs, 4-H, Boy Scouts and church camps. Students learn from environmental education materials and activities designed by Project Learning Tree, National Wildlife Federation, Project Wild, and activities prepared specifically by OUS pre-service teachers.
The Nature Center is the destination for field trips by classes and grade levels for many Tri-State area schools. All day programs for as few as 10 students to as many as 200 students have been successful. Large groups are split into units of no more than 30 students and university students escort the units through the activities.
During the late spring, summer, and early fall Saturday morning programs are open to everyone. Home-Schooled students are strongly encourage to attend these Saturday morning classes which include programs in herpetology, geology, spiders, physical science, environmental science, and chemistry. Staff also participate in the Academy of Excellence, sponsored by Ohio University Southern, and the Boy Scout Merit Badge College. Many of the Nature Center staff members are Boy Scout Merit Badge counselors.
For a class field trip to the Nature Center, the teacher chooses the subject matter to be learned on the field trip. The Nature Center staff then plan and execute a program to address the subject matter chosen by the teacher. There is an ever-growing list of subject matter the teacher has to choose from for field trip activities. Some of the subjects are listed below.
For birding activities, the students learn about indigenous birds in the Tri-State area, this includes both birds that are common and plentiful as well as birds that are rare and endangered. They study migration patterns for birds passing through the area and what is being done to reintroduce rare birds back into the ecosystem.
The reptile experience is a lesson in indigenous snakes and other reptiles. The Nature Center maintains a collection of approximately 20 snakes that are found locally. The students learn the feeding habits, favored habitat terrain, and value of the reptiles to the ecosystem. Of course, children want to talk about exotic animals that they see on television and for that reason the collection includes an American alligator and a python. The reptiles are on exhibit at the Nature Center.
Students learn how to sample, keep data, and how to involve their classroom in a "Save Our Streams" (SOS) program. They learn what insects use the streams as habitat for part or all of their life cycle. They also learn the different types of aquatic insect indicators for water quality.
Students hike some of the many trails of Wayne National Forest. On these hikes they learn to identify trees and other plants from the leaves, bark, odor, and other characteristics. The hikes are lead by Nature Center staff and usually consist of no more than 30 students. Most students are surprised to learn about things like sassafras tea and dandelion salads.
PROJECT LEARNING TREE AND PROJECT WILD MODULES
Specific subject modules may be chosen from the Project Learning Tree and/or Project Wild programs. In some cases modification is made to the module to fit the age of the students.
OUS SCIENCE WIZARD
“What do you really know about ozone and the ozone layer? Global Warming-fact or fiction? The terrible truth about acid rain. Why are we afraid of nuclear power? Fundamentals of thermodynamics- Is it Hot or Cold? Combustion-Let's blow it up! Newton’s Laws. What is Flight? – Airplanes & Rockets.” These are some of the subjects that are covered during the OUS Science Wizard programs for K-12 students at the Nature Center. The purpose is to create interest in science and to show that science can be fun.