In accordance with Western Carolina University’s policies in response to COVID-19, the Highlands Biological Station is currently closed to the public, but is open to researchers and faculty on a limited basis. Researchers and faculty interested in reserving research and residential space should contact the HBS office (828-526-2602) for information on availability, rates, and reservations. Field courses, workshops, and HBS Nature Center programming are cancelled for the 2020 season. The HBS Botanical Gardens remain open, except for trails that are closed due to construction.

Welcome to our Virtual Learning Center for the Highlands Nature Center & Botanical Garden!


Can’t visit us in person?  No problem!  See below for activities you can do at home to become a backyard naturalist, videos from our garden, and more.

Nearby Nature Programs

Each week, we post daily activities and crafts that follow a theme. Suitable for kids and adults of all ages, you can find the compiled Nearby Nature resources below, and follow along for updates on the Highlands Nature Center Facebook Page!


Did you know bird diversity is very high in the southern Appalachian Mountains? Here you can make your own birds nest, learn about the significance of eggshell hues and patterns, watch live camera feeds of various birds, and learn bird ID tips. Then go outside and put your new skills to the test!


Hop outside and become familiar with frogs in your area and their calls, explore how their skin and features are adapted to their surroundings, and learn the key differences between frogs and toads!


Spring blooms are popping up everywhere! Use these resources to learn about which wildflowers are in your area, how to press wildflowers, how they attract pollinators, and more!


What is phenology? Click here to find out and to explore crafts, activities, videos, and citizen science projects related to this topic.


What are pollinators? Learn about the pollinators in your region while crafting seed bombs and “bee condos” to help aid in their survival. Then, become a Pollinator Hero and go on a virtual quest to find solutions for the problems the pollinators in your area are facing.


It doesn’t have to be Earth Day to celebrate all that the earth has provided us! Click above to see how we celebrated Earth for a whole by highlighting the incredible biodiversity found here on the Highlands Plateau. From salamanders to mushrooms and lichens, there’s so much to explore and appreciate.


Get a glimpse of the night sky in your neighbourhood! Learn to identify different constellations, make constellation cookies, learn about light pollution, and much more!


Did you know Highlands is a temperate rainforest?? It’s normal for Highlands to receive 80-120 inches of rain in a single year! Click here to make clouds, a rain gauge, your very own outdoor thermometer, and more.