School may be out for the summer, but who says the learning should stop? Whether you've got curious kids or simply love exploring the great outdoors, Richland County and the surrounding area offers a wealth of parks and nature ed programs worth exploring!
1. Gorman Nature Center, Mansfield
Hiking through the nature trails is just one way to observe local wildlife and natural habitats. The park also has a visitor center that's open Monday thru Saturday from 9 to 4. Inside the center, there are educational displays as well as staff naturalists and volunteers who can introduce you and your family to the center's resident wildlife. All of the animals at the center are native to the state of Ohio, including different species of frogs, snakes, turtles, salamanders and owls.
The Richland County Parks Department sponsors weekly education programs for the public as well as private programs for schools, youth groups, garden clubs, senior citizens and service organizations. Public program topics include naturalist-led guided hikes, field trips, lectures, workshops and night sky programs.
Photo courtesy of Ohio Bird Sanctuary.
2. Ohio Bird Sanctuary, Mansfield
The Ohio Bird Sanctuary is a nature preserve, rehabilitation center for injured birds and a "living museum" with 60 permanent residents--rehabilitated animals whose injuries would prevent them from flourishing in the wild. The 90-acre preserve is open to the public year round and free-of-charge. Live bird displays include species such as Baltimore Orioles, Great Horned Owls, Peregrine Falcons and Bald Eagles. The aviary boardwalk wanders through grasslands where songbirds living in their natural habitat. If you stop by the Visitor Center to purchase special feed, you may get to see Blue Jays and doves eat right from your hand!
In addition to free visits, the sanctuary offers nature-themed summer camps, a junior naturalist program and programming designed specifically for homeschoolers and large groups.
Photo courtesy of Kingwood Center Gardens.
3. Kingwood Center Gardens, Mansfield
Everyone knows Kingwood is the place to go to see thousands of beautiful flowers, but the center also has educational opportunities for children and adults. The Peacock Playhouse is a horticultural education center designed for children ages 2-14. It is open daily and offers craft time, painting spaces and displays on birds, plant growth and composting. The newest features of the Peacock Playhouse include a monarch butterfly display, worm and ant farms, and a sensory garden. Kingwood also has one-hour Cultivation Education sessions every Tuesday, where children learn about birds, bugs, planting and the environment. Adult activities vary by season and may include yoga, meditation and cooking classes. For a full list of activities, visit Kingwood's event page.
4. Mohican State Park, Loudonville
Mohican offers numerous educational programs and themed hikes lead by a staff naturalist. Guests can meet some of the snakes and turtles native to Ohio or learn about raccoons and frogs at the Critter Open House. Head into the woods to hunt amphibians, help clean the park, or learn which plants are safe to eat during the Forest Foraging Hike. Additional hikes include the Butterfly Hunt, Night Hike and Owl Hike. These hikes and programs are a great opportunity for hands-on learning and typically last between an hour and an hour and a half. All programs are open to the public. To view the calendar, please click this link and select Mohican State Park.