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Parks and Recreation

Our Programs and Services

Public Programs

To help people enjoy the beauty and wonder of Shelby Bottoms, the Nature Center offers a variety of public programs tailored for all ages. Almost all programs are free of charge. Programs may be cancelled or modified due to inclement weather, high or low registration, or other factors, so pre-registration is required. Please call (615) 862-8539 or email shelbybottomsnature@nashville.gov to register for programs.

Preschool (ages 3-5) - These programs are designed specifically for young children who are just beginning to develop their innate curiosity for the natural world.

School-aged children (ages 6-12) - Through hands-on exploration and first-hand experience, children discover the intricacies, as well as the beauty, of the natural world.

Families (all ages) - These programs are fun, friendly, informal gatherings where children and adults can celebrate the wonders of nature. Topics are often very general, but there is always something of interest for everyone.

Adults (ages 13 and up) - For park visitors who are looking for programs that address natural history topics at an adult level, these programs incorporate enjoyable outdoor experiences with meaningful interpretation.

Special age-specific programs - Frequently, the Nature Center offers programs targeted for very specific age groups. These activities vary widely in content and age-appropriateness. From outdoor adventures for for teen-agers, to stroller hikes for toddlers (and parents), to hikes or activities for seniors, these programs reach out to a variety of audiences.

School Field Trips

The Nature Center offers field trips designed to provide students with meaningful, enjoyable outdoor experiences enhancing their study of science and appreciation of nature. The field trip curriculum was developed in alignment with the Tennessee science curriculum standards. Field trips are scheduled by appointment only.

For more details about field trips, download the Educator’s Guide.

School groups may also visit the Nature Center on their own by appointment when naturalist-led field trips are not available. For more information about a self-guided visit, please call (615) 862-8539.

Picnicking while on a field trip is allowed in Shelby Park picnic shelters on a first-come first-served basis November – March. Picnic shelters may be reserved April – October by calling Metro Parks at (615) 862-8408 (8a.m.-noon). Picnicking is not allowed on the Nature Center grounds except by permission of Shelby Bottoms Nature Center Director or Environmental Education Specialist.

Scientific Research and Outdoor Classroom experiences

High school and college science labs, art classes, individual or class research projects, thesis/dissertation/post-doctoral research, or other similar projects are welcomed. Permits are required but free of charge. Download the PDF DocumentResearch Agreement and contact us for more information. Agreement cannot be saved with your completed information. Print your completed form and fax to (615) 262-0245 or scan and email to shelbybottomsnature@nashville.gov.

Metro Parks Junior Naturalist Program

Targeted to children between the ages of 6-12, the Junior Naturalist program encourages scientific learning, hand-on experiences, and quiet reflection about assorted nature topics. Using the Junior Naturalist brochure available March-December, kids will complete activities in three areas: Nature Study, Nature Exploration, and Nature Reflection. Related programs will be offered on the Nature Center’s bi-monthly program schedule. So keep an eye out and sign up quickly! These programs will often be identified by a Junior Naturalist patch icon. Children are not required to attend Nature Center programs to complete requirements though; independent study in a library and observation in his or her own backyard is encouraged! The Nature Center library also has many books and other resources to help and other materials can be found in the Junior Naturalist resource box, located at the Nature Center. Just ask for it!

When a child has completed the required number of activities (based on age), simply contact the Nature Center and schedule an interview to share the child’s work. An interview takes about 30 minutes or less and the new Junior Naturalist receives a free patch and certificate of completion! Deadline for earning a patch is December 31st of each year.

Scout Programs

Many programs are offered to scout groups at Shelby Bottoms Nature Center. Some programs publicized in the bi-monthly program schedule may be available to entire troops. Contact the Nature Center to inquire about individual programs. Programs that always welcome scout groups are the Fall and Winter Star Parties, though these are dependent upon weather, so always call to register your group.

Registration is required for all public programs and space may be limited.

Other programs are also offered to troops by request:

Boy Scouts

  • Any Tiger, Bear, Wolf Cub Scout programs that relate to the Nature Center, Shelby Bottoms, etc
  • Webelos Geology, Forestry, and Naturalist Badges
  • Any Boy Scout programs which relate to the Nature Center, Shelby Bottoms, etc, and especially merit badges from the Natural Sciences Group
  • “I Will Survive” basic survival program endorsed by NASAR Nature Center
  • Metro Parks Junior Naturalist Badge

Girl Scouts

  • Any Daisy or Brownie programs that relate to the Nature Center, Shelby Bottoms, Cumberland River, etc.
  • Junior Girl Scout Hiker, Ecology, and Wildlife Badges
  • “I Will Survive” basic survival program endorsed by NASAR
  • Metro Parks Junior Naturalist Badge

All programs offered at the Nature Center/by Nature Center staff are free to the public. Scout leaders and/or parents must accompany scouts during programs. “By request” programs are offered as available and require advanced registration. Programs may be scheduled through the Nature Center by calling 862-8539 or emailing shelbybottomsnature@nashville.gov.

Picnicking while on a Scout field trip is allowed in Shelby Park picnic shelters on a first-come first-served basis November – March. Picnic shelters may be reserved April – October by calling Metro Parks at 862-8408 (8a.m.-noon). Picnicking is not allowed on the Nature Center grounds except by permission of Shelby Bottoms Nature Center Director or Environmental Education Specialist.

Eagle Scout candidates and Scout groups interested in conservation projects are welcomed! Please contact nature center staff for more information.

Nature Play

Remember when you had hours of fun simply playing in a sand pit or dirt pile? Your toys were sticks, rocks, and cups. You made mud pies, truck lanes, and deep holes in the sand. You got dirty, but you had the time of your life. The Nature Center wants kids to experience this good, old-fashioned fun in our Nature Play area.

Made possible by a grant from the Wyomissing Foundation through Friends of Warner Parks, designed by architect Tara Armistead, and planned from input of participants of all ages and from all walks of life, the Shelby Bottoms Nature Play is a new place for kids to become one with nature. Dirt mounds, mud, sand and pea gravel pits, boulders, stump jumps, adventure trails and (what nature adventure would be complete without it) water! When your kids are finished getting filthy, you can make a stop at our wash-off station where the rinse water flows through the pervious pavement and waters our rain garden!