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

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“Master new ways of teaching and facilitate student engagement and learning”

— Aerin W. Benavides, Ph.D. Department of Teacher Education and Higher Education at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

The Arboretum’s citizen science-driven school outreach initiative has reached over 120 teachers and 6,700 students over the past five 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 lead a discussion and wrap-up activity incorporating the NC Standard Course of Study with students in the spring. Teachers also receive a small grant award to purchase materials and borrow field equipment for the school year.

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

Project EXPLORE is a free donation-funded initiative sponsored by The North Carolina Arboretum Society.

Applications are due in early August and can be found here.

Teachers wishing to learn more about Project EXPLORE, which provides resources free of cost to all children of Western North Carolina, can contact Trudie Henninger, Citizen Science Coordinator, at or 828-665-2492, ext. 625.

For more information visit our website at