Youth get chance to #039;Meet a Ranger#039;

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 14, 2004

PEDRO - Lions, and tigers and bears… no, wait.

Lizards and turtles and snakes, Oh my!

Wildlife and the Wayne National Forest provided a backdrop Saturday as children took center stage at Ohio University Southern's Nature Center in the Lake Vesuvius Recreation Area for the "Meet a Ranger Day" and recognition of youth who participated in the junior naturalist program.

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"Here at the Nature Center we want to bring the community and the forest together, as well as help educate the students of the area," Merri Warden, OUS Natural Wonders program coordinator, said as the children checked out the collection of reptiles. "Every class we did during the summer is based on the scientific method."

All 13 of the youth who participated in the naturalist program will be presented with a certificate, but Meaghanne Welton, 6, of South Point was honored as the only student who finished the program by completing all three classes.

"We learned about spiders and snakes. And we learned about pine cones and leaves and other things," Meaghanne said, smiling ear-to-ear. "I am really glad I came. I found a rabbit to bring here. They let it go to a new bunny family."

The 6-year-old also enjoyed the hikes into the woods and along the lake with OUS student and naturalist Adam Wilson.

"One time, Mr. Adam took us out in the big jungle part. I call it the big jungle. It was really cool," Meaghanne said. "We went up a big hill that we had never been on. Our feet were killing us!"

Meaghanne's mother, Patti, said the naturalist program was a good experience for her daughter, who receives home schooling.

"We have enjoyed it. She was getting out and learning about trees, plants and things like that in this area," she said. "It kicked it up a notch for the home schooling because I did not know all these things. I can bring her here locally and they can teach her about things in their natural habitats."

Gloria Chrismer, district ranger with the Wayne's Ironton District, spoke to the children about what it means to be a forest ranger and what they do. Chrismer said the purpose of programs such as these is to instill a love of nature into youth at a young age.

"These programs are real important, I think, to our future," Chrismer said. "With all the things that pull kids away from the natural world like TV and electronic games, we run into kids that don't ever get out of the house, that don't have any appreciation for the natural world."

Recent and still-planned improvements to the Lake Vesuvius area have Chrismer optimistic that this is only the beginning.

"I can't see anything (except) this getting bigger and better," she said. "Every national forest does not have a nature center. This is a very special thing we have here in Lawrence County. It gives people a reason to (visit), gives families a reason to (visit)."