Events, On Our Trail

What goes on at TNC?

Explore Nature! Summer Camp registration begins January 23rd. Camps sell out quickly.  On the eve of registration opening, PBW Contributor K.W. Carr took a time-out to talk with the host of the Burnet Woods Summer Camp programs – Mr. Mike. 

One question often heard in the last few months, at various town meetings and community conversation meetings, is “What goes on at Trailside Nature Center—it is never open…”? Well, Mr. Mike, the Cincinnati Park Board Naturalist who runs the Center, has the answers for you. As you will see, a lot of things occur at the Center, but usually on weekdays. Currently, funding and staffing does not allow for other hours of programming and activities. Also, the Center is a program center with scheduled programs, rather than a visitor’s center such as Winton Woods or Sharon Woods.

During the school year, there are 8 types of Monday through Friday field trip programs that are geared to requirements of current academic contents standards for children at the kindergarten to 4th grade level.  The programs cover insects, astronomy, habitat study, plant study, recycling and resources, lake life and aquatic studies and weather. Participants include children from Cincinnati public schools, as well as private and parochial schools and homeschooled children. Each day includes a classroom activity station learning session on the key concepts of the topic of the day and then an out-in-the park session to apply the learnings in nature.


The Center also is in the last year of a grant from PNC Bank’s Grow Up Great program. With this grant, the Center targets Head Start preschoolers and provides three nature sessions for each participating school during the school year. In the fall, the program is at Smale Riverfront Park; in the winter, Mr. Mike takes the program into the classroom and focuses on Cincinnati fossils and geology; and in the spring, the children come to Burnet Woods for a combined classroom and outside learning experience regarding plants and animals. This program sometimes is the only “in nature” experience for these children.

Mr. Mike also conducts a seasonal after-school Scouts program called Skysearch, which includes a visit to the Center’s Planetarium. Scouts learn how to make and then use independently a planisphere map that enables them  to learn what to look for in the sky on a particular night. Another activity includes use of a scale model hike of the solar system within Burnet Woods; the model uses sites in Burnet Woods to start at the sun and go on to each planet in turn (except for Neptune as it is beyond the park).

Summer is the busiest time for the Center. Over 250 children participate in the Center’s camps each summer. They come from all over, including Northside, the western suburbs and Northern Kentucky as well as the communities neighboring Burnet Woods.   The Center uses the winter season to prepare for many of the camp activities, preparing over 1500 craft kits and other materials for an upcoming summer.

The Center conducts at least 6 types of camps. The Grand Camp is for grandparents and grandchildren, aged 3 and 4 years. There also are 2 types of programs for preschoolers. Urban Safari is for children aged 6-8 and focuses on hiking, exploring, nature study, arts and crafts and play. Youngsters aged 9-12 have a choice of either Astronomy Camp or Star Wars Camp.  After progressing through the various camp levels, youngsters aged 13 and above can apply to come back and serve as “counselor in training” volunteer helpers. Camp registration opens January 23, 2019. Be forewarned: some camps sell out in 30 minutes.

The Center also presents 4 public Planetarium programs over the winter. The next one is scheduled for Friday, February 15, 2019 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. and is titled:  “Stars in Your Eyes.” You can register with Mr. Mike for this Valentine event for just $5.00 per person.

In addition to on-site programs, the Center staff (Mr. Mike and one part-time assistant) helps other nature centers with major activities, such as Caldwell Nature Preserve’s Halloween program in the fall and Mt. Airy Forest’s maple event in the spring.  Mr. Mike also conducts some outreach programs for senior centers, after-school library programs, scout programs and similar audiences.

So, if you ever again wonder “does anything go on at Trailside Nature Center”, or hear someone else ask that question, just respond: “More than you can imagine!” You can obtain further information from Mr. Mike at the Center.

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