Nature Center Events

Summer Discovery Days

During the summer, students may attend day camps at the Wildcat Hills Nature Center. These discovery days include hikes throughout the beautiful Wildcat Hills' buttes and canyons, hands-on discovery activities at the Nature Center, crafts, and snacks. The students make a journal of their discoveries to take home as well as a t-shirt from the Wildcat Hills. Popular topics range from insects, paleontology, mammals, plants and trees, adaptations, and introduction to nature. Ages for the camps range from middle school/jr. high down to preschoolers and a parent.

Workshops and Trainings

Trainings, such as Project WILD, WET, Flying WILD, Project Learning Tree, and Outdoor Classrooms are offered to expand teachers’ continuing education and for public education. Workshops on outdoor photography, paleontology, wildlife and other topics are also given for the public throughout the year. Annually, educators from Nebraska Prairie Partners, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Riverside Zoo and North Platte Natural Resource District teach Project WILD to pre-service teachers at Chadron State College.

Bird Banding

Nebraska Prairie Partners coordinates these educational opportunities with funding provided by the Nebraska Environmental Trust. Bird banders from Rocky Mt. Bird Observatory come from Colorado to spend just over a month in the fall catching birds in mist nets and banding them while students watch. The students also participate in educational activities focused on bird adaptations and migration. Of course a bird hike is included for their participation. Banding stations include the Wildcat Hills Nature Center, Chadron State Park, and Oliver Reservoir in the Panhandle of Nebraska. Each fall approximately 1,000 students of all ages participate and learn about birds. Resource professionals from Nebraska Prairie Partners, Nebraska Game and Parks, Riverside Zoo, Wildcat Audubon Society, and Scotts Bluff National Monument assist with the program. Contact for further information.

In 2007, Nebraska Prairie Partners (NPP), a cooperative effort between Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, implemented an educational bird banding station at the Wildcat Hills Nature Center just outside of Gering, Nebraska for one month. More than 1,000 students and teachers saw birds in the hand, learned about collecting scientific data, and became more familiar with the birds in the Wildcat Hills of Nebraska. The students watched a certified bird bander from Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory band migratory birds. They also took part in various activities: from a bird hike and migration game, to examining bird adaptations. The general public was invited to a Saturday banding. Funding was provided by the Nebraska Environmental Trust.

In 2008, Nebraska Prairie Partners and Nebraska Game and Parks were able to reach 1,000 students and teachers through a second year educational banding station at the Wildcat Hills Nature Center. The focus of this banding station was to bring local students out of the classroom and introduce them to the world of birds. Students participated in various activities related to birds, including a migration game, a bird beak adaptation game and a bird watching hike. A certified bird bander with the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory took students through the banding process, explaining how birds are captured, how to identify the species, why measurements are taken, and band placement. The event occurred over 1 month at the Wildcat Hills and additional events also occurred at Oliver Reservoir near Kimball and Chadron State Park for one week each. Public banding days were also held at the Wildcat Hills and Chadron State Park. Funding from the Nebraska Environmental Trust made these bird banding opportunities possible. Many students are not receiving hands-on learning opportunities especially in the outdoors. This effort is an important step in connecting students with their natural environment and the magical wonders of nature.

Visit Our National Parks

In 2008, the National Park Service provided funding for schools to take their students to local National Parks: Scotts Bluff National Monument, Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, Ft. Laramie Historic Site, Badlands National Monument. There the students participate in educational activities to learn more about their National Parks and the history, geology, and ecosystems therein. Children and Nature in Our Parks administers this grant. Contact to register.

Panhandle Eco-Extravaganza about Prairies (PEEP), 4th & 5th grades

Naturalists provide a day of exciting activities focused on short-grass prairie ecosystems for classrooms. Students take part in Critter Scene Investigations, prairie-dog black footed ferret survival game, learning about Mountain Plovers in Western Nebraska, a Short-grass Prairie Jeopardy game and getting to see a live burrowing owl. To learn about their native ecoregion contact for further information.

Wildcat Hills History Project, 5th–7th grades

In 2005, a Learn and Serve America grant provided funding for area students to document the history of the Wildcat Hills. The students interviewed elder residents, produced a book and cd of their stories and shared those items with the Banner County Historical Society and the North Platte Valley Museum. Sharing in this process was the Nebraska Historical Society, as historian, John Carter, came to the Wildcat Hills to interpret the story of the family who built the cabin. The cabin was a gift to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission from Platte River Basin Environments, Inc. It was originally built in the Wildcat Hills & moved to the state recreation area in 2005.

In addition to their history documentation, the students took part in an historic day at the Wildcat Hills Nature Center and learned how to make rope and cornhusk dolls, took part in branding hide and old time games. The volunteers from the North Platte Valley Museum assisted with the activities that day.