Youth 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.

Changing Earth: Investigating Landforms

Grade 4

2 hours

$7 per student

Maximum – 150 students

This new and exciting 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 on 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.

Energy Transfer: How Many Bears Can This Forest Support

Grades 5-8

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

2.5 hours

$8 per student (April – October)

Maximum – 150 students

A program for schools wishing to cement their students understanding of energy transfer in an ecosystem in a hands-on manner. This program targets the standards and concepts dealing with energy transfer required in grades 5 through 8. Using the native black bear as a theme students learn about these animals and their role in Ohio forests. These animals are returning to Ohio and students are fascinated by them.

Students will explore the concepts of food chains, food webs, photosynthesis, biotic/abiotic and limiting factors. It takes place on the trails, in the forest and on our new Murch Canopy Walk.

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.

Integrated Science/Social Studies Program

A Journey Back in Time to Little Mountain – Grade 4

2 1/2 hours – $8 a student – (April – November)
Maximum: 60 students
Minimum: 20 students

Presented in collaboration with the Lake County Historical Society this new field trip targets fourth-grade science and social studies standards by taking students on a journey back in time. Little Mountain was once the destination of choice for wealthy Cleveland families looking to trade the dirt of downtown for a cool breeze and a view of the lake. They built magnificent hotels to spend their summers at.  On the students journey up the mountain they will meet first-person interpreters to learn what life was like during the mid to late 1800s for staff and guests on the mountain.  Students will also engage in hands-on science activities to learn about the landforms and environment.

Participants need to be able to walk for three miles up hills and on uneven and muddy ground. This trip is not appropriate for those who are uneven on their feet as it is necessary to climb over logs and navigate around rocks.

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.               

Discover Plants: From Top to Bottom – 1 hour, 30 minutes

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.

Interdependence: Links Between Plants and Animals – 2 hours

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. They 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.

Life Cycles of Plants: Growing through Changes – 2 hours

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. They 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 first hand the variation in seeds or flowers depending on the season.

Forest Ecosystems: Food Chains in Action – 2 hours

Grade 5

Cost: $7 per student

All ecosystems are comprised of biotic and abiotic components. Students will explore a greenhouse to see how these factors are controlled and visit a real forest to see how they work in nature. Nutrient cycling, all the way from photosynthesis to decomposition, will be explored.

Forest Biodiversity: Alien Threats (April through October) – 2 hours

Grades 6 – 8

Cost: $7 per student

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.

Exploring Habitats

Stories in the Garden

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

Forest Discovery

Cost: $6 per student

Grades K – 2

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. (1 hour, 30 minutes)

Grades 3 – 6

Discover the forest as a diverse and interdependent community. Learn about food chains and competition, search for links between plants and animals and dissect soil to understand its importance to the whole ecosystem. (1 hour, 30 minutes)

Pond Adaptations

Cost: $6 per student

Mid-April through September

Grades K – 2

Many plants and animals make their homes in ponds. Use nets to explore the interdependency of plants and animals in this watery habitat. Food chains and amazing plant and animal adaptations will be the focus of our discoveries. Without the plants there would nothing for the tadpoles to eat. (1 hour, 30 minutes)

Grades 3 – 6

A pond is a complex ecosystem that depends on plants. Discover the diversity of plants and animals that live here and the unique adaptations that allow them to survive in water.  We’ll discuss food chains, life cycles and diversity. (1 hour, 30 minutes)

Seasonal Opportunities

Leaf Trail

(Mid-September through late October)

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.

Science In Your Classroom

Plant Science Investigators

Grades K – 3

This outreach program comes to your classroom to explore native trees and seasonal change. Your students will learn about the diversity and structure and function of six common native Ohio trees as they help Holden’s Plant Science Investigator solve a problem through hands-on explorations. Student’s will determine which tree is best for a given location, assemble a tree puzzle, plant tree seeds to observe germination and experience seasonal change as their very own teacher turns into a tree. This program runs one hour and the cost is $100.

Changing Forests

Grades 4 – 6

This outreach program comes to your classroom to explore how forests have changed over time and how we know this. The forests your students see have not always looked like they do today. The environment is different and the plants are different. Your students will look at the fossil evidence of plants and learn first hand that some have gone extinct, some have adapted to their surroundings and there are some new ones that were not around before. Using fossils and real plants students will discover what is the same and what has changed and what might be the reason behind these changes. Who knew that ferns used to be as tall as trees? This program runs one hour and the cost is $100.

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. Available for middle and high school students.

Cost: $7 a student

Stebbins Gulch

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 back 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

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.

For further information please contact the Education Department at 440.602.3833.