Inside: Arboretum programs give a place for natural learning where kids interact with nature and learn science concepts in a memorable field-trip experience.

Arboretum programs in the sciences and social sciences provide a great way for teachers to enhance their students’ knowledge using natural learning to gain practical experience in the subject.  Kids love field trips.  Arboretums benefit from the income received and the community involvement.  Here are 18 arboretum programs in the sciences and social sciences that would be of interest to elementary and high school teachers.  They are powerful enrichment activities to boost their curriculum.

18 Awesome Natural Learning Arboretum Programs for Educators-

Science Class on Nature Trail USDA, CC BY 2.0, via flickr

1.  Terrestrial Field Study Experiences

  • Seed dispersal methods: of native trees and plants in the arboretum.
  • Native trees: including a comparison of coniferous and deciduous trees.
  • Forest Ecosystem Study: including soil analysis, ratio of tree species, classification of wildlife and other organisms, viewing how organisms get the energy they need for survival.  The carrying capacity of the forest for its various species will be determined along with the overall health of the arboretum based on findings of the field study.

2.  Aquatic Field Study Experiences

  • Aquatic Ecosystem Study:  includes water quality testing, classification of organisms found, determining how organisms get the energy they need for survival.  The carrying capacity of the water body for its various species will be determined along with the overall health of the arboretum based on findings of the field study.
  • Watershed Study:  investigating the characteristics of a watershed, what makes a watershed important, and identifying your watershed “address”.
  • Pond Life Study:  a simple study of the life above and below the pond surface.
  • River Studies:  includes classifying organisms found, experimenting with the physics of water including temperature, flow rates and the factors affecting each.

3.  Horticultural Work Placement(high school) Partnership

  • This involves offering students practical experience in the care of plant collections and public garden landscapes.

4.  Pollinators


Honey Bee extracts nectar from aster.
John Severns, PD, via Wiki Commons

  • Human Reliance on Pollination: investigate why humans rely on pollination, biology of pollination, modes of pollination, animals involved in pollination and finally why we should protect pollinators.
  • Bees and Pollination:  looks at what bees pollinate, how they pollinate, their economic value, what threatens bees and the impact of their decline.

5.  Nature Walk

  • Forest, Meadow or River Habitat:  taking note of animals,, plants and invasive species.
  • Arboretum Trail Walk:  could include exploratory activities designed to investigate nature such as “I Spy” or “Scavenger Hunts”.

6.  Plant Study

  • Investigates the importance of plants in an ecosystem as well as classifying plants native to the forests/meadows of the arboretum.

7.  Animal Study

  • Animal Differences:  investigate the differences between animal groups, their roles in an arboretum ecosystem with an emphasis on wildlife native to the arboretum.
  • Animal Tracks and Signs:  be a nature detective by learning and


    Nemo, CCO, via Pixabayinterpreting the signs animals leave behind such as tracks, scat, feathers, fur, nests/homes, bones.

  • Animal Senses:  using your senses to explore the arboretum including games and activities to understand how different animals use their senses.

8.  Trees

  • Importance of Trees:  exploring the importance of trees in an ecosystem, looking at tree life cycles including fruits and seeds.
  • Importance of Trees to Humans:  exploring their importance biologically, economically and spiritually.

9.  Bird Studies

  • Unique Nature of Birds:  find where they live, what they eat, how they behave, the mechanics of flight (intermediate/senior), ends with an opportunity to feed the local birds.
  • Owl Study:  investigate owl species living in the arboretum, their role in the ecosystem, habitat, dissect owl scat to decide diet.

Hans, CCO, via Pixabay

10.  Ecosystem Food Chain Games

11.  Soil Studies

  • Testing Soil Samples:  gather soil samples from unique areas in the arboretum, compare characteristics and explain the differences.

12.  Habitat Studies

  • What is a Habitat?:  why is habitat such a significant ecological concept, learn 4 basic needs of living things.

13.  Mastering Maps

  • Map-making Techniques:  learn map-making techniques and the use of a compass, create a map of one section of the arboretum, using a compass and map complete a scavenger hunt.

14.  Orienteering


By Marcin Mikita (Own work), CC-BY-SA-3.0 , via Wiki Commons

  • Map Reading:  learn the fundamentals of compass use and map reading, use a special arboretum map to complete a walking orienteering course.

15.  Your Ecological Footprint

  • Learn about the past/present use of natural resources, complete activities to figure out your ecological footprint, emphasize ways to cut a person’s individual impact.

16.  Renewable Energy

  • Learn about kinds of renewable energy, how we benefit from each, practical applications of renewable energy and the benefits/pitfalls of renewable sources.

17.  Early Settlers of the Area

  • First Nations People and their use of the Land
  • First Nations Games

18.  Photography

  • Instruction on the photographing of nature.

18 Awesome Natural Learning Arboretum Programs for Educators-