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Friday, February 06, 2015
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Each year, we welcome over 102,000 children and adults to our programs and exhibits. Our 43-acre facility houses more than 150  wildlife native to the mountains of North Carolina, our beloved Appalachians. During the summer season, we host a summer camp program that uses our educational space, thus we are unable to provide structured educational programs from June through early August. We do, however, provide two short programs each day on an animal topic; call or check the the board at the front desk for each day's schedule. 

Educational Programs for Schools and Home-schools

(Classes taught August – April: no programs available in May)

Download the School Reservation Request Form here.

Discovery Programs: Interactive Nature Experiences in 30-minutes

1. Snakes and Turtles
Grade Level:  K – 12th grade - NC Essential Standards: see chart below for Competency Goals 

A hands-on session of exploration and fun for students to see and touch live reptiles. Learn the similarities and differences between common native reptiles.  Reptile ecology, biology and appreciation will be the primary objectives in class discussion with an opportunity to explore the display table at the conclusion of the program.  

2. Down on the Farm
Grade Level:  K – 4th grade - NC Essential Standards: see chart below for Competency Goals
While exploring the Educational Farm, students will use their senses to discover the sights, sounds, and smells of a farm.  They will also learn differences between groups of animals, classification, and the common use and products of farm animals. Classes will examine feedstuffs (grains), learn about milk, explore human culture relating to the domestication of animals, and discover what wool feels and smells like at our hands-on stations, with time to explore the wonders of the petting area after your program.  

3. Nature At Night
Grade Level:  2nd - 6th grade - NC Essential Standards: see chart below forCompetency Goals
Nature doesn’t go to sleep at night so take an adventure as students learn methods of exploring nature at night.  Explore unique survival adaptations of nocturnal creatures such as camouflage, sound, sight, echolocation, migrations, and how they survive human impacts and natural disasters. Though we do not have live bats, we will present live animals in class for an interactive approach to learning. 

4. Forest Sounds
Grade Level: 1 - 5th grade -  NC Essential Standards: see chart below for Competency Goals
Our sense of sight is so very demanding on our feeling of security, we often fear things we hear and can’t see.  Our discovery into the world of forest sounds opens up a new realm of curiosity for children.  By learning the reasons animals make different sounds, the seasonal timing of them, and what these things indicate about our forest, we begin to understand another dimension of our incredible mountains.

5. Wild Tales
Grade Level:  K – 1st grade - NC Essential Standards: see chart below for Competency Goals
Animals have been part of stories and myths throughout history.  In some cultures, stories are the primary forms of education.  Today, storytelling provides a creative way for students to connect to the natural world and for them to use their imagination.  Gather around the fireplace in the log cabin and explore some traditional stories and myths using some live animals.

6. Masters of Metamorphosis
Grade Level: K – 2nd grade - NC Essential Standards: see chart below for Competency Goals
Kids are fascinated by growing up.  “Who’s more grown up?  When will I be all grown up?”  Metamorphosis is a special way some animals grow up.  Children will meet a live animal, role play the life cycle of a butterfly, and turn a play dough tadpole into a frog.  Students will learn that metamorphosis is unique to amphibians and insects and how these animals help people.

Investigation Programs: Hands-on Animal Science in 60-minutes

1. Wild About Wildlife Guided Tour
Grade Level:  1st - 12th grade - NC Essential Standards: see page 8 Competency Goals
This outdoor program with an experienced guide will give students an opportunity to learn more about native wild animals as they tour animal habitats and visit the fox, raccoon, cougar, bobcat, coyote, and wolf habitats.  Natural science concepts such as behavioral adaptations, food chains, communication and other survival techniques will be covered. 

2. Crafting A Habitat
Grade Level: K - 1st - NC Essential Standards: KL1.1, KL1.2, 1L1.1, 1L1.2, 1L2.2
Take an adventure as students learn about animal habitats. Explore unique survival adaptations of nocturnal & diurnal creatures such as burrowing, nest making, cave dwelling, as well as migration. Small group dynamics will incorporate habitat design, essential survival ingredients, and creativity. Come prepared to challenge your students in this indoor/outdoor experience.

3. Life Cycles
Grade Level: 2nd -  NC Essential Standards: 2E1.1, 2E1.3, 2L1.1, 2L1.2, 2l2.1, 2L2.2
Explore the unique adaptations of animal life cycles including reptiles, amphibians, insects, and mammals. Follow our instructors from egg production through to maturity and discover how metamorphosis challenges their daily existence. Students will gain an understanding of energy flows, consumerism, and trophic levels. Mini-stations will allow participants an up close view of Appalachian species and their fight for survival in our mountains.

4. Locomotion: Anatomy and Physiology
Grade Level: 3rd - NC Essential Standards: 3P1.3, 3P2.2, 3P2.3, 3L1.1, 3L1.2, 3L2.1
To survive in any environment, one must adapt to its demands of weather, topography, and food/water/shelter availability. This course will enhance the students understanding of how animals use their bodies and their surroundings to find their “life-essentials”. Discussion on anatomy and physiology of the animal kingdom will include some comparison with the human body. Live animal presentations and observation will encourage students to view animals in a new light of discovery.

5. Avian Attributes
Grade Level: 4th - NC Essential Standards: 4L1.1, 4L1.2, 4L1.3, 4L1.4
We will use the world of birds to explore how animals adjust to their environment.  Students will observe the behavior of a live raptor then design a bird using play parts.  Survival is the name of the game and it is the same for humans.  Can we adapt to change as well as birds?

6. Zoo Ecosystems
Grade Level: 5th - NC Essential Standards: 5P1.2, 5L2.1, 5L2.2, 5L2.3, 5L3.1
It might be a challenge to provide a suitable habitat for a non-native species of animal brought from another continent to North Carolina. Here at the Nature Center, we have only indigenous species, those that are native to our ecosystem.  How do we recreate a habitat that an animal will adjust to and feel comfortable in?  Groups will challenge each other with their creativity and design of new animal habitats once they learn the basic needs of their chosen species. Group discussion, participation, and public speaking are a part of this wonderful program.

Self Guided Tours

Our 43-acre facility houses more than 150 animals native to the mountains of North Carolina, our beloved Appalachians. During a self guided tour, you can explore the Nature Center at your own pace and use our animals and facilities to meet your own educational goals.  Sketch the cougars, practice map reading skills, go on an animal alphabet search, or just have fun exploring! We also offer two short, free public programs each day on an animal topic open to all visitors, one at 11:30 am and the other at 3:00 pm.  

We have additional materials available to assist teachers and leaders during you’re a self guided visit:

1. Scavenger Hunts 
Grade Level: 1st – 12th grade
Age-appropriate scavenger hunt packets encourage students to search for clues and answer questions concerning each group of animals. The “Scavenger Hunt” packets are sent to teachers who then make copies of the packet for their students prior to coming to the center.  Bring pencils and clipboards for your students.

2. “Ed-venture” Packs
Grade Level: 5th grade
5th Grade teachers are encouraged to reserve our new teacher-led weather packs.  We have assembled courier bags with various weather instruments including a wind meter, compass, sling psychrometer, and soil thermometer.  The instruments correspond with activities targeting 5th grade science objectives under the NC Standard Course of Study.  
By using these instruments, students will begin to recognize weather elements and think in terms of “earth system science”.  We have produced short instructional videos to share with your students explaining the different instruments and how they work.  Both of these videos (“Ed-Venture Pack Part 1” and “… Part 2”) can be viewed on our YouTube Channel (http://www.youtube.com/user/wncnaturecenter). 
One pack can be utilized for an average class size. The pack contents were provided by a grant from REI and there is no charge for their use.  Regular group admission rates apply to those planning to use the packs on our grounds.

3. “Wild Child” Backpacks
Is your child a “Wild Child”?  We have new backpacks loaded with tools for exploration of our grounds.  These are available to the general public to check out as a family and can be especially valuable to homeschoolers.  Packs include such things as thermometers, monoculars, hand lenses, colored pencils, field guides, etc.  All of the items correspond with six different activities in an activity book specially created for the packs.  Leave your driver’s license as collateral when you sign out a pack at the front desk.  The pack contents were provided by a grant from REI and are free to check out for use on our grounds.  Regular admission rates apply.

Offsite Programs

Fur, Feathers, and Scales
Grade Level:  Kindergarten – 6th grade
Program Length: 45 minutes 
An opportunity for students to learn the importance of preservation and conservation through a one-hour presentation (45-minute presentation/15-minute Q&A) with a live snake and turtle, animal skeletons, skins, feathers, skulls and more.  Students have a chance to interact closely with live native animals and touch the many samples on the display table.

Special Programs: Teachers may also request a specific topic of discovery for their class.  

Offsite Program Fees:
Nature Center staff will bring select programs to classrooms in Buncombe County at 
$200.00 per 45-minute session (M-F, 9:00am – 3:00pm) 
$275.00 per 90-minute session (M-F, 9:00am – 3:00pm) and
$350.00 per 45-minute session pre/post hours (M-F, before 9:00am & after 3:00pm, including Saturdays and Sundays)

Outside of Buncombe County, our program fees are 
$300.00 per 45-minute session (M-F, 9:00am – 3:00pm) 
$375.00 per 90-minute session (M-F, 9:00am – 3:00pm) and
$400.00 per 45-minute session pre/post hours (M-F, before 9:00am & after 3:00pm, including Saturdays and Sundays)
NOTE: Offsite programs are available year-round, but are limited in September, October, March and April due to the large number of groups visiting the Nature Center during this time. 

Planning Your Trip 


  • Please fill out the reservation form that you can download from this page and email it to [email protected] or fax it to 828-298-2644. If you do not have access to internet or a fax machine, then please call the center at (828) 259-8080 between the hours of 9-5 and ask to speak to someone in the education department.

  • If any student has a special need and/or needs special assistance, please indicate at the time of scheduling.
  • A reservation is required to guarantee group rates. 
  • Schools/groups pay in advance of their arrival beginning August 1, 2012 (see Payment below). 

Academic Group Admission Fees:

Home School groups (10 or more children with reservation) for Self Guided Tour:
Asheville City Home School (preK-12th grade) $2 per student or adult
Non-Asheville Resident Home School $3 per student or adult

Public & Private Schools (10 or more children with reservation) for Self Guided Tour:
Asheville City School (preschool-12th grade) $2 per student or adult
Non-Asheville School $3 per student or adult
(School teachers, teacher assistants, and bus drivers free)

Scheduled Educational Programs (add this to the Admission Fee above)
$1 per program per student and/or adult chaperone


  • Beginning August 1, 2012, full payment is due fourteen days prior to the scheduled reserved arrival date. One non-refundable payment for the entire group must be made for both students and adult parent chaperones. Teachers, teacher assistants, and bus drivers of private and public schools are given free admission.  
  • Payments are accepted as check or credit card (Visa or MasterCard). Make check payable to the WNC Nature Center. An Invoice will be included with your Reservation Confirmation. Teachers will be notified of their payment status prior to arrival via email.
  • Any adult wishing to pay directly at the door on the day of arrival will be charged the full admission fee of $8.00/person plus any associated program fees.  If the lead teacher collects payment from all the adults and submits this payment on check-in, chaperones receive the discounted rate described above.
  • The Nature Center will remain open rain or shine. Have your students dress appropriately. Should the WNC Nature Center close during your scheduled event for any reason, we will reschedule your event or reimburse your organization in full.
  • Nature Center Family Memberships or any other affiliated zoo memberships are not valid with a group reservation or school reservation.  

If a group must cancel a scheduled visit, please call the Nature Center at least 14 days prior to the scheduled arrival.  A service fee of $50.00 will be applied to all cancellations less than 14 days from reserved arrival date. The Nature Center remains open rain or shine. When cancelling, please speak directly to a Nature Center staff person or email the information to [email protected]. Call (828) 259-8082 between 8-9am to cancel. 

Teachers and Chaperones:
Teachers and chaperones must stay with students and supervise at all times during the visit.  The recommended chaperone/student ratio is 1:5 for grades 1-3, and 1:10 for 4th grade and up. Safety and supervision comes first when visiting the Nature Center.


  • Please arrive and check-in 15 minutes prior to time of reservation. The Nature Center opens at 10:00 a.m. daily. Reservations may check in beginning at 9:45 a.m. 
  • Only the lead teacher should check-in for the school group with their Reservation Confirmation Form which will be sent when payment has been received by our office.
  • Anyone needing use of the restrooms immediately upon arrival may enter at once with adult supervision. 

Gift Shop:
Our Gift Shop is currently closed due to financial restructuring. 

Safety is the Nature Center’s top priority for all visitors, staff and animals.  To create a safe haven for all, please do not throw items, run on the trails or make loud noises. Above all please DO NOT FEED the animals.  Visitors not abiding these safety rules will be asked to leave the Nature Center with no refund of admission fee. Teachers and chaperones must stay with students and supervise at all times and enforce the Nature Center code of conduct. 

Parking and Directions to the Nature Center

  • From I-40 take exit 53B, then exit 8 off I-240. At red light, take a right on to Fairview Rd. 
  • From I-240 take exit 8, at red light turn left on to Fairview Rd.
  • At second light, take a right on to Highway 81  (Swannanoa River Road). Go approximately .7 of a mile and turn right on to Azalea Rd. Take the first right on to Gashes Creek Rd. (across bridge). 
  • Buses should turn right immediately after the bridge and park below on the level below the barn. Do not unload buses on levels B or C. 
  • Parents with individual cars may park on either of the main parking levels. Handicap and stroller parking should park on the top level.

North Carolina Competency Goals for Discovery Programs












Other Group Programs and Reservations

We welcome your group to our center with discounted prices.  Each group of 10 or more paying individuals will receive a 50-cent discount on adult admissions.  Children ages 3-15 are admitted for $4.00 each and children under 3 years of age are admitted free.  Seniors are also admitted at the same discounted rate of 50-cents off if with a group of 10 or more paying individuals.  Here are the rates for group admissions:

Infants (0-2 years old)   Free
Children (3-15 yo)         $4.00
Adults (16-64 yo)           $7.50 Group from outside of Asheville
Adults (16-64 yo)           $5.50 Group from Asheville
Seniors (64+ yo)            $6.50 Group from outside of Asheville
Seniors (64+ yo)            $4.50 Group from Asheville

We ask each group, designated as a group of ten or more paying participants, to collect all admission fees from every member of your group so that we have one payment only per group. NOTE: Full payment is due to the WNC Nature Center 14 days prior to the reservation date for your group. Individual participants paying for themselves at our front desk will pay full admission rates ($8.00/person). Parents and children with memberships to the Friends of the WNC Nature Center or other non-profit organizations must pay admission at the same rate as all other participants within this reservation. Please ask all members of your party to also arrive at the same time prior to entering the Nature Center grounds. We have picnic areas for your use and lots of opportunities to take photographs. 

Should you like to make a reservation for your group, please complete the Request Form below and email it to Keith Mastin directly at [email protected] or call him with questions at (828) 259-8082 Monday - Friday. Please make sure to leave your phone number(s) and an email for best communications.  If you are a school group, please read the reservation information below. We will send you a confirmation (with invoice) to you regarding your reservation.

Download the Group Reservation Request Form here.

Programs for Youth and Families at the WNC Nature Center

  • January-March: Critter Time for Tots and Toddlers (biweekly animal program on Wednesdays)
  • February:  Young Naturalist Volunteer Applications online (summer program for youth ages 13-17)
  • March: Summer Camp Registration Begins (members only registration begins March 1, public registration opens March 2) / Elk Experience to Cataloochee Valley (family friendly, ecology of elk, 5-hour experience)
  • April:   Deadline for Young Naturalists Volunteer Program
  • June-August: Young Naturalist Program in Session / Summer Camp in Session
  • September: Elk Experience to Cataloochee Valley
  • October: Hey Day (biggest event of year, family fun, arts, crafts, music, food, animals) / Howl-O-Ween (all day family event, costumes, prizes, crafts, animals)
  • November: Wolf Howl Programs (evening ecology on wolves, snacks and adventure outdoors)
  • December: Winter Holiday Event
See calendar for this year's dates for each program!  Preregistration required for most programs.


~ WNC Nature Center ~ 75 Gashes Creek Road ~ Asheville ~ NC 28805 ~
Phone (828) 259-8080


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