Upper Elementary and Middle School Programs: 

Fur and Feathers - Learn more about the warm-blooded vertebrates living in your neighborhood during this 1 hour program.  Have you ever touched the fur of a grey fox, river otter or a raccoon?  Have you ever seen a beak of Blue Heron up close?  This is your chance.  Find out where they live, what they eat and what adaptations they have to help them survive better in their environment.  Uncover the mystery behind these fascinating fuzzy & feathered critters.  (Time: 1 hour)  This is an indoor program and can be done off site or at Fern Hollow.

Maple Sugaring - This is an integrated science and history program where children will discover how Native Americans and pioneers made, transported and used maple syrups and sugars.  Participants will act out the various parts of a tree during the hands-on “tree factory” exercise.  Students will taste sap flowing from a real maple tree and learn how to crank an antique drill to tap a maple tree.  This program blends American history, botany, chemistry and even physics into a fun, hands-on experience. (Time: 90 minutes or 2 hours) This program is best done in late February or Early March – will be weather dependant. 

Fishing at Fern Hollow Lake – Join Fern Hollow staff at this private local lake full of bass, bluegill and carp.  Students will learn how to safely hold a rod, bait a hook, cast and remove fish from their lines.  Fern Hollow provides all equipment including the rod, reel and plenty of bait.  (Time: 2 hours) This program is offered early May through mid-October.

Birds and Their Habitats - Hike through various bird habitats along a stream to where it joins with the expanse of the Ohio River.  Over 35 species of birds have been spotted in this area, including Ospreys and Bald Eagles.  Students will learn bird watching techniques including how to use binoculars.  The group will discuss various adaptations that certain bird species have to help them survive better in their respective habitats. (Time: 2 hours) This program is offered April through mid-October.

Introduction to Geology of Pennsylvania – This program introduces students to the basic geologic processes that formed Pittsburgh’s Ohio River Valley and Little Sewickley Creek watershed.  You’ll feel like a paleontologist as you don goggles, a hard hat and a rock hammer to dig for fossils in our shale pile.  Take a geohike along Little Sewickley creek and observe layered outcroppings of sedimentary rock.   Use our Groundwater Simulator Unit to understand how water flows underground. Get your hands dirty in our interactive stream table where we simulate erosion with the power of water.  Other topics discussed include stream flow, geologic time, glacial movement, rock cycle and fossil fuel formations. (Time: 2 hour) This program is offered April through mid-October.

Getting To Know Your Watershed – Explore 4 different levels of your local food chain with this outdoor experiential learning program!   Start at the bottom of the food chain with a hike to a local pond to extract a plankton sample.  Return to the nature center to identify these microscopic creatures using a video microscope.  Then venture into Little Sewickley Creek to catch and identify scores of macroinvertebrates and fish, using kick nets and waders.  What do they tell us about our water quality?  The next activity will expose your students to the wonders of live frogs, toads, salamanders, turtles and snakes.  Learn how to identify poisonous snakes and gain a better understanding of the lifecycles and habits of the reptiles and amphibians throughout in Pennsylvania.  We will complete our journey at the top of the food chain by discussing the birds and mammals that are common to our local waterways.  Participants will examine mammal skulls, pelts, bird specimens and other touchable items. (Time: 4.5 Hours)  Students should bring their own lunch and bring a change of shoes and clothes. Rubber boots are highly recommended.  This program is offered late April through mid-October. 

Ecological Team Building- This outdoor challenge program is designed to foster team building skills for students at the middle school level.  Students are broken into small groups (10-14) and asked to problem solve as a team at three different stations dealing with topics based in environmental science and ecology.  Stations include topics focusing on 1) tree identification, estimation of tree height using clinometers, and estimation of tree age; 2) control of exotic invasive species and biodiversity; and 3) aquatic food chains and bioaccumulation of toxins in a polluted ecosystem.  At the conclusion of the challenge stations, the entire class reconvenes for 1 mile group hike (using GPS units as a guide) to a local fishing lake, where the teams compete in a fishing derby.  Each team is given several fishing rods and an equal amount of bait in order to catch and weigh as many fish as possible.  Teams record the type of fish and its weight at the weigh station with the goal of having the highest total weight in fish. This all day cross-curricular program reinforces topics in ecology, environmental sciences, trigonometry, natural sciences, history, ichthyology, reading and botany. (Time: 4.5 Hours)