Project EXPLORE (Experiences Promoting Learning Outdoors for Research and Education)

The Arboretum’s citizen science-driven school outreach initiative has reached over 30 teachers and 2,500 students over the past three years by engaging in environmental monitoring at the student’s own schoolyards.

Teachers conduct weekly field observations with their students on one of three projects:

  • Tree Phenology
  • Squirrel Population Density
  • Bird Population Occurrence

The Arboretum’s professional environmental educators provide modeling of outdoor education techniques for teachers as they guide students through an introductory lesson at the beginning of the school year, offer support to teachers as needed throughout the school year, and can lead a discussion and wrap-up activity incorporating the NC Standard Course of Study with students at years end. Teachers also receive a small grant award to purchase materials and borrow field equipment for the school year.

At years end, each class presents their data at the Arboretum’s annual Mountain Science Expo, an official expo of the NC Science Festival.

Schools may also apply for a schoolyard enhancement grant program made possible through the generosity of Thermo Fisher Scientific. Project EXPLORE is a free donation-funded initiative sponsored by The North Carolina Arboretum Society.

Teachers, parents and youth organization leaders wishing to learn more about Project EXPLORE, which provides resources free of cost to all children of Western North Carolina, can contact Jonathan Marchal, Youth Education Manager, at or -828-665-2492, ext. 228.