Special guests support inclusive program

Earlier this December, we had a fabulous week on the trails with Willson Elementary School, from Cleveland. Part of giving students the best opportunities we can is creating a program that is a safe and accessible place for everyone. Prior to their week out at the CVEEC, we learned that Willson is the center for the district’s deaf and hard of hearing program. To help us prepare,  Ranger Pam made time for the instructors to meet with Pastor Joe-who is hearing impaired and works with several of Willson’s deaf students, Ranger James-the first deaf person to work in CVNP, and two ASL interpreters.

Our staff learned Joe’s and James’ story of growing up without a way to fully communicate. We had the chance to ask about do’s and don’ts and were given a great resource, www.thatdeafguy.com, to learn more about deaf culture. We learned that lip reading is really difficult, especially when teachers turn their backs to write on boards, and that interpreters need people to speak slowly and simply in order to best translate. We came to realize how much we rely on tones of voice and explanations in our interactions. Plus, our usual way to get everyone’s attention is a call/response yell.

When the Willson campers and interpreters did arrive, we were excited and ready. We replaced our call/response cue with an all-inclusive visual cue. During dinner everyone played games of slapping hands on the table, and we picked our silliest action songs for clean up. When Ranger James came for lunch, every student had a chance to interview him. We learned about his job, family, and favorite animal. As our time ended, he repeated that friends of deaf students should make a commitment to learn sign language to better communicate, and around the room several students nodded their fists and heads to mean “yes.” We’re definitely on our way at the CVEEC!

Ranger James and Willson

Willson students pose with Ranger James Gehlmann – photo credit: Conservancy




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CVEEC goes Hog-Wild!

Here at the EEC, we strive to deliver mission-based services. Two of our core values are sustainability and conservation of energy. We inspire the kids to become stewards of the environment by showcasing our own commitment to conservation.  One of the ways we do this is at meal time!

Enjoying a meal as a camp community is so important—it builds bonds between the students, many of whom will sit next to someone that is a new friend, or someone they don’t normally play with at school. Teachers have told us that having meals together makes them become “actual human beings” in the eyes of the students, and that it’s very memorable and valuable to get to know the kids outside of the classroom.

At the conclusion of every meal, our instructors weigh the group’s collective food waste—and report it back to the students. This gives the kids something to think about—and also a goal to get to by the end of camp.

Food Waste 2009-9-1 (1)

Weighing food waste

In the past, we were fortunate enough to have a high-heat compost company manage our waste. Recently, we discovered that would no longer be an option.

How would we serve as examples of energy conservation if we were throwing away our uneaten, unserved food?

The answer has come from an unlikely source: pigs. Through a partnership with Stone Garden Farm in Richfield, the vast majority of our edible waste is now being put back into the energy cycle by the farm’s hungriest residents.


Hungry for food waste!

This fall, our instructors got a chance to spend a beautiful, sunny afternoon with the pigs. It was inspiring to meet the pigs–and see firsthand all of the great work, historical preservation and responsible farming that Jim and Laura Fry have committed to at their farm.


Treating the pigs to some snacks


We had a great time at the farm!



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Ollie Goes to Camp!

Ollie the Otter visited the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center with the students from Chagrin Falls. He wanted to share his camp experience with everyone, since every time you purchase a stuffed Ollie at Trail Mix , 40 percent of the proceeds go towards camp scholarships. He had such a great time exploring Cuyahoga Valley National Park and wanted to share some of the excerpts from his camp diary with the blog readers.

Ollie inside the Hollow Tree.

Ollie got to go inside the Hollow Tree!

April 7th, 2015

Dear Diary,

As soon as I arrived at camp today, I could tell it would be a great week. The teaching staff welcomed me and the students from Chagrin Falls with enthusiasm, even though it was raining. We got to go hiking on the trails and visited the Hollow Tree. I even went inside! Later tonight we’re going to have a night hike and campfire. I’m a little nervous about hiking in the dark, but they said it will be a lot of fun. Oh, and the food is delicious!

Ollie pond-dipping

Ollie takes a turn using the net to find critters in the pond!

April 8th, 2015

Dear Diary,

More rain today, but that did not stop us from being outside! Today, we got to explore the pond ecosystem at the CVEEC. We found newts, crayfish, and a dragonfly nymph! I had no idea so many things lived in the mud at the bottom of the pond.

Ollie looks at a newt.

Ollie examines one of the Red-Spotted Newts the students found in the pond.

Students identify their findings.

After catching organisms in the pond, students learn to identify them using field guides and dichotomous keys.

Spring is a great time to see lots of creatures since the ponds and ground have finally thawed out. Plus, all the birds have migrated back for nesting season, so the forest is full of life!

April 9th, 2015

Dear Diary,

Today is our last day, but we went for one more hike to say goodbye to all the trails. I’m sad to be leaving, but I have a lot of great memories of the friends I made here at camp. Ranger Phil made us all say an oath to become Junior Rangers, so now I can tell all my friends about the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and how we can protect and preserve it!

Ollie as a junior ranger!

Ollie shows off his Junior Ranger badge with students from Chagrin Falls.

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Hiking in a Winter Wonderland!

Watershed Photo
Students learn about the watershed all year long!

Some of you may be wondering what we do at the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center (CVEEC) in the winter. The temperatures have dropped, the ponds have frozen, and there’s snow everywhere. Do we still have students coming out to camp? Yes! We have just as much fun in the winter as any other time of year.

Student in Hollow Tree
The Hollow Tree is a main attraction, no matter the season!

The weather may be chilly, but a snow-covered forest makes a great place to look for animal tracks, scat, and other signs that are harder to spot in the warmer months. The snow adds an extra challenge to games like camouflage, and there’s a special feeling that comes with blazing your own trail where paths haven’t been plowed.

Night hikes are still fun in the winter, especially since it gets darker earlier. The moon reflecting off the ground adds to the serene beauty of the forest after dark. Star-gazing is excellent because there are no leaves on the trees to block the view and cold nights tend to have clearer skies.

Indoor Steam Activity
Even when it’s too cold to look for marcoinvertebrates outside, we can look through a mock steam inside.

Campfires still burn bright but the location changes from outside to the fireplace inside the November Lodge, where students can warm up after a long day!

The outdoors is different in every season, but it still has much to teach us if we are willing to brave the elements and get out there. Students that come to camp in the winter get a unique experience that is just as wonderful as those students who come in the summer. It just goes to show, any season is the best time of year to be at the CVEEC!

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Celebrate with Us: 2014 Festival of Lights

Photo of Lipscomb Barn

Photo by Bob Kulon

It’s that time of year again, when the sun comes up late and goes down early. The winter solstice, the longest night of the year, is a perfect time to celebrate. It is these dark, cold days that inspire the many holiday traditions around the world.

Every year at the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center, we celebrate the winter solstice and different cultures from around the world with a Festival of Lights. As you visit our trails and buildings, staff will welcome you into different cultural traditions from around the globe, like Loy Krathong, a Thai festival of floating a decorated basket down river with a wish, or Diwali, a Hindu celebration of lights victory over darkness. Dinner and samples of traditional foods from each holiday are included. You won’t want to miss this amazing event!

Festival of Lights takes place on December 18th and 19th. This year’s event will feature: Chanukah, Jankanu, Loy Krathong, Diwali, Koroksun, the Christmas Tree, the Yule Log, and the Science behind the Solstice. Visit our website or call (330-657-2796) to register. Can’t wait to see you there!

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A Weekend for Cadettes

On October 10-12th we welcomed thirty-one girls from seven troops across northeast Ohio. During their stay, the girls had an amazing time exploring the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and completed three badges: Night Owl, Animal Helper, and Field Day!

The weekend kicked off with a night hike along the trails of the CVEEC’s campus. The girls explored using senses other than sight as they investigated the park after dark. Saturday morning, volunteers from Wag Time with Summa Health System brought therapy dogs to meet the girls and demonstrate what is required of a working dog.

Photo of Wag Time

The girls loved visiting with the dogs from Wag Time.

Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning were dedicated to field games and team building exercises. Saturday evening was devoted to star gazing and learning constellations, as well as creating some new ones.

The balloon pop relay was a challenge for some of the scouts.

The balloon pop relay was a challenge for some of the scouts.

The weekend was packed with activities, but the most rewarding part was seeing the girls from different troops bond and make friends with one another. Girls, parents, and staff all had a great time, plus the scouts earned three badges!

Photo of scouts

Girls and their “Mummy

The CVEEC is very proud to offer these weekends for Girl Scouts. We’re already looking forward to the next weekend for Cadettes on January 23-25th, our very FIRST ever weekend for Senior Scouts on March 27-29 at Stanford House, and our spring weekends for Junior Girl Scouts on April 17-19 and May 1-3. Information regarding these programs will be posted on our website as it become available.

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2014 Clam Bake

Our Annual Clam Bake at the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center was held on September 21 this year. This event draws in members of the community for an evening of fun, food, and support for the CVEEC’s educational programs. The Conservancy for CVNP, the park’s non-profit partner, runs the event with the help of many volunteers. Each year it seems to get a little bigger and better; this year was no exception!

A total of 365 guests attended this year’s Clam Bake. Between the auction, scholarships, and other donations, a record high of almost $120,000 was raised!  We are excited for all the students that will be able to come to camp this year and enjoy a great program because of the wonderful support of our donors. The Clam Bake is just one event that shows how much our supporters contribute to the success of the CVEEC. We are truly thankful to everyone who attended and helped change kids’ lives! A special thanks goes out to our Clam Bake Committee chaired by Dianne Squire.

Check out the video that played at this year’s event.

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Baby Snappers!

Photo of baby snapping turtleThe CVEEC welcomed some new residents to the campus this summer. The staff watched with excitement as baby snapping turtles crawled their way out of the garden in front of the Administration Building. The eggs have been incubating since June when a large female decided to lay her eggs there.

Snapping turtles are common in Northeast Ohio, and are often seen at the CVEEC. They are omnivorous, consuming both plants and small animals such as fish and frogs. They are also the largest turtles found in the area, some reaching up to 20 inches long! Though they are most often seen in the water, there were many sightings of females walking around the campus looking for good nesting spots this summer.

You may be wondering if our new babies are girls or boys. The gender of snapping turtles, along with many other species of reptiles, is actually determined by the temperature of the ground during a vital stage of development while the turtles are still in their eggs. In general, mostly males develop at moderate temperatures, while warmer temperatures produce females.

Our baby turtles headed for the butterfly garden across from the administration building. From there, they will probably make their way to a small pond or stream where they can spend the first couple years of their lives. Eventually, the females will come back to the same area where they hatched to lay their own nests and start the cycle again!

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Meet the CVEEC’s 2014-2015 Intern Staff

Meet our new staff! We are excited to welcome a new group of field instructor interns for the 2014-2015 school year. They will spend the next ten months teaching classes, hanging out with students, and enjoying the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Without further ado, here’s the lineup!

Photo of Stephanie

Stephanie Cooper
College: Cleveland State University
Major: Environmental Science
Fun Fact: Milked a cow once.

Photo of Dorraine Dorraine Duncan
College: Kalamazoo College
Major: Mathematics and Environmental Studies
Fun Fact: Swam with stingrays.

Photo of Heather

Heather Ellis
College:  The Ohio State University
Major: Parks, Recreation, and Tourism
Fun Fact: Was a white water rafting guide.

Photo of Kera

Kera Judy
College: Georgia State University
Major: Geology (working on PhD)
Fun Fact: Loves the Green Bay Packers.

Photo of Alex Alex Lee
College: Kent State University
Major: English Education
Fun Fact: Favorite animal is a hawk.

Photo of Kelsey Kelsey Lipp
College: Colorado State University
Major: Natural Resource Recreation & Tourism
Fun Fact: Went hiking for 82 days straight.

Photo of Allison

Allison Newberg
College: The Ohio State University
Major: in Human Development and Family Science
Fun Fact: Plays the harp and loves cats.

095Megan Nitzsche
College: Kent State University
Major: Early Childhood Education
Fun Fact: Has owned ten rabbits.

Photo of JoyceJoyce Ng
College: Kent State University
Major: English
Fun Fact: Was in theater every year of high school.

Photo of Thomas

Thomas Wilson
College: Lake Forest College
Major: Environmental Studies
Fun Fact: Worked at a botanical garden; loves flowers and butterflies.

We also have three administrative interns returning from last year. Here’s a little bit about them.

Photo of CarrieCarrie Cooper
College: Eckerd College
Major: Marine Biology
Fun Fact: Loves the color teal and coordinates camp gear accordingly.

Photo of Kyle

Kyle Jacoby
College: Kent State University
Major: Interpersonal Communications
Fun Fact: Never had braces.

Photo of Susan

Susan Fritsch
College: Muskingum University
Major: Environmental Science
Fun Fact: Has a Harry Potter wand collection

To learn more about internships within the Cuyahoga Valley National Park check out the Conservancy’s  and Park’s internship pages.

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End of the Internship Reflection

As we approached the last week of our 2013-2014 resident programs, we asked our intern staff to reflect back on the year.  Here is what they had to say:


Any advice for future interns?

Take advantage of the park, get plenty of sleep, have fun at work and be goofy with your coworkers, remember that you are impacting students and making a difference even if it doesn’t always seem like it.

Plans for the summer/next year?

Staying as a teaching intern for summer camp then starting a M.S. Biology program at Oakland University in Michigan to work with amphibian disease and parasites!

 Sum up the internship with just 3 words:

Time flies fast

Any other comments/ facts you want to share?

This experience turned out to be way more rewarding than I ever imagined, I learned so many new things and discovered the importance of interpretation and education in conservation. This internship helped me grow as a professional and an individual.


Favorite quote from a camper?

Me, “Does anybody know what a naturalist is?”

Child, “Someone who doesn’t shave?”

Plans for the summer/next year?

I will be staying at the EEC as an administrative intern for the next year and I am very excited to learn even more skills!

What are your true feelings about Alex Bevan?

Essentially he is my hero. All the Rivers Run is now the theme song for my life. It’s in my dreams, I sing in for my family and friends, I hum it as I clean. I don’t know where I would be if he had never written that song.

Sum up the internship with just 3 words:

Amazing, Educational, Friendship


Any advice for future interns?

Don’t be afraid to break out of your shell and grow.  This job is really good at facilitating growth.

Plans for the summer/next year?

Working at the EEC for the summer!

Sum up the internship with just 3 words:

Incredible, Transformative, Rewarding

Any other comments/ facts you want to share?

It’s amazing to see how nature touches the souls of the children we work with, from a child who had never seen a frog before, to a child who expressed how profoundly they were touched by a walk in the woods, I will always treasure the memories of the children I worked with at CVEEC.


Favorite quote from a camper?

Me- “What city is south of Cleveland?”

Camper- “North Dakota”

Plans for the summer/next year?

I will be starting my Master’s Degree in Biology, as well as starting my job at the Cleveland Zoo as an Interpreter, and starting my new position at the EEC.

What will you miss most about the EEC?

I will probably miss Rich and Devon (our kitchen staff) the most.  I had some really funny conversations with them and I’ll miss their food.


One thing you learned from the year. (Life skills/Facts)

I learned soo many things, too many to fit on a page. But to name two: I learned how to hold a crayfish without being pinched and how to have fun with kids outdoors even when its sub-zero temperatures. It is possible after all.

Plans for the summer/next year?

I will be travelling to Jamaica and Connecticut to be with my family for a while but spending most of the summer in Indiana. I will be starting a Master of Science in Natural Resources Social Sciences at Purdue University (West Lafayette, Indiana) this August.

Sum up the internship with just 3 words:

Growth, Perseverance, Development

Any other comments/ facts you want to share?

Despite how challenging the internship was at times, I am happy I made this decision post-graduation. It taught me a lot about life and myself and gave me time to reflect and plan for the future.


 What is a moment you will never forget from this year at the EEC?

I will never forget when we were all feeling down in the middle of the winter and all the interns had an impromptu snow ball fight in the parking lot. It was fun and stress relieving and just what we needed at that time.

Favorite quote from a camper?

Favorite quote from a camper was when I was on a night hike and everyone was relatively silent and one little boy about four feet behind me started singing “Making my way down town walkin’ fast, faces past and I’m home bound” from “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton. I had to bite my fist to keep from laughing out loud.

Plans for the summer/next year?

I will be working as a Guest Service Specialist at Gervasi Vineyards in North Canton, OH after this internship is over and possibly working at a coffee shop if I can because I love coffee.

Sum up the internship with just 3 words:

Nature, Kids, Coffee


What is a moment you will never forget from this year at the EEC?

The government shutdown and the time the kids all chanted at Kyle to “take it off.” (In reference to his hat, of course).

What are your true feelings about Alex Bevan?

He sings my life. All the rivers really do run, and these wings were meant to fly…

Plans for the summer/next year?

Coming back for more! Woohoo!


What is a moment you will never forget from this year at the EEC?

One moment I will never forget will probably be when my group was in the woods playing camouflage and a student kept getting out because she was dancing behind a tree instead of hiding.

What will you miss most about the EEC?

Free rent… And friends 🙂

Sum up the internship with just 3 words:

Laughs, tears, adventures.


Do you have any regrets from the year?

The amount of coffee I drank.

Any advice for future interns?

Always remember that these kids and the world cannot completely change in a week. You will see minor changes and be glad in those. The bigger stuff will happen later on in life and forever know you were a part of that.

One thing you learned from the year. (Life skills/Facts)

I really valued being out in the forest every day for three seasons. We often talk about how the seasons change and note minor variances but I was a part of every single shift. Whenever something changed my body picked up on it. It’s like my emotions and psyche where intertwined with the plants and animals. I plan on continuing to immersing myself in the natural world like I did this past year. Nature needs to be something I play an active role in and this experience was a great step toward solidifying that connection.

Plans for the summer/next year?

Coming back for round two!!!!!


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