Sunday, May 24, 2015

Somethings Afoot: Park District Opens New Exhibit
December 19, 2013 by | No Comments

Giving a tour of the latest Geauga Park District exhibit to local media last Wednesday, Dan Best just couldn't stay in one place.The park district's…

Giving a tour of the latest Geauga Park District exhibit to local media last Wednesday, Dan Best just couldn’t stay in one place.
The park district’s senior naturalist was afoot, flitting from station to station at The West Woods Nature Center in Russell Township.
Relating soaring birds’ use of rising air thermals, aided by the use of air-hockey technology; sedimentary rock formations made of Legos; push-button flying dandelion seeds — all of these were part of the exhibit “Something’s Afoot: Nature Just Can’t Stay Put,” which kicked off at The West Woods last month.
The exhibit features almost 20 stations focusing on the abilities of animals and plants to move and sustain themselves, Best said.
“Our objective is for people to gain greater appreciation for the range of abilities that animals and plants have with regard to moving about,”?he said. “They need to meet their needs of food, water and shelter.”
Best said he was excited about the exhibit because it also provides a measure of explanation for observable wildlife movement in the county and in the state. The interactive nature of the stations, located in a 40-foot-by-40-foot exhibit hall, is especially appealing to children.
“It is very rewarding to watch visitors, especially children, learn by doing,” he added.
Although Best said it was hard to determine a favorite exhibit, he likes one that challenges visitors to match mobile creatures with human inventions that mimic their movement.
For instance, a helicopter represents a dragonfly, while a floatplane represents a mute swan landing on water.
Best said large-scale exhibits such as “Something’s Afoot” have been developed over a year-long period and displayed in the exhibit hall every two years.
Since 2002, when The West Woods Nature Center opened, the large-scale exhibits have complemented a standard Geauga geology and ecology display otherwise featured year-round.
Best estimated “Something’s Afoot” will run through 2014.
Exhibit Highlights
One of the most compelling displays is one known as “Unflappable Flyers: Rising Air Riders,” Best said, adding it utilizes a modified air hockey game table. This exhibit shows how birds use thermal updrafts for sustained flight.
Another display, “Gravity Cheaters: Wing Beaters,” provides examples of animals that fly by flapping their wings. Such animals include bats, birds and insects and the exhibit focuses on wing structure and framework.
Best discussed a migration station exhibit that displayed how Doppler radar, used to track storm paths, can also track bird migration. Bird migration is based on daylight, not temperature.
Nearby, a push-button display case with dandelion seeds explained seed dispersal.
“The little ones love that,” chipped in Communications Specialist Sandra Ward.
Mike Valko, a park district operations engineer, stopped by to give his take on the project, which also received help from students at Auburn Career Center in Concord Township for the video productions.
“It’s quite an endeavor,” Valko said. “It was a challenge to create, especially with the experimentation with things like fishing line length, rods and wings on a bird display. Even the sound had to be programmed to synchronize with the visitor-pushed ‘ON’ button.”
The nature center’s first exhibit and its associated programs, featuring the Ice Age, attracted around 40,000 visitors, with subsequent exhibits attracting 20,000 to 30,000 apiece.
Although Best said he did not know how many this exhibit would garner, he had high hopes for it.
“It’s especially important during this time of the year,” Ward said. “Grandparents can bring their grandchildren, while young families can attend as well. It’s an inter-generational program that will appeal to many age groups.”
The exhibit runs daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at The West Woods, 9465 Kinsman Road, Russell Township. It is closed both Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. For more information, call 440-286-9516 or visit

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