Discovery Rooms

Limited Re-Opening of the Nature Discovery Center

The Center’s two Discovery Rooms will be reopening slowly, with added precautions in place, as we continue to heed the health and safety advice of City, County, and State officials. We know that each family has to weight their own personal risks in deciding whether or not to visit the Center during this transition time, but we want you to know our re-opening plans so that you can make the best decision for your family.

Our rooms will be touch free until it is safe to add interactive elements back. All hand lenses, binoculars, puzzles, books, toys, and loose specimens have been removed. But we encourage you to come in and visit our live animals and see the specimens we have on display in enclosures. The Discovery Rooms will be disinfected throughout the day with CDC recommended cleaning products for the safety of our guests, volunteers, and staff.

For now, our plan includes the following additional precautions:

  • Restricted Hours: Saturday’s ONLY beginning May 16 from 12 pm – 3 pm (possibly switching to Sundays ONLY after May 30)
  • Limited Attendance: 12 visitors at a time will be allowed inside the Center. Kids must be supervised by an adult at all times.
  • Masks will be required inside the Center.
  • One Way Flow in and out of the Center (please observe directional signs on-site)
  • Hand washing will be required in the upstairs bathroom before entry to the Discovery Rooms.
  • Individuals and groups should practice social distancing from unrelated visitors, whether inside in the Discovery Rooms, or outside waiting on the porch.

We hope to see your family when you feel comfortable returning to the Center!

Please know that we are happy to continue to welcome you and your family to the Center’s Discovery Rooms free of charge. We do welcome donations to help cover our operating costs, including staff time and animal care, and the additional costs we now face in protecting visitors, volunteers, and staff from the virus.

Touch-free donations may be made online here, or in person at the Center via the credit card “Dip Jar” located on our entry information table just inside the front door. We appreciate your support during these difficult times!

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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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New Small Mammal Added to our Menagerie

Our new male Lesser Hedgehog Tenrec at the nature Discovery Center.

We’re super excited to announce a new addition to our menagerie of live animals at the Center, a super adorable male Lesser Hedgehog Tenrec. Our little guy doesn’t have a name yet and we are open to suggestions! You can leave a comment here or look out for a Facebook Live video later this week and add your name ideas to the comments then. Note that he isn’t quite ready for visitors, but we’ll be sure to tell you when he is! 🙂

Lesser Hedgehog Tenrec (Echinops telfairi)

Tenrecs are found on the island of Madagascar. Though they look and act very much like hedgehogs, they are actually not closely related to them. They are nocturnal, wandering the night in search of insects, worms, and other small invertebrates. If bothered, they will roll into a ball, exposing only their pointy spines. Tenrecs are good climbers, and will make their dens in tree cavities, as well as in and under logs. They mark their territories and communicate by scent marking objects.

Many thanks to Charity Tutt ( for placing this sweet rescue animal with us!

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