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Learning by Leading™ at the Humber Arboretum

Developed by the University of California at Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, the Learning by Leading™ program is based on the idea that students learn best by taking leadership in helping to solve real-world problems. The Humber Arboretum was selected as the only public garden in Canada to be part of a pilot project to create a network of Learning by Leading™ programs at public gardens across North America.

It all starts with one seed! You never know where Learning by Leading™ will take you. 

(Animation created by 2019/2020 Arb Creative Co-Coordinator Maria Siabato)


Learning by Leading™ at the Humber Arboretum provides experiential and service learning opportunities for Humber College and University of Guelph-Humber students. As part of the program, Humber Arboretum staff act as mentors to students who take the lead on real-world projects aimed at connecting other students with the Arboretum, creating a healthier environment, and promoting a more sustainable world.

Learning by Leading™ incorporates skills and mindsets from the Humber Learning Outcomes framework. The opportunities use a laddered approach to gradually build up students' knowledge and skills. All students start at the learn level, in the one-semester Ambassador-in-Training program. Students may then participate in real-world projects, and eventually lead other students coming into the program.



All Learning by Leading™ participants have the opportunity to:

  • Gain real-world experience while having a real-world impact on issues related to the environment, biodiversity, and sustainability
  • Develop leadership, communication, and other professional and critical thinking skills
  • Embrace a place-based education by connecting with nature and learning about local ecosystems
  • Expand their network of peers
  • Build experience for their resume
  • Have their experience recognized on their Co-Curricular Record, a second transcript that demonstrates their service learning

Get Involved

Students show off a bat box they have built together

Humber Arboretum Ambassadors-in-Training

This one-semester experience serves as an introduction to the Humber Arboretum and local ecology, and is the required first step for Learning by LeadingTM. As a group you will take part in weekly sessions and discussions to build your knowledge, and as an individual you will participate in a few small exercises to help build your skills.

The Ambassadors-in-Training program is offered twice a year in both the fall and winter semesters, and is open to Humber College or University of Guelph-Humber students in any program or year of study. Students who complete the training program in the fall will be able to apply to join the Ambassadors for the winter semester; winter HAATs will be able to join the Ambassadors the following fall (there are also student employment opportunities available at the Arboretum in the summer).

Space is limited and students must apply. 

Winter 2024 session begins Tuesday February 6



A student holds up a deer leg from a touch table and smiles for the camera

The Humber Arboretum Ambassadors

Launched in the 2018 Winter semester as the first pilot project under Learning by Leading™ at the Humber Arboretum, the Arb Ambassadors program has already connected students from a wide variety of academic fields with the vast urban greenspace on their campus. Under the guidance of senior students (the Co-Coordinators) and Arboretum staff, Ambassadors plan activities and create communication pieces to share their knowledge and enthusiasm about the Arboretum and natural ecosystems with the on-campus and local community. This can include in-person or online events or creative projects. 

The Arboretum Ambassadors is only open to students who have completed the Ambassador-in-Training semester, or who have already been involved with the Arboretum as a previous LxL participant or as an employee. 

Space is limited and students must apply. 

Two women in safety vests dig in a field of wild plants

Sustainable Horticulture and Environmental Stewardship 

Staff Mentor: Lynn Short, Environmental Stewardship Coordinator

Two students from the 2019 Student Gardeners summer team were selected to spend the fall and winter helping to develop a research project on manual control methods for Dog-Strangling Vine. Although COVID put a temporary hold on the project, the DSV research project is now up and running during the summer and fall of 2022 with two new students participating in the program. Currently, students for this branch are selected from the applicants for summer employment in the Humber Arboretum gardens.

Signature Projects and Placements

For students who already have a grounding in the work of the Arboretum, Learning by Leading™ can provide opportunities for specialized signature projects. There are also opportunities to complete internship hours for their academic programs, depending on individual academic internship requirements.

Want to get involved? Contact us and watch the Jobs page of the Humber Arboretum for opportunities.