The National Wildlife Visitor Center in Laurel, Maryland, located in the heart of the Baltimore-Washington corridor, this wildlife center offers visitors a variety of knowledge about science and nature through their appreciation for wildlife research. This is the largest science and environmental education center in The Department of Interior. The center features a variety of interactive exhibits that focus on global environmental issues, endangered species, migratory bird routes, and wildlife habitats. The center is located in an area surrounded by lakes, forests, and trails, so the lessons are both indoors and out.
The center is designed to accommodate one million visitors per year. The educational exhibits highlight the work of professional scientists, and include a variety of materials. There is a 40 passenger tram tour that can be taken seasonally for $3.00. Movies are shown on the weekends and are typically 15 - 50 minutes in length. Other exhibits include Wildlife Telltales, On the Brink, Habitats, Life Cycles, and a Viewing Pond. The Hollingsworth Art Gallery features a variety of artists, many of them locally known.
School programs are available at the center. They are led by a naturist, so children receive a guided tour of the hands on exhibits. The teacher workshops offer Maryland public school teachers can receive credit for attending a specific combination of the workshops offered by the center. Workshops run from 10 - 4:00 pm and the cost is $15.00. The classes are designed to help teachers meet the Maryland State outcomes for science education.
The Visitor Center also offers hiking trails, wildlife management demonstration areas, and outdoor education sites for school classes. A large auditorium and meeting rooms can accommodate national and international scientific conferences, environmental meetings, teacher workshops, environmental lectures, and traveling displays.
Featured at the center is a gift shop called Wildlife Images, which is operated by the Friends of the Patuxent, Inc., a non-profit cooperating association. They offer a selection of educational materials and environmental books. Volunteer and internship opportunities are available. Each years the center has the assistance of over 300 volunteers who donate more than 40,000 hours of their time. Volunteers operate the bookstore, meet and greet visitors, participate in special projects, and lead tours and providing interpretation to the visiting public and groups.
The center's Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) is a proposal of 15 years worth of action that will best achieve the refuge's purposes, attain the vision and goals developed for the refuge, contribute to National Wildlife Refuge System mission, and address key challenges, issues and relevant mandates while remaining consistent with sound principles of wildlife management.
The facility is open 9 - 4:30 pm daily, except for federal holidays. The grounds for hiking open at 8:00 am, and the gift shop opens at 11:00 am. They are located off of Powder Mill Road, 2 miles east of the Baltimore /Washington Parkway, just south of Laurel, Maryland. The center is a valuable resource for teachers and instructors, as well as families looking for an opportunity to share with their children the joy and excitement of nature.