Maura Denman

Volunteer Opportunity: Field Trip Guides Needed

Make a difference in kids’ lives, volunteer with our field trip program this year!

We are gearing up for our school field trip programs and are looking to recruit a few volunteer “Field Trip Guides” to help lead small groups of elementary school students through our nature park. This is a weekday morning volunteer opportunity.

This is a great opportunity for you to make an impact on children’s lives by helping them to connect with nature through our field trip program.


Primary Responsibilities:

  • Co-teach our discovery-based field trip program Nature at Your Doorstep.
  • Provide interactive hands-on experiences in our science based Discovery Rooms.
  • Volunteer Teachers will lead a tour of the nature center and park to a small group (8-12) of early elementary students and their adult chaperones.
  • Training is provided.
  • Field trips are scheduled weekday mornings. Volunteers are needed for 2-hour time blocks.
  • Frequency is flexible, weekly or monthly.


Please see this role description for more details. And view this short video to learn about the impact of the Nature Discovery Center from one of our NAYD School Field Trip Volunteers.

If you feel called to volunteer in this way, please email Anne Eisnerand we will schedule a time to bring you in for an interview and training.

Thank you for partnering with us to make a difference in kids’ lives.


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The Nature Discovery Center is “Just Right”

We are so pleased to be able to share this visitor letter with you and we hope that, in your own way, you find the Nature Discovery Center to be “Just right!”

Just Right

Gretchen is 3 years old. Our first trip to the Nature Discovery Center began at the playground. We meandered through what must have seemed to her like a magical forest right out of a favorite children’s book. The path invited her to explore the wooded area with lizards, frogs, dragonflies, and butterflies. There were quiet places to sit, and we saw birds, as well as the beloved bunnies. The path areas are not manicured or forced into landscaping, but instead they are tenderly tended to allow the plants, trees, and animals to be themselves. Gretchen was encouraged by her environment to touch and examine the wooded area and become part of nature.

The park is about the discovery of nature AND the nature of discovery.

The “magic forest” path opens to an old house that looks as though a kindly crone might be in residence. Once inside this old home, young children are at home. Every room feels like it could belong to the child, because indeed, they do belong to the children. Drawers with specimens to touch, prod, and caress are worn with age and sticky fingers. Children are invited to linger and learn in a room with child size furniture and books. And in addition, there is a whole ocean room that invites children to play hide and seek while matching names to sea creatures.

Gretchen opened drawers and carefully poked and petted fur, animal skeletons, and all manner of “stuff.” The room is set up to allow children to follow their own curiosity and learning timeline. Having a setting that is unhurried and filled with unlimited possibilities is a treasure. And everything is touchable!

Matthew is 6 years old. His trip to the Nature Discovery Center coincided with a birthday party that was ending. While the parents gathered and cleaned, Matthew made a new friend and the two boys romped up and down the stairs and played in the ocean room. Two little pirates sailed the seven seas of their imaginations. The same rooms in which Gretchen had quietly opened drawers and looked at books became an adventure playground to the little boys. The house and discovery rooms are built for multiple experiences.

My grandchildren live in Blacksburg, Virginia. I have memberships to the major museums in Houston, but they asked frequently if we’re going back to the house with the drawers this summer. Of course we are! Of all the museums and parks in Houston, the Nature Discovery Center is like “Goldilocks:” not too big, not too small, but just right. The home invites touch and play, sticky fingers and all. Children are part of the ocean and woods and open fields. The walk on the path, into the house, and up the stairs is, for a young child, a walk of wonder and excitement mixed with comfort.

Everything about the Nature Discovery Center is “just right.”

~ a local Grandparent

Please donate to our midyear appeal to help us help families like this Grandma’s, and like your own, continue to connect with nature.

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Help Wanted: City Nature Challenge Pits Houston Against Austin & Dallas

Join nature lovers across the city of Houston as they compete with residents of Austin and Dallas to document as many species as possible during a fun City Nature Challenge!

Texas Parks & Wildlife, the Audubon Society, Texas Master Naturalists and lots of volunteer citizen scientists like yourself will compete in this fun challenge to see which city can document a grater diversity of species. No prior experience necessary!

Challenge organizers say “It is easy to participate by joining an event, or making observations on your own using the iNaturalist app. With the iNaturalist app, you just take a picture of a plant or animal, and the community will help identify which species it is.”

Any observation in the greater Houston Area will count during the five day challenge. You can participate by exploring the life in your backyard, or anywhere you visit outside in Houston between April 14 – 18. But we’d love for you to make observations right here in our nature park and record them with iNaturalist.  So come out, enjoy our new park improvements, and record the plants and animals you find!

Let’s show Austin and Dallas what we’ve got here in Houston, and show our fellow Houstonians just how wildlife rich Russ Pitman Park is!

For more information about how to get involved visit:

Houston Challenge Page:

Facebook event:

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Rainforest Exhibit – Now Open in Discovery Rooms

Visit the Central American rainforest at the Nature Discovery Center! Discover the diversity of plants and animals in the rainforest, relate rainforest plants to products we use, and learn about indigenous neo-tropical rainforest peoples. Large painted panels, twisty vines and tropical plants will transport you to a tropical oasis full of fun learning opportunities!

Participate in fun activities including :

  • Starting your own tropical band
  • Put on a puppet show
  • Build a Mayan temple
  • Learn about rainforest layers
  • Investigate rainforest products
  • Discover rainforest plants and animals
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Park Transformation: Gateway Project Complete, More Park Improvements Announced

The Nature Discovery Center is pleased to announce that the final phase of our major capital renovation, the Gateway Project, is complete. The Gateway Project represents a $1.26 million capital initiative to improve the historic Henshaw House (Phase One) and Russ Pitman Park (Phase Two), both of which are managed by the Center.

The public/private capital funding included a $500,000 City of Bellaire bond referendum as well as $760,000 from foundations and private citizens.  The Nature Discovery Center is a hub for community gatherings and nature education. And, it now boasts new features such as an outdoor restroom, a revamped pavilion area, pathway lighting, and an outdoor restroom.

But we’re not done! Additional improvements to Russ Pitman Park are under way. As part of the park’s master plan, additional work is planned to enhance the park’s usability for both everyday visitors and school groups. This work is made possible through a key partnership with Resource Environmental Solutions (RES) — the largest habitat restoration company in the country. RES is donating services to enhance the 4 habitat zones in the park through pond restoration, nonnative plant removal, and native plantings throughout the park. “The RES team is delighted to contribute to enhancements at the nature park.  We have already witnessed the transformative effects of the Gateway Project renovations. Such initiatives will help to accommodate the growing crowds at the nature park and assure that this greenspace is preserved for generations to come,” said Elliott Bouillion, RES president and CEO.

The park’s current center path is flood prone and will be replaced with a Porous Pave nature trail made from recycled rubber, saving 750 tires from the landfill. The new center trail will be porous, allowing water to flow through and allowing visitors to enjoy the park after a rain. The new path will feature a gentle curve through the middle of the park, creating a more natural experience and highlighting our mature pecan trees, Pocket Prairie, and other native plants.

A raised wooden boardwalk with a bench will be built through the Prairie Wetland. This boardwalk will complete our ADA accessible trail loop and provide a dry seating area for birdwatchers and photographers. A new teaching deck will be installed at Cypress Pond, allowing our staff naturalists to teach hands-on classes focused on pond life. Finally, professionally designed, custom interpretive signage will be installed throughout the nature park to ensure all Russ Pitman Park visitors have an opportunity to learn about its unique habitats.

On Saturday May 6, 2017 the Nature Discovery Center will reveal our completed renovations at the free event, Gateway to Nature: Experience our Park Transformation. We will have a short ceremony at 10:00 am to thank donors and contributors. Afterwards, our education team will lead a series of family-centered activities throughout the renovated nature park, highlighting the various improvements.

For more information about the Nature Discovery Center and its ongoing programs for children and families, and for Gateway Project updates, visit

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Winter Break Camp Registration is Now Open!

Winter Break Camps entertain kids while they learn about animals, habitats, and the natural world around them through crafts, games, outdoor exploration, animal encounters, and more!  And they give parents a much needed break too! Sign up for individual days or for them all.

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