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Cylburn Nature Museum and Nature Story Hour

It’s Thursday around 10 a.m., and Joy Wheeler is awaiting the usual pack of rambunctious tots’ arrival. In the few short months since its inception, the Nature Story Hour held at the Cylburn Arboretum continues to attract more and more visitors.

"We’ve only been doing this the past couple of months," said Wheeler, a curator at the Cylburn Nature Museum. "But after the first two meetings, word-of-mouth must have spread because the turnouts have been positive"

On this day, a dozen or so toddlers and a handful of parents attend the story hour, which is free for children and a dollar for adults.

After a group read-along of a poem about daffodils, Wheeler dives into her vast collection of storybooks, momentarily captivating the young audience. Soon, attention wanes, giving way to youthful restlessness.

Yet, Wheeler is no stranger to the ways of children.

"We got our start in the ‘60s with a school group who came here with an interest in birds," said Wheeler. "In Baltimore County, there was a unit on birds in the fourth grade. About three years ago, they took that out."

Some school groups still visit though, according to Patsy Perlman, another curator at the museum.

"I remember there was teacher here recently. She said it was her 17th year bringing her children to Cylburn," Perlman said.

"People come back and say, ‘I haven’t been here since I was a child in school.’ And they remember it," added Perlman.

After reading a few nature-related stories, Wheeler decides to give the children a tour of the Cylburn Nature Museum.

The museum boasts a large number of stuffed animals, informative games, educational displays and fossils.

The museum was established and is maintained by The Natural History Society of Maryland, the Maryland Ornithological Society and the Baltimore Bird Club.

One of the founders of the museum, and one who contributed a great deal to the collection, was Dr. Lois Odell.

A former professor of biology at Towson University, Odell recently passed away. One of the rooms at the museum has been named after her in memorial.

While the museum is an educational experience, Wheeler admits it could be so much more.

"A lot of these nature centers have a full-time staff. That’s what I would like to see happen here at Cylburn. Right now, it’s all run by volunteers," Wheeler said.

"People who have an interest in natural history just love to share it," added Wheeler.

Besides the Cylburn Nature Museum, there is much to see and do, such as enjoy Cylburn’s architectural achievements.

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