Home Away from Home
For the past 25 years, the Metzger Center has been an epicenter for high-impact learning, while remaining one of ONU's best-kept secrets.
As we mark the 25th anniversary of the Ohio Northern University Metzger Nature Center, we wish to reintroduce one of the University’s best-kept secrets.
Nestled amongst the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains some 160 miles east of Ada, ONU’s Nature Center comprises 70 acres in Tuscawaras County. The center is prime educational real estate, particularly for the biological and life sciences, and includes an 8,500-square-foot residential learning facility, a century-old farmhouse, natural springs and streams, dissected sandstone gulleys, mixed mesophytic forests, and fields.
Originally designed as a field station for the biological sciences, the Nature Center offers opportunities for long-term research, several days of classes or in-depth observations. Classes in natural history, ichthyology, ornithology, animal behavior, entomology and science education have regularly used the facilities. Specialized weekend classes in various social science areas occur each year.
Terry Keiser, BSEd ’64, ACIT ’98, is the director of ONU Nature Center. He explains how the center’s location provides students with learning opportunities they simply can’t receive at ONU’s Ada, Ohio, campus.
“The nature center is in an unglaciated part of the state, so it’s completely different from here in terms of topography, flora and fauna. That means you can study species there that do not exist in this area.”
In addition to providing different subject matter, the center allows ONU to teach students differently. Environmental and field biology majors spend one semester of their junior year living and learning at the Nature Center, completely immersed in coursework. The Field Semester, as it is known, is unlike anything else these students experience while at ONU.
“It’s just so much more intense because it’s all you do. Everything is about biology. You really learn a lot because you aren’t worrying about some paper for another class, or practice, or a basketball game,” says Keiser.
Another benefit of the residential aspect of the Nature Center is the time groups spend with one another. According to Keiser, students participating in the Field Semester really get to know their classmates, and the friendships that result tend to improve the learning environment. This trait is also a reason why many of ONU’s academic and administrative departments will use the nature center for professional development retreats.
Associate professor of history Russ Crawford takes his social studies majors to the Nature Center for Teacher Licensure Orientation. He finds the location amenable to long discussions about the themes of the National Council for the Social Studies as well as the ups and downs of the teaching profession.
“It’s a fantastic facility that our students have access to, and the chance to spend the weekend talking about the social studies gives students an idea of what they can expect from the major and the profession,” he says. “It also is a good bonding experience for students and makes the major more tightly knit.”
Students interested in experiencing the Nature Center needn’t be majors in one the programs that regularly use the facility. The ONU Archeology Field School conducts archeological “digs” during May and June on the property and is available as an elective course. In addition, co-curricular groups with interests in conservation, nature, natural resources and related objects – such as the Outdoors Club – make use of the center.
Perhaps the most endearing quality of the Metzger Nature Center is its origin. The Metzger Nature Center and Bolon Hall, which is located at the center, were given to Ohio Northern University by the Hillier Family Foundation as a result of the charitable trust of the late Henry L. Metzger, BSEd ’41, Hon. D. ’94, who graduated from ONU with a Bachelor of Science in education in 1941, and Geraldine Metzger, who owned the farm property where the center is located. Because of a tremendous act of generosity, students have had the opportunity to learn new things in exciting new ways.