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OUS Natural Wonders Outreach Programs

The OUS Natural Wonders Outreach Programs consist of presenters who are Nature Center volunteers who go to Tri-State area schools and spark K-12 students’ interest in science and mathematics. The programs consist of The OUS Science Wizard, The Reptile Experience, The Rock Hounds and The Wonderful World of Spiders.

Dr. Robert A. Culp, Chemistry Lecturer and Director of the OUS Nature Center, began the OUS Natural Wonders Outreach Programs with the OUS Science Wizard. When Dr. Culp agreed to perform science demonstrations for children at the universities’ fall festival, Festival of the Hills, he wanted a way to attract the children, so he donned a wizard costume and the OUS Science Wizard was born. The children were literally dragged away from the OUS Science Wizard’s presentations at the end of the day. Since the 1999 debut, the OUS Science Wizard has visited more than 60 Tri-State area schools and libraries while reaching over 3000 students each year. For the OUS Science Wizard programs, Dr Culp was recipient of Huntington WV Herald-Dispatch Zack Binkley Award for Community Service in 2002.

In May 2001, Merri Warden, nursing major, created her own presentation, The Wonderful World of Spiders. Merri began working with Dr. Culp in November 2000. She assisted the OUS Science Wizard and became the Coordinator for the OUS Science Wizard programs in January 2001. She later became the OUS Natural Wonders Program Coordinator and sets the schedules between the OUS Natural Wonders Outreach Programs presenters and schools. Her duties also include making the “Thank You” Packets with pictures and photo pages of the OUS Natural Wonders Outreach Programs visit to each school. In January 2003 Merri became OUS Nature Center Coordinator, where she schedules all events and fills manning tables for the events. She has volunteered over 1000 hours since she started working with the program. In her spare time, Merri is a much sought after chemistry tutor.

During the summer of 2001, Josh Addis, chemical engineering student, started working with the program as an instructor in the OUS Academy of Excellence. He served as an OUS Apprentice Science Wizard assisting with presentations for almost a year. In spring of 2002, Josh became an OUS Science Wizard making his own presentations in the Tri-State schools. He volunteered over a 100 hours during 2001-2002. Josh has now moved on to the Athens campus where he is finishing his degree in chemical engineering. In fall 2002 a new OUS Apprentice Science Wizard, Chris Sanders, came on the scene. Chris is also a chemical engineering student, who in fall 2003 started making his own OUS Science Wizard presentations. In summers, 2003 & 2004, Chris was instructor for the grade 3-8 science classes of the OUS Academy of Excellence. Chris has volunteered over 150 hours since joining the program. The Ironton Tribune named Chris Volunteer of the Week (February 9-15, 2004) for his work with the OUS Natural Wonders Outreach Programs. Chris is currently working toward his chemical engineering degree at the Athens campus

In late fall of 2001, Joe Keeton, environmental science student, became a presenter of The Reptile Experience to area schools. The objective of the reptile program is to educate the students on the importance of the reptiles in the ecosystem and to teach them to respect the animals rather than fear them. During the presentations students are able to touch non-venomous snakes and lizards. This is an experience that isn’t soon forgotten. Joe has now moved on to the Athens campus to finish his degree and plans to join the Peace Core. With Joe’s departure, Merri Warden, Adam Wilson and Dr. Culp currently present reptile programs.

January 2002, Jan Rader, chemistry student, was recruited to be a presenter for the Rock Hounds program. Jan Rader is a certified Gemologist with an extensive collection of artifacts, fossils and rare stones. A real treat with Jan’s programs is to watch a group of third graders break open a geode. In Jan’s “spare time” she is a Lieutenant for the City of Huntington, West Virginia’s Fire Department. She is also a certified instructor for First Aid/CPR and other life saving procedures.

Adam Wilson, applied science student, the first OUS Science Wizard Assistant, has been assisting for over 5 years with over 1000 hours of volunteer work. Adam is the Naturalist for the OUS Nature Center. Anything involving plant identification, field trip hikes, orienteering, canoeing, white water rafting and even astronomy is Adam’s forte. Adam assists in all of the above programs and is the Assistant Director of the Nature Center.