“Who is to make sure that our children’s sense of wonder grows indestructible with the years? We are. You and I. Because we believe that the North Branch Nature Center can play a vital part in our children’s lives and, if we are wise, in our own lives as well.”
—Katherine Paterson, award-winning author
What We Do
North Branch Nature Center has put people in touch with the sights, sounds and sensations of the wild within our capital since 1996. North Branch Nature Center has become an integral part of outdoor recreation and learning in central Vermont, serving 10,000 visitors annually. Our 28-acre preserve of forest and fields is nestled in a gentle bend of the North Branch of the Winooski River, just two miles from downtown Montpelier. North Branch is firefly light sparkling in a child’s eye. It is a lecture hall where we learn the secrets of warblers and willows and weather. And it is a quiet place to walk or ski, swim or sit, or simply to do nothing beside the river.
“In a world that more and more needs nature’s healing and restoration, North Branch Nature Center is a treasure for all Vermonters.”
The Vision: Vermont's "Nature Ethic"
When asked what makes Vermont such a wondrous place, people say it’s the land, and our unique culture of appreciation for it. We have reverence for our land, water, air and the plants and creatures that reside with us. North Branch Nature Center’s mission is to connect people of all ages with the natural world. Our vision is to expand the legacy of Vermont’s “Nature Ethic” with our place-based nature education. Since 1996, North Branch Nature Center has been serving the community in a myriad of ways:
- We have developed innovative programs for young learners that have been adopted by many Central Vermont schools — in 2015, children in Central Vermont spent over 35,000 hours with NBNC educators learning in nature using the environs around their schools as outdoor classrooms).
- We offer lectures, field trips and citizen science programs for adults.
- We have very popular pre-school and summer camp programs — all taught in the outdoors at our center.
- Our 28 acre sanctuary is a locus of learning, and a hub for hiking, skiing and community gardening in Montpelier.
By expanding our buildings and improving our outdoor teaching spaces, we will be allowed to grow these programs, and to truly become Central Vermont’s own center for nature education, where people for many generations will experience nature’s unforgettable joys and enduring benefits.
We are a nationally recognized leader in nature-based education for children and adults. Our place-based and inquiry-based philosophy recognizes nature as our most dynamic, enriching, rigorous, and inclusive classroom. Healthy, inspired learning and development depends on immersive, curiosity-driven nature exploration, cultivated by expert teaching and mentorship. From our acclaimed Forest Preschool and Educating Children Outdoors (ECO) flagship programs, to our summer camps, after-school programs, community workshops, and professional educator institutes, NBNC offers a lifetime of learning and growth through deepened connections with the environment.
Citizen Science enlists the help of community volunteers to contribute data to major scientific research projects. Scientists today can now easily crowd-source information from participants across the world, and it has never been easier to get involved! North Branch Nature Center has a long tradition of engaging families, students, and naturalists in important ecological research. Join us for hands-on citizen science opportunities like monarch butterfly tagging, amphibian rescue and monitoring, songbird banding, Northern Saw-whet Owl research, and the annual Christmas Bird Count.
Public Natural History Programs
North Branch Nature Center cultivates a lifelong love of nature through a huge menu of programming for all ages, interests, and backgrounds. Our staff and visiting experts offer an ever-changing menu of classes, workshops, and multi-day courses designed to engage our community more deeply in the natural world. Our multimedia presentation room welcomes standing-room-only crowds to learn from experts about topics ranging from shark conservation to polar exploration. Field trips around home and across the globe immerse our participants in wild destinations to search for rare species, grand migrations, and fascinating stories in our more-than-human world. Our annual summer festivals like the Montpelier BioBlitz, BirdFest, and CaterpillarFest convene Vermonters in community-wide celebrations of nature.
NBNC Growth Trend
In the past five years community support in the form of annual donations to North Branch Nature Center has doubled. This has enabled us to expand our programming to reach a much broader audience in and beyond Central Vermont, offering more opportunities for people of all ages to connect with nature. Through careful management and planning, we have kept expenses in line as we added staff to provide these services. We are proud that our community’s ongoing support has compelled us to undertake a capital campaign to build a new community center. It is testament to the degree to which NBNC has been recognized as a vital resource of the community.
For 24 years North Branch Nature Center has been connecting people of all ages with the natural world, here on our 28-acre preserve, in partnership with area public schools, and by leading programs around Vermont and beyond. Learn more about our staff and programs.