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Construction is in progress around our barnyard area. During this time, our barnyard animals will be interacting with new habitats inside and outside of the barn and receiving daily enrichment. Please bear with us while we make improvements for our animals and guests!
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Educational Program Receives National Award

Outreach Education Program at a school

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) announced that the Western North Carolina Nature Center has been recognized with AZA’s 2018 Education Award for significant achievement in the “Expanding Impact through Targeted Low Income Outreach Education” program. The national award was received during AZA’s September conference in Seattle.

The AZA Education Award recognizes outstanding achievement in educational program design, judging programs on their ability to promote conservation knowledge, attitudes and behavior, show innovation, and measure success.

The Nature Center staff, along with the Friends of the WNC Nature Center, developed the Targeted Low Income Outreach Education program in response to growing demand from the community.  Low-income schools, Head Start locations, retirement centers, after-school programs, libraries, and others stated admissions fees and travel logistics/costs were too high to make a WNC Nature Center visit possible.

“Education at AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums is marked by a sharing of scientific discovery and a love of nature,” said AZA President and CEO Dan Ashe. “WNC Nature Center is a leader in conservation education; with its immersive outreach initiative instilling among its participants what Rachel Carson called, ‘a sense of wonder.’”

“We do outreach as a service to our community.  It’s a way to share our mission and educational goals with people who can’t come to us,” said WNC Nature Center Director Chris Gentile. “Over the last two years, we’ve learned the number of people who can’t visit our site is greater than we originally thought.  This year, we’re looking to reach around 10,000 students, preschools, retirees, and other community members.”

This program is led by a Friends of the WNC Nature Center staff member, Tori Duval, who works collaboratively with the Nature Center. The Friends of the WNC Nature Center raises the funds for this program through private donations and grants.

To learn more about AZA’s Honors and Awards, please visit

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