Master Naturalist Program Perfect for all Nature Lovers

Any area residents interested in learning more about birds, trees, wildflower identification, and all manner of other nature topics can sign up now for Master Naturalist classes beginning January 29, 2011, at the Good Zoo. Popular bird expert Dr. Scott Shalaway starts the season with a four hour WV Birds class on bird biology, identification and back-yard feeding on January 29, proceeded by an introductory class on Names and Identification techniques for naturalists taught by zoo director Penny Miller. February classes include General Ecology, and Terrestrial Habitats taught by Zac Loughman from West Liberty University, and WV Mammals class taught by the zoo’s animal curator Joe Greathouse.

Monarch butterfly

A monarch butterfly is tagged just before being released in one of the Master Naturalist classes offered at the Good Zoo.

Classes cost just $6 per hour of instruction and under $400 for the entire certification program; students participate at their own pace and take up to three years to complete the program, or finish in one year. Classes are held at the Good Zoo on Saturdays and Sundays and often involve walks in the woods and occasional field trips to a farm pasture, wetlands or streams.

Additional spring classes include core classes by area naturalist Bill Beatty including Trees, Wildflowers, and Medicinal Plants. Bird lovers will can choose Bill’s elective on Learning Bird Songs, or learn how-to tips on Blue Bird Boxes by certified master naturalist Al Dague.  Nature Photography, WV otters, Mushrooms, Astronomy and many more electives are planned. Instructors include Good Zoo staff, West Virginia Division of Wildlife biologists, local nature experts and area college instructors. Students are all nature lovers and represent a wide range of ages and backgrounds from college students, teachers, scout leaders, farmers, fisherman, to retired folks and nature photographers. “Anyone of any age or background fits into the group, you just have to be a nature lover,” said Vickie Markey-Tekely, the zoo’s curator of education.

Master Naturalist Daniel Caron said, “The program is a fun and interesting way to learn about nature.  I enjoy the program’s interactive, hands-on format.  The classes teach me to see something different every time I step outside.  This has helped me when working in my own backyard and everywhere I travel.”

Master Naturalist Class

Master Naturalist classes are held at the zoo on Saturdays and Sundays and often involve walks in the woods and occasional field trips to a farm pasture, wetlands or streams.

Students conduct 16 hours of volunteer work on nature projects of their own choosing in order to become certified. “This is our seventh year, and many of our students participate in several backyard bird projects, put up bluebird boxes, survey and report frog calls, raise and tag monarch butterflies, and improve their garden and property  to attract wildlife,” said Penny Miller, zoo director. “Others like to help out at state or zoo wildlife events, or pass on their knowledge to children,” she said.  “I enjoy teaching my grandkids and neighbors about the monarch butterflies I rear and tag,” said certified Master Naturalist Carol Saseen.

The curriculum was developed by the West Virginia Division of Wildlife to develop citizen scientists and naturalists across the state. Students from Ohio and Pennsylvania are welcome to participate also.

Those interested in learning more can visit the or by calling Vickie Markey-Tekely at 304-243-4033 or Penny Miller at 304-243-4027.

Volunteers Important to the Good Zoo

A group of teens will soon begin a vigorous 10-week training program at the Good Zoo at Oglebay and by spring this group of  volunteers will be sharing their knowledge with visitors to the zoo.

Volunteer at Good Zoo

Good Zoo Volunteer Emily Burkley holds an opossum so zoo visitor Grace Kalb can get a close look. Volunteers at the zoo share what they learn about wildlife by talking with visitors at the zoo and often use live animals to educate.

Vickie Markey-Tekely, Curator of Education at the Good Zoo said volunteers, or docents, typically assist with summer camps, birthday parties, sleepovers and other education programs at the zoo. “Docents share what they learn about wildlife by talking with visitors at zoo exhibits and even use live animals and artifacts to educate others,” added Tekely.

The docent program at the Good Zoo is funded by the Vaden Children’s Farm Trust, a private foundation that works closely with Oglebay’s governing board, the Wheeling Park Commission (WPC), in an important area – instilling a positive work ethic in young people. Since 1979 the Trust has helped fund work-training programs for the WPC in the areas of teen employment and docent opportunities. Originally established by the late Wheeling businessman Claude Vaden to provide opportunities for local youth to learn good work habits, funds from the foundation also help employ about 200 youth between the ages of 14-18 every year at Oglebay and Wheeling Park.

Adult volunteer training is also held periodically throughout the year at the Good Zoo.  To receive an application or more information on the zoo’s volunteer program, call 304-243-4033 or e-mail