While some cancelled, one wild and wonderful nature camp moves online

Local News

WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) – With the pandemic restricting many summer activities, you may think one of the most available things for kids to stay busy right now is adventure the great outdoors. But now even that has some limits as Oglebay’s day-camps have been cancelled for the first half of the summer.  

It was the first week of new COVID-19 adjusted programs with Oglebay Institute, and families were already out and about upturning rocks and getting their creek-shoes soaked. But other nature programs have been converted in ways never heard of before.  

Right now our June summer camps have been cancelled but we’re hoping to go ahead with our July summer camps. And that’s not only for our nature center but for all our Oglebay Institute departments.

Molly Check, Director at Schrader Environmental Education Center

Leaders say canceling part of day-camp came down to COVID capacity limitations, but this June’s adventure is not all a loss. Family programs are continuing on with each day of the week hosting a different critter-catching theme.   

We’re going to assign different exploration areas to different families so that we can keep that distancing. If one of our instructors is bringing a frog around for everyone to see, then we’d have that mask on.

Molly Check, Director at Schrader Environmental Education Center

We’re just looking for salamanders, and crayfish, and anything that might live under the rocks of this stream. After this time where people have been kind of cooped up, that people want to be outside and we get to show, you know, some of the cool things you can see right in your own backyard.

Chase Byrne, Naturalist and Nature Day Camp Manager

But in Ohio Valley’s own backyard, a beloved overnight camp just celebrated 75 years; Junior Nature Camp. JNC draws over 100 campers for a two week’s stay in the foothills of Triadelphia, but with many out-of-staters attending, it just was too many hurdles to manage during the pandemic.  

We’re still going to have the same great opportunities; it will just be online. So, if your favorite part about Junior Nature Camp was sitting around the campfire, singing the songs, we’ll still have that. We’ll have our stream exploration. We’ll have opportunities to connect with your tent-mates from last summer. Or, to have some one-on-one time with counselors in zoom meetings. So, we’re still going to have our full schedule of daily events, and camper families will get to choose, think of it Alacarte menu, so they can pick and choose different sessions or register for the entire experience.

Molly Check, Director at Schrader Environmental Education Center

Online nature camp? It sounds almost ironic. Directors say prices will be lower than what the overnight camp would have been. But, the web also reaps a greater reach; bringing in campers who might not have been able to travel this summer.  

It was because all those out of state campers were coming in but we’re hoping we can reach a lot more this year and then we can introduce them to the wonders of it next summer when we can do it back on site.

Molly Check, Director at Schrader Environmental Education Center

Now some families may still be hesitant about public programs. So, the Schrader Center director tells me the stream searches, the frog frolics, the nature hikes can be scheduled for private tours with one of the naturalists. It’s ten dollars a head.

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