Environmental Education

Header photo: courtesy UW Botanic Gardens

Connecting children and adults to the wonders of nature

The Arboretum Foundation provides important funding for the UW Botanic Gardens Environmental Education Program at the Arboretum. The program connects children and adults to nature and teaches them about the vital role that plants, forests, and wetlands play in our environment. Your support helps us provide broad access to unique, experiential nature education—from the Fiddleheads Forest preschoolers, who build their confidence and resilience in a magical setting among the trees, to our elementary school scientists, who use the Arboretum’s 230 acres as an ever-changing outdoor classroom.

The School Field Trip Program—our largest and most far reaching children’s education initiative—brings more than 6,000 students from kindergarten to 6th grade to connect to the natural world in the Arboretum. Today’s high cost of curriculum-based, field-study programs renders it impossible for many schools to fulfill this aspect of a child’s education. We take this as a challenge and offer the “outdoor classroom” as an affordable means for children to experience nature and science in a way that they could not anywhere else in the city.

Scholarship and bus funds: Funding from the Arboretum Foundation enables UW Botanic Gardens to maintain low program costs for school field trips. We also provide financial assistance to students in the National School Lunch Program and schools from underserved communities. Scholarship and transportation funds make the Arboretum’s acclaimed field-trip program accessible to all.

Family programs, nature preschool, and more: In addition, the Arboretum serves over 1,200 children and families through the Family & Community Programs

Complementing these programs are the Fiddleheads Forest School for pre-K children and the Arboretum’s nature-based summer camps, which cater for over 700 students each year.

Arboretum on the Move

New for fiscal year 2021 is an exciting pilot program, Arboretum on the Move, bringing our outdoor environmental education classes directly to schools, especially in underserved neighborhoods. Education staff will scout out open public spaces within walking distance of selected schools—initially focusing on those schools where 50% of the student population is on the National School Lunch Program—and conduct field trips there.

Arboretum on the Move classes will be held at pre-selected public spaces that are best suited to bringing a particular topic to life, such as a local creek or pond for the wetlands class. Just as our regular on-site program engages students, Arboretum on the Move will have a variety of program options that can be tailored to accommodate a range of spaces, schedules, and budgets. 

Plans are underway to provide on-site and virtual programs with a YMCA operating out of an elementary school, and several non-profit educational organizations in South King County. These partners all line up squarely with our goals for providing broader community access to high-quality environmental programs

Environmental leadership internship program

Started in 2017, this program recruits 10 to 12 high school students from diverse socio-economic backgrounds to work with youth in the Arboretum summer camps. Each intern receives a $1,500 stipend for their 50 hours of work under the supervision of an environmental education coordinator. As part of their work, each intern leads a science-based activity for the 1st- to 3rd-grade campers. During the final week of their internship, they meet with a variety of environmental professionals and academics and learn about career options.

two female interns with educator in forest setting

Photo courtesy UW Botanic Gardens.

In addition to exposing the interns to a wide variety of environmental careers, primary programmatic goals include:

  • strengthen self-confidence.
  • experience stretching beyond their comfort zone.
  • take responsibility for planning and leading others.

How you can help

Help cultivate the next generation of environmental leaders by making a donation today in support of the education programs at the Arboretum. Give online and using the “comment” feature in our donation form, designate your gift to the education program ) or call the Foundation at 206-325-4510.

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