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The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission

Black Hill Discovery Center – Group Programs

Kids on pontoon boat

Educational programs are offered to schools, scouts, home-schooled children, and other organized groups year-round. We also have a fire ring available as part of a program or for rent. From April through October, we offer Pontoon Tours as well as canoe and kayak programs and lessons.

With the Montgomery County Public School Curriculum in mind, educational programs have been, and continue to be, developed to suit the needs of students in pre-school through the 12th grade. We also offer programs for college students and other interested groups, such as scouts.

Field Trips

Day and Times: Monday-Friday from 9 am to 6 p.m. Groups should arrive 10 minutes prior to their scheduled time.

Fees: BH Discovery Center programs are free for curriculum-based environmental education programs to all Montgomery County schools public, independent, and home-schools (grades K through 12). We are available to make certain presentations at your facility as an outreach program for a $50 charge (Title I Schools: $25).

Fees for all other groups will be $6 per participant. Checks are payable to Active Montgomery.

All programs involving the use of our Pontoon Boat will charge $150.  The pontoon has a limit of 20 passengers per tour.

Lunches: There are covered picnic pavilions (if not already reserved) and uncovered picnic tables throughout the park. There are also playgrounds and restroom facilities within walking distance of the Discovery Center. Food and drinks are not allowed in the Discovery Center. Children’s coat hooks are outside the auditorium area.

Weather: Our programs take place in fair weather, light rain, warm, or cold weather. Please wear appropriate clothing and shoes for that day’s weather. The naturalist will call if a program is cancelled.

Tips: Please have children wear easy-to-read nametags.

Program length: Varies from 1 to 2 hours, depending on program curriculum and age group.

How to schedule a program

We accept reservations year-round! Reservations are accepted by phone or email, Monday – Friday, from 9 am to 4:30 pm. Please call 301-528-3489 and leave a message that includes name of your school or organization, size of group and the best time to reach your group’s contact person. Otherwise, you can contact us at Email Black Discovery Center .

NOTE: We are available to make certain presentations at your facility as an outreach program with an additional $50 travel charge per day.

Programs Offered

Exploring Living Things: Insects/Butterflies

What makes an insect an insect? Students become entomologists as they observe insects in their natural habitat in our gardens and meadow at the Discovery Center. Naturalists will discuss insect life cycles, basic needs, reproduction, and use games to demonstrate the effects of human activities.

Grades: K-2

Available: mid-April to October

Survival of Plants and Animals: Habitats

How do animals and plants survive in an ever-changing world? Students will gain hands-on experiences outside in various habitats such as meadow, forest, and lake ecosystems. Students will compare and contrast these habitats, make observations about what lives there, and play games to understand the necessary components of a habitat.

Grades: K-3

Available: year-round

Ecosystems of the Chesapeake Bay: Stream Ecology

Become immersed in what life in a stream is like!  Students will gain a deeper understanding of why our stream valleys are so important to the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Naturalists will help students visualize their place in the watershed and then lead a stream exploration with dip nets and water testing equipment.  They will collect and analyze data to determine the health of the stream.

Grades: K-12

Available: mid-April to September

Science on the Pontoon

Come aboard! Students use scientific equipment to collect data to study the water quality of our emergency drinking water reservoir- Little Seneca Lake. They will observe the relationships between land uses and watershed ecology, all while riding on our pontoon boat. The pontoon has a limit of 20 passengers per tour.   (All programs involving the use of our Pontoon Boat will charge $150.)

Grades: 2-12

Available: April to the beginning of November

All school program formats may be changed due to class size, weather, or season.  We are happy to modify a program to better fit the needs of your students.  All offerings will be tailored to the specific grade level so that curriculum standards are met.  Other topics and programs are available by request.

Kayak Tours/Instruction

There’s no better way to experience Little Seneca Lake than by kayak. Take a guided tour to catch a glimpse of beavers, birds, or a beautiful sunset. Some prior kayak experience necessary. If you’ve never been in a kayak, get a group lesson with our American Canoe Association certified instructors. This is a great team building experience! Age range is 8th grade to college level. Please contact us for pricing.

Naturalist Guided Hike

Explore the outdoors with a park naturalist and learn interesting facts about local plants and animals. Hike the grounds around the nature facility or meet the naturalist in a park or outdoor area near you. This program is appropriate for all ages and is popular with scout and after school groups.