Natural History Classes

Community Nature Study Series

The Highlands Center offers educational programs for adult learners throughout the year on and offsite regarding the natural history of the Central Highlands of Arizona. For our full list of upcoming events, please view our calendar.


 Guided Geology Walk

Take a walk on wooded trails with an Arizona Master Naturalist to learn about the Geology and Natural History of the Central Highlands ecoregion we call home.

These walks are on the unpaved trails on the Highlands Center’s 80-acre campus. These trails are rocky and have short, but occasionally steep, inclines. Make sure to bring water, wear appropriate hiking shoes and bring hiking poles if desired, dress in protective layers, and wear sun protection. Bring snacks and/or a sack lunch if you would like.

Saturday, October 21st


RSVP today!

Meet in front of the main building by the bronze sculpture. 

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Special Program for seniors

July and September Sessions are SOLD OUT

 $25 for members, $30 for nonmembers

Get two tickets for the price of one when you bring a friend or relative who is living alone! You will both enjoy learning about the Central Highlands. 

Connections In Nature

This course was designed with seniors in mind. Tom Benson, Highlands Center Master Naturalist, has created this course to connect you with the natural world of the Arizona Central Highlands. Topics covered will be geology from the start, wildlife, and edible and medicinal plants. In addition, part of each class will discuss the nine lifestyle habits that have been statistically supported not only to lengthen life, but to enrich those years as well. Attendees will be provided time to connect with each other as well as time for solitude and meditation at our beautiful site. The course is conducted entirely in the Discovery Gardens with only short strolls on paved, walker-friendly paths. Class size is limited to sixteen participants.

Each session will start at 1:00pm, however, attendees are encouraged to bring a sack lunch to meet with others in the class. Water and lemonade will be provided.


Mondays, 9/11, 9/18, 9/25, 10/2, and 10/9 from 1:00pm- 4:00pm in the James Family Discovery Gardens Ramada.

Natural History of the Galapagos Archipelago

Explorations of the Galapagos Islands has been central to the development of the biological sciences, and research on the islands continues to elucidate our understanding of evolutionary biology and ecology.

In this talk we will give an overview of the Galapagos Islands and some of their unique biological diversity, and then we highlight some examples of how research on the Galapagos has enlightened our understanding of the natural world.

Wednesday, September 20th

12:30pm – 2:00pm

This event is free, but please RSVP by filling out the form below.

Explorations of the Galapagos Islands: RSVP here!

Bird on the Galapagos Islands

Kathy Winnett-Murray and K. Greg Murray grew up in Southern California, and each of them fell in love with the natural world under the influence of their parents while camping, fishing, etc. all over the western U.S.

They met at California State University, Northridge, studied seabirds and small mammals on Santa Barbara Island while working on their Master’s degrees in
Biology, got married, and then moved to the University of Florida to work on their respective Ph.D.s in Zoology. Greg’s dissertation research was on seed dispersal by fruit-eating birds in a
Costa Rican cloud forest, and Kathy’s was on comparative foraging and breeding biology of four sympatric species of tropical wrens.

After they finished their degrees at Florida, they taught biology for 35 years at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. As biology professors, they continued to do research in both Costa Rica and in Michigan, and taught ecology courses in Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, Tanzania, and the Sonoran desert. They moved to Prescott after retiring from Hope College in 2021 because they wanted to learn more about the unique ecology of this region.

 Prescott National Forest Fire Education Miniseries

Join us at the Highlands Center for Natural History during the month of October for an educational miniseries featuring the Prescott National Forest.

Through this program participants will be able to understand the basics of fire ecology, apply this knowledge
towards supporting and creating defensible spaces in our communities, connect with and build relationships with our local officials representing USFS and Prescott National Forest, and identify resources in our community for assistance and information.

Thursdays, 10/5, 10/12, 10/19, 10/26


Meet at the Equipoise statue.

Presentations from Prescott National Forest officials will be held between
9:30am-11:30am. We will wrap up the day with a Q & A session, plus coffee, tea and donuts.

This event is free, but please RSVP by filling out the form below.

Prescott National Forest Fire Education Miniseries


fire ecology

Thursday October 5th
Topic: Mechanics of Fire
Theme: SE Horned Lizard (sun/fire)
On this day we will explore the basics of fire ecology, drought, technology use in the field, plus how we manage our land and resources.

Thursday October 12th
Topic: Hydrology/Watershed
Theme: SW Roundtail Chub (water/earth)
During this session we will learn about prescribed burns and how that affects watersheds, environmental impact in areas associated with burn scars, and the relationships between fire and aquatic life, both plants and animals.

Thursday October 19th
Topic: Resource Management
Theme: NW Badger (people/plants/animals)
This session will focus on how prescribed burns impact the soil. We will discuss flash floods, erosion, and the adaptations of terrestrial plants and wildlife.

Thursday October 26th
Topic: Smoke and Wind
Theme: NE Raven (air/drought/climate)
In this final session of the miniseries, we will learn about how wind direction and intensity affects fires. We will also look at the impacts of smoke and how fires affect air quality.

Protect the Verde!

“The most vulnerable habitats of all, with the highest extinction rate per unit area, are rivers, streams and lakes….” EO Wilson in “Biologist Manifest for Preserving the Earth”

Northern Arizona’s upper Verde River is a little-known and under-appreciated river supporting some of the best surviving riparian habitat in the Southwest. Despite the tremendous value of the Verde to humans and wildlife, the river is deeply threatened.

Gary Beverly, chair of the Yavapai Group of the Sierra Club, will describe the extensive efforts by many organizations to protect the upper Verde, including Wild and Scenic River designation, plus work to preserve the base flow.

The presentation uses video and photos to reveal a rich wildlife resource, with 19 species listed by the Endangered Species Act and 16 additional species on the watch list. Also he will describe how individual citizens can help preserve this unique and wonderful river, the only surviving living perennial river in Arizona.

Wednesday, October 18th


This event is free, but please RSVP by filling out the form below.

Protect the Verde!

Upper Verde River in Arizona

Gary Beverly earned a PhD degree in Physical Chemistry from the University of California. Since moving to Prescott in 1974, he taught chemistry, physics, and alternative energy at Yavapai College, then worked as a farmer, contractor, and businessman. Since retiring in 2006, he works as an environmental activist focused
on protecting the Verde River.

Orion Nebula

The Prescott Astronomy Club’s goal is to bring together people interested in astronomy, to help them develop their astronomical skills and knowledge. They encourage education about and public interest in astronomy.

Star Party with Prescott Astronomy Club

Join the Prescott Astronomy Club for a Star Party at the Highlands Center for Natural History! Wander throughout the Discovery Gardens, under the spectacular night’s sky, to discover the wonders of the universe. Several telescopes will be set up for your viewing pleasure! Visit each station to observe various astronomical sights! Astronomers from PAC will be here to answer your questions and curiosities. Please consider carpooling as parking is limited, thank you!

Friday, October 20th *weather dependent*

6pm – 9pm

This event is free but please RSVP using the form below.

Star Party


Becoming Wild: Animating the Audacity of the Human Heart

In this 3 part series, Will Duncan explores the relationship between wildness and civility and the idea of re-wilding our lives. Through stories, reflections on various authors, poets, philosophers, religious writers, and mythology we will explore what it means to rekindle one’s life into a deeper and more vibrant intimacy with the world.

**1st Talk: Heartbreak In The Belly of the Whale – In this first talk we look at the relationship between grief and joy. Looking at myths of the underworld, Christian and Hindu stories as well as the work of Dante, T.S. Elliot, Brene Brown, and the poet John Keats idea of ‘Negative Capability’, we explore how wildness and the capacity to feel beauty relates to being able to feel loss and grieve potently.

**2nd Talk: Wildness and Civility – Using the Russian poet Anna Ahkmatova as our jumping off point and working off of ideas from the previous lecture on heartbreak, we begin now to explore the relationship between wildness and civility. The Tibetan teacher Chogyam Trungpa offers us a recipe in the form of a haiku for how to be in the world with wild vitality.

**3rd Talk: Vulnerability and Desire – In the last part of this series we look at the Romantics of the 1800’s, Christian thinker Father Simon Tugwell, OP and the Muslim poet Mirabai to explore how desire and
the ability to risk vulnerability open us up to the vitality of wildness in our day-to-day lives.

Mondays October 23rd, November 13th, & December 11th

5:30pm – 7:00pm

Donations welcome

Becoming Wild Series

H.H. Nininger

Will Duncan has taught throughout the world including Asia, Europe, Eastern Europe, South America and throughout the United States. He is a lecturer, meditation teacher, consultant, hospice chaplain and lavender farmer.

Known for his down-to-earth humor and ease, Will’s passion is in helping people find new ways of accessing intimacy with the profundity of their lives. Will teaches by way of inquiry and lively discussion, pushing people to think clearly for themselves and to uncover their own insights.

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