Maura Denman

NEW Covid 19 Update 3/13

After we released our Covid19 Update for the Nature Discovery Center last night, we became aware that HISD was cancelling their Spring Break Camp programs next week and suspending classes through March 30.

The WHO and CDC have indicated that community-wide measures to increase social distancing will be a key element in the fight against the spread of this pandemic and in the protection of our healthcare systems. Closing schools and cancelling programs and events where people are gathered in close proximity is now a priority.

Out of an abundance of caution, and in keeping with our policy of following HISD closure schedules in times of emergency, we have decided to cancel the Spring Break Camps we had scheduled for March 16 – 20. Center staff will be contacting program participants regarding refunds today.

The Center itself will remain open to the public during our normal operating hours of 12 to 5:30 Monday – Friday and 10 – 5:30 on Saturday and Sunday.

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From our earlier statement:

For visitors’ health and safety, we have increased the frequency with which we disinfect surfaces throughout the building. Please assist us in this endeavor with thorough hand washing. Hand Soap and Hand Sanitizer are readily available.

In addition, we respectfully request that visitors be courteous to other guests and delay their visit to the Center and participation in Center programs if they or their children are experiencing possible illness, or if they have recently traveled overseas.

Thanks to all of you for helping us keep the Center clean and safe for all visitors.

We encourage you to enjoy the great outdoors during this time, as nature is always good for our health!

Be well! And, we look forward to seeing you soon!

~ NDC Staff

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Covid-19 Update from the Center

The Nature Discovery Center staff recognize the importance of our community’s health and safety.

During this time, we are following recommendations by the CDC and WHO. Our Center also follows the schedule and recommendations of HISD and the City of Bellaire. We are currently following the HISD recommendation of cancelling large gatherings only. We are still holding our regularly scheduled programs, and the center is still open to the public at this time. We will update our site and social media with any changes as the local public health strategy evolves.

If you would like to cancel your participation in any of our programs, we are happy to reschedule or offer you a full refund during this time. Please email us at mail@naturediscoverycenter.org to let us know of your cancellation in writing.

For visitors’ health and safety, we have increased the frequency with which we disinfect surfaces throughout the building. Please assist us in this endeavor with thorough hand washing. Hand Soap and Hand Sanitizer are readily available.

In addition, we respectfully request that visitors be courteous to other guests and delay their visit to the Center and participation in Center programs if they or their children are experiencing possible illness, or if they have recently traveled overseas.

Thanks to all of you for helping us keep the Center clean and safe for all visitors.

We encourage you to enjoy the great outdoors during this time, as nature is always good for our health!

Be well! And, we look forward to seeing you soon!

~ NDC Staff

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New NDC Programs Featured in Chon.com Piece

Our new, monthly Mess Makers classes for kids ages 3 to 7 and our monthly Interactive Nature Table program were featured in this morning’s Houston Chonicle. Check out the article by Chron.com Correspondent Allison Bagley here and learn more about these programs by following these links:

Mess Makers – 1st Mondays from 10:30 – 11:45 am

Interactive Nature Table – 2nd Sundays from 1 – 3 pm

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NDC Partners with Discovery Green for Special Programs during Paloma Installation

The Nature Discovery Center is partnering with Discovery Green to offer urban birding opportunities, wildlife encounters, crafts and activities, and a mindfulness experience during Paloma, a temporary art installation of glowing origami birds at Discovery Green. To learn more about the special programming being offered during the art installation, click here.

Urban Bird Walks

Walk with an expert to discover the real wildlife of downtown Houston! These free workshops will begin and end at Discovery Green. Wear your walking shoes and meet at the Lakehouse Café in the park.

Saturday, December 14, 4 – 5 pm

Friday, February 14, 11:30 am – 12:30 pm Lovebirds for Valentine’s Day!

Mindfulness in Nature

Saturday, January 11, 11 am – 1 pm

Led by Bethany Foshee of Nature Discovery Center & Heather Sullivan of Mindfulgreen. Join us for a talk about the benefits of mindfulness and nature, followed by three guided meditations on sound, breath, and sensation. Then we’ll lead a mini nature journaling workshop – exploring how art, poetry, and observations help us to find a renewed sense of calm and appreciation for our surroundings. Materials provided or you’re welcome to bring your own journal or sketch book!

For the Birds!

Saturday, February 1, 11 am – 3 pm

Nature Discovery Center and Discovery Green partner to present bird crafts, birding 101 station, hands-on homing pigeon encounter, Wild Birds Unlimited, and an astonishing demonstration by Birds of Prey.

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Pursue your Passion with a Year End Gift



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As you head into the New Year, pursue your passion with us!

Pick one…

Nature Play  •  Mindfulness  •  Gardening  •  Nature Art  •  Science and Nature Classes  •  Birding  •  Camping  •  Nature Hikes •  Volunteer Service


These meaningful pursuits would not be possible without the support of our local community and donors like you! With your generous donation, you will help others pursue a passion for nature that will influence our city for years to come.

Wishing you health, happiness, and nature pursuits in 2020!

Sincerely,

Bethany Foshée
Executive Director

Does your company match donations?  If so, please email us at  mail@naturediscoverycenter.org so we can help facilitate the match.

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Or Pay via PayPal





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Fall Changes to take NDC Discovery Rooms Back to their Roots

Over the next month or so, staff at the Nature Discovery Center will be making mission driven changes to our Discovery Rooms that will take the rooms back to the Center’s roots as a place of exploration and discovery. Visitors will notice a shift in focus from indoor nature play to hands-on learning at activity and observation stations designed to ignite curiosity, understanding, and respect for nature. While we still want to encourage nature based imaginative exploration upstairs, we want to move away from indoor play for play’s sake and hopefully discourage the misuse of specimens and Discovery Room tools that have too often been incorporated into the play-based experience our visitors have had in recent years.

We are excited by these changes, and we can’t wait to see our visitors make new discoveries as they interact with natural objects, explore with kid friendly tools of the trade, “research” areas of interest in resource books, create simple nature crafts, and engage with volunteers and naturalists at themed demo and activity tables. We know there will be a period of adjustment as our visitors acclimate to our new Discovery Room philosophy, but we also know that the changes will be rewarding and worth it! Connecting kids with nature and igniting their curiosity through hands-on discovery is our passion!

What can you expect:

  • removal of the Backyard Habitat house and most of the toys that have been upstairs
  • a focused area for imaginative interactions with a smaller selection of puppets and stuffed animals
  • a general local wildlife theme in the large discovery room with activity and observation stations
  • a more focused bones, skulls, and skeletons theme in the small discovery room
  • an interactive naturalist table staffed by volunteers on weekends at posted times with themed activities and/or hands-on animal encounters
  • more accessible tools of the trade so that kids can explore specimens with hand lenses, rulers, microscopes, and balances, and observe wildlife through the windows with binoculars
  • a “Stars of the Park” exhibit space where kids can bring in and display small curiosities and interesting objects they have discovered while exploring the park
  • increased respect for our specimens and tools by staff and visitors alike
  • an expectation that our visitors will help us keep the rooms clean by helping their children learn to put things back where they belong
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We’re Partnering with Houston Audubon and others for Bird Week

We’re excited to be an official partner with the Houston Audubon in the first-ever Houston Bird Week, in honor of their 50th anniversary. Equal parts fun, education, and celebration, experience firsthand the important role Houston plays in the journey of billions of migratory birds, and the everyday life of our urban-dwelling birds. Led by Houston Audubon’s Young Professionals Advisory Council in collaboration with local conservation partners, we have a flock of fun planned for all.

Don’t miss the kick-off party, where an official Bird Beer will be unveiled! From pop-up birding stations to park clean-ups and bioblitzes, your participation and excitement will help us continue to be a welcoming home for Houston’s birds.

We hope you can join us at our birding activities already planned for September 21 – 28.

Let’s get chirping on social media. Use #HoustonBirdWeek to share your excitement! Check out the jam-packed list of events at www.houstonaudubon.org/birdweek

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Fall Planting Season is Coming

It’s almost fall planting season! Visit these two great native plant events hosted by our partners at the Native Plant Society and the Garden Club of Houston!

Wildscapes Workshop
Saturday, September 21
8 am – 3:30 pm
Anderson-Clarke Center at Rice University
https://npsot.org/wp/houston/event-overview/wildscapes-workshop/

Bulb & Plant Mart
Thursday – Saturday, October 3 – 5
The Church of St. John the Divine
https://www.gchouston.org/bulb-plant-mart/

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June 2019 Wired to Nature

Duran, E. (6/2019) Why bats and wasps matter: Debunking myths about pollinators.  Essentials, p. 18

 

Wired to Nature is the Nature Discovery Center’s regular column in Essentials, a monthly magazine published by InstantNewsNetwork that covers the Bellaire and West University communities. Essentials may be read online at https://current.essentialsmagazines.com/

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New Snake Species for Russ Pitman Park

By Eric Duran, Staff Naturalist

On Tuesday, May 7, 2019 during a light rain, I went out flipping logs to add a couple of species to the previous day’s bio-blitz, and found quite a surprise… a Brahminy Blindsnake (Indotyphlops brahminensis).

These non-native (introduced) snakes are not only extremely rare in Texas, but are only recently known from a few records in Harris County. It was an exciting find! Also known as the “Flowerpot snake,” it is believed that they spread around the tropical and semi-tropical areas of the world through in the loose soil of flowerpots. They are originally from somewhere around the coastal areas of East Africa and South and SE Asia, along the Indian Ocean.

Every wild specimen that has ever been collected or observed has been found to be female. They seem to reproduce asexually through a process called parthenogenesis, in which they lay eggs (or give birth, we’re not actually sure) to identical copies of the mother, each baby a clone of a clone. They live in leaf litter, loose soil, and under rocks and logs. Their diet consists mainly of ants, ant eggs and larvae, and termites.

Blindsnakes are very thin and small, and have barely functioning eyes housed under translucent or even opaque eye scales (eyes are not generally important, if you spend most of your time under cover or underground). They have a depressed lower jaw that helps it keep dirt out of its mouth while it’s burrowing. As with other species of burrowing snake, they do not have wide belly scales for moving across the ground efficiently.

Upon finding this snake for the first time at the Nature Center, we had to make sure that it wasn’t one of the native species. In Texas, we have 3 native species of blindsnake, the Texas blindsnake being the closest native species to Harris County (occurring here only sporadically). Our closest native blind snake can be pinkish-brown to dark brown, and the Brahminy can be dark black to dark brown… so we couldn’t just use coloration to determine the species of our little friend. A couple of us got to do some real herpetology, and dig into the Texas snake books. The Brahminy has up to 20 rows of mid-dorsal scales, while the native species has only up to 14. Also, the vent (back opening) and the tail tip are whitish on the Brahminy. A little macro-photography helped us to zoom in on these characteristics, and determine confidently that we had what we thought we had.

This was an exiting find for the naturalists on staff, and added another species to our park snake list; along with Rough Earth Snake, Gulf Coast Ribbon Snake, Eastern Hognose Snake, Texas Ratsnake, Diamondback Watersnake, Broad-banded Watersnake, and Yellowbelly Watersnake (which we only recently found living near the Cypress Pond at the South end of the park).

Let us know if you photograph any snakes in our park, or if you have seen any cool snakes in your own yard!

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