School Programs

The Holden Arboretum provides exciting, hands-on programs for students, allowing first-hand interaction with nature. Expose your students to more than 3,500 acres of horticultural collections, forests, fields, ravines, streams, ponds and trails. Wildflowers, prairie grasses, water lilies, birds, chipmunks and turtles are easy to find. At the Arboretum, you can introduce, reinforce or expand upon your classroom lessons with one of our outdoor lessons.

Holden encourages students to take an active role in learning. Instead of lecturing, our guides lead hands-on investigations and discussions in a natural setting, encouraging students to discover, gather information, ask questions and begin to formulate answers. We want to stimulate curiosity and encourage observations.

To schedule your school program, click here. 

To learn more about our multi-year, multi-visit Growing Students in Science curriculum for grades 2 – 5, click here.

Explore the Eastern Deciduous Forest at the Holden Arboretum

Exploring Habitats

In ecology, a habitat is the type of natural environment in which a particular species of organism lives. Nonliving (abiotic) factors such as soil, moisture, range of temperature and light intensity are important to the habitat. Living (biotic) factors such as biodiversity, the availability of food and the presence or absence of predators are key to habitat health.

Forest Discovery

Cost: $6 per student

Grade PreK

Experience a forest first hand using your senses to make discoveries about this special place. Learn about the diversity and adaptations of the animals and plants that live in this habitat while exploring the colors, textures, and vocabulary. (1 hour, 30 minutes)

Grades K – 2

Discover the forest as a diverse and interdependent community. Explore the plants and animals to learn about different traits and characteristics that allow them to survive in the forest where all their needs are met. (1 hour, 30 minutes)

Grades 3 – 5

Explore the forest as a dynamic ecosystem that is always changing.  Discover the abiotic and biotic factors that make up the forest, and the different characteristics (learned and inherited) that allow biotic organisms to survive and perform their specific role in the ecosystem. (1 hour 30 minutes)


Pond Adaptations

Cost: $6 per student

Mid-April through September

Grade PreK

Experience a pond first hand using your senses to make discoveries about this special place. Learn about the diversity and adaptations of the animals and plants that live in this habitat while exploring the colors, textures, and vocabulary. (1 hour, 30 minutes)

Grades K – 2

Many plants and animals make their homes in ponds. Use nets to explore the interdependence of plants and animals in this watery habitat.  How plants and animals use the resources of the pond to survive will be the focus.  Students will also learn to measure some of the non-living features of a pond that are necessary for an organisms’ survival. (1 hour, 30 minutes)

Grades 3 – 6

A pond is a complex ecosystem that depends on plants. Use nets to discover the diversity of plants and animals that live here and the unique adaptations that allow them to survive in water.  Students will also learn to measure some of the non-living features of a pond that are necessary for an organisms’ survival. (1 hour, 30 minutes)


Plant Science

Plants are amazing and there is no better place to learn about them than at a museum dedicated to plants. Read about our special plant focused programs below.

Stories in the Garden

Grade PreK

Cost: $6 per student

Each season we pick a spot in our gardens and share stories that illustrate the wonders of the plant world. A craft or activity solidify the concepts. We’ll be outside, so dress for the weather. (1 hour, 15 minutes)

Fall (September, October, November) Fabulous Forests

Winter (December, January, February, March) Tremendous Trees

Spring (April, May) Sprouting Spring

Summer (June, July, August) Fantastic Flowers

Discover Plants: From Top to Bottom

Kindergarten-Grade 1

Cost: $6 per student

Green plants are living things that require sun, water, air and soil to grow; most plants have roots, stems and leaves as parts. They will collect and sort leaves, measure tree trunks, learn about roots and see what it takes to grow plants. (1 hour, 30 min)

Interdependence: Links Between Plants and Animals

Grades 2 – 3

Cost: $7 per student

Plants and animals in a community are interdependent, relying on each other in many ways throughout their lives. Students collect data on forest inhabitants and make first-hand observations of the ways they are interdependent. They also learn about the cool ways plants defend themselves. (2 hours)

Life Cycles of Plants: Growing through Changes

Grades 3 – 4

Cost: $7 per student

Flowering plants produce seeds that sprout, grow to maturity, bloom and produce another generation of seeds, and so life on earth continues. Students play a game of Life Cycle Bingo to observe the diversity of the life cycle stages, learn about annuals and perennials, investigate a maple trees life cycle and observe firsthand the variation in seeds or flowers depending on the season. (2 hours)

Energy Transfer: How Many Bears Can This Forest Support

Grades 5-8

Program utilizes the Judith and Maynard H. Murch IV Canopy Walk

$8 per student (April – October)

Students will explore the concepts of food chains, food webs, photosynthesis, biotic/abiotic and limiting factors while learning about Ohio’s native black bear. Students learn about these animals and their role in Ohio forests. The program takes place on the trails, in the forest and on our new Murch Canopy Walk. (2.5 hours)

The tour does not include the Kalberer Family Emergent Tower, but you will have access to the tower after your visit at no additional cost if time allows.

Forest Biodiversity: Alien Threats

Grades 9-12

Cost: $7 per student (April – October)

The health of any ecosystem depends largely on the biodiversity in that system. Learn about native forests by using transects to determine the type of forest the students are in. Students will also learn to identify native trees using a dichotomous key. The impact of invasive plants and animals on our native forests will be illustrated and discussed. (2 hours)


Integrated Science/Social Studies

Science and Social Studies content often overlap. Standards around human impact on the environment or the impact of weather patterns, geological events on people and map reading are perfect examples of integrating science and social studies.

Changing Earth: Investigating Landforms

Grade 4

$7 per student

This program focuses on a variety of processes that shape and reshape the earth’s surface. The program allows the students to see real-life landforms and understand how those landforms came into existence. Students start their landform adventure by understanding how to use a topographic map. They take a close look at contour lines and intervals. They develop a better understanding of how topographic maps relate to different kinds of landforms. As the students continue their journey, they learn how landforms constantly develop and change as forces of weathering and erosion change rocks and break them down. They also understand people can have a direct effect on weathering, erosion and deposition. (2 hours)


Natural Area Tours

Take your students on an amazing adventure to explore Ohio’s forests and ecosystems in two of northeast Ohio’s most unique natural areas. There is no better way to understand the interconnections in the natural world between plants, animals, water, soil and topography than by immersing yourself and your students in these truly astounding places.

Maximum group size is 30

Cost: $8 a student

Stebbins Gulch

Grades 6-12

This unique area was designated in 1968 by the U.S. Department of Interior as a National Natural Landmark. Stebbins Gulch is a ravine system where the exposed bedrock is easily observed and dates to the Devonian period. Students hike down to Stebbins Creek and as they walk up this tributary of the East Branch of the Chagrin River they will explore four sedimentary rock formations, learn how they were formed and what unique plant communities they support. Waterfalls, looming cliffs of sandstone and wet feet are all part of the experience. This program requires the ability to walk for long distances over uneven terrain and in wet, muddy conditions. Tour takes about three hours and is classified as difficult -3 miles.

Little Mountain

Grades 6-12

Little Mountain is the highest point in Lake County. Once a woodland retreat where wealthy Clevelanders went to escape the summer heat it has once again become a preserved and managed woodland for unique native plants and animals. Students learn the history of the area and will see remnants of past human presence including rock carvings that are more than 150 years old.  While exploring this unique forest they will discover how the geologically fascinating rock crevices and cave-like structures of exposed Sharon Conglomerate Rock were formed and experience firsthand how much cooler and wetter this environment is and why unique plants and animals call it home. This program requires the ability to walk for long distances over uneven terrain and in wet, muddy conditions. Tour takes about three hours and is classified as moderate – 1.5 miles.


Science in Your School

Science in your School aims to bring hands-on science learning opportunities right to your students. No need for busing or transportation. Let us bring the real materials and activities directly to you.

Sprouting Young Scientist (SPYS)

Grade PreK

Maximum group size is 20

Cost: $150 per season (minimum of 3 seasons)

Engauge your students in science and literacy through our four season outreach program. These 45 minute visits are delivered in your classroom by Holden instructors in the fall, winter, spring and summer.  Sammy the Scientist Squirrel, a fictional character, helps guide students through the seasonal topic at each program. Students participate in hands-on plant science activity stations supported by fictional and nonfictional books. Each program is a building block for the next and communication is the key to connecting science and literacy through all four seasons.

Programs will be scheduled so visits occur multiple times during the year with seasonal books, plant topics and lessons for each visit.

Fall – Changing (September-November)

Winter – Resting (December-February)

Spring – Sprouting (March-May)

Summer (optional) – Growing (June-August)


Traveling Plant Science

Grades K – 6

Full-Day, Entire School Experience

We are currently looking for schools to field test this program in Spring 2020. Please contact Sharon Graper  if you are interested.

Self-Guided Visits

All Grade Levels

$4 per student

A self-guided visit to the Holden Arboretum allows you to enjoy the gardens & natural areas at your own pace, structure your visit around what your students are currently learning, as well as adhere to the unique learning style of your class.


Seasonal Opportunities

Leaf Trail

(Mid-September through late October)

$4 per student

During this program suitable for all ages, follow a trail of more than 30 trees, practicing identification skills using a simple key. We provide a brochure with a map, tree key and descriptions. Note: This program is teacher directed and the cost is $4 per student.

For further information on any of these programs, please contact the Education Department at 440.602.3833.