The Academy’s Naturalist Center hosts a variety of activities and is home to thousands of natural history specimens, from a real, dinosaur leg-bone to a polar bear pelt! Visit this unique, hands-on space to touch specimens, watch natural history videos, play games, solve puzzles, browse books, and ask questions. The Naturalist Center is located across from the Planetarium exit on Level 3.
For program updates and Naturalist Center highlights, please visit our Naturalist Notebook blog.
Regularly Scheduled Activities:
Quest for Curiosities
Daily at 1:15 pm
Join a Guide for an illuminating quest into the curiosities of the Naturalist Center’s vast collection of specimens! Free with Academy admission.
Junior Academy: Naturalist Know-how
Sundays 2:00–2:45 pm (to attend, please register at 1:30 pm)
Learn how to be a naturalist! Each month brings a new nature skill, with different aspects of that skill presented every week.
Junior Academy is designed for youth ages 8 to 11 (accompanied by an adult), and space is limited to 20 total participants. To register, stop by the Naturalist Center 30 minutes prior to the program’s start. Free with Academy admission.
Naturalist 101 Workshops
Designed for adults and families with children 12 and up, Naturalist 101 workshops teach hands-on naturalist skills in small-group settings. Examples of past programs include Insect Basics, Birding Basics, Skulls Tell It All, and Be A Bay Area Ice Age Tourist.
Ticketing and upcoming programs
Drop In and Discover, for Academy Members
Sundays during Members’ Hour, 10:00–11:00 am
This hands-on naturalist program features a new theme every month! Academy Members and their families explore topics such as microscope views, what fur reveals about an animal’s environment, and owl-pellet dissection. Free with Academy Membership.
Scheduled programs are subject to change—please check with Naturalist Center staff on the day of your visit.
The Naturalist Center provides easy access to a number of high-quality catalogues and electronic resources.
The Naturalist Center provides the services listed below to members, teachers, volunteers and the general public. If you would like to access Naturalist Center services and resources without visiting the rest of our museum, please call us at 415-379-5494 to make an appointment.
- Access to a reference collection of books, DVDs, videos, CDs and curriculum guides about the natural world and sustainability.
- Access to an extensive natural history specimen collection for further study, sketching or assistance with identification.
- Help with finding answers to questions about the natural world, sustainability and our exhibits either in person, via e-mail or by phone. This also includes assistance with the identification of natural history specimens.
** Please note: If you wish to have assistance with the identification of a natural history specimen, we encourage you to take pictures rather than collecting the actual specimen. Under U.S. federal laws and the California Fish and Game Codes, it is illegal to to take, collect, capture, mark, or salvage, for scientific, educational, and non-commercial propagation purposes, mammals, birds (including feathers) and their nests and eggs, reptiles, amphibians, fishes, and invertebrates without a permit. For more information visit the California Fish and Game website.
In addition, the Naturalist Center does not provide assistance with the identification of pests (including mites, bed bugs or sick plants). Below are a few suggestions where you can get assistance.
The Naturalist Center provides access to electronic resources as one way of fulfilling our mission to promote lifelong learning, offer individualized, in-depth inquiry about the natural world, and inspire people to play a role in sustaining life on Earth.
The Internet offers access to ideas, information and commentary from around the world that can be personally, professionally and culturally enriching. However, not all sources on the Internet are accurate, complete or up-to-date. The Naturalist Center assumes responsibility only for the information provided on its web site. We do not monitor, have no control over, and do not accept responsibility for material in other sources on the Internet.
Internet access is free and available to all visitors of the Naturalist Center.
Responsibilities of Users
- All Library computer equipment and software must be used as installed. Users are not permitted to delete, add to, or modify the installed hardware or software. If you experience technical problems, ask library staff for help. Do not attempt to fix the problem yourself.
- Use of computers will be on a first-come, first-served basis. No appointments will be taken. Users will limit their time to 20 minutes if others are waiting, or at the request of the library staff.
- Children eight and under must use the computer, including the Internet, with their accompanying adult.
- Parents and children are encouraged to start their exploration of the Internet with the Naturalist Center web site, especially the Web Bibliographies section. There they will find many sites for children, chosen by Naturalist Center staff. Naturalist Center staff can also provide assistance in determining search strategies and evaluating sites.
- Access to particular kinds of activity, such as e-mail, may be prohibited or limited at the discretion of Naturalist Center staff.
- The Naturalist Center provides printing at a cost of 15 cents per page. Only staff can print documents for visitors; visitors must ask staff for assistance to print.
Unacceptable Uses of Naturalist Center Computers
- Insulting, harassing or attacking other users or Naturalist Center staff.
- Sending or displaying offensive messages or pictures.
- Gaining unauthorized access to the Library’s network or computer systems, to any other network or computer system, or violating the privacy, individual rights and privileges of other users. Damaging or attempting to damage computer equipment or software.
- Violating copyright laws or software licensing agreements.
- Modifying software or programs installed on Library Internet workstations.
- Installing personal software on Library workstations.
- Accessing Internet resources that may incur financial charges or fees to the Library’s account. In the event that such fees are incurred, either deliberately or inadvertently, the user will be responsible for payment and may be liable for criminal prosecution.
Violations may result in restrictions on Naturalist Center use. Illegal uses of computers may also be subject to prosecution by local, state or federal authorities.
U.S. Copyright law (Title 17, US Code) prohibits the unauthorized reproduction or distribution of copyrighted materials (including electronic mail, text, images, programs or data) without the explicit permission of the copyright holder. Any responsibility for consequences of copyright infringement lies with the user; the Library expressly disclaims any liability or responsibility resulting from such use.
Computer and Internet Use Policy adapted from Academy Library, San Francisco Public Library and Madison Public Library policies.