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Humber Arboretum School Programs

Bring your class to the Humber Arboretum in North Etobicoke for a full- or half-day of outdoor, hands-on environmental education. Our engaging curriculum-connected programs also get kids active and help foster character development. 

Ontario Curriculum Connections

Our programs are designed to meet specific Ontario curriculum expectations. Program descriptions below identify the grades for which direct connections are available, however we may be able to adapt programs for other grades. We can also customize a program to fit the needs of a certain subject being covered by teachers. 

Get Outside this Winter

Outdoor education is important in all seasons! Here are some of the "cool" programs that are winter favourites at the Arb:

  • Wilderness Survival (new for 2020!)
  • Snowshoeing (weather-permitting)
  • Survival Game
  • Habitats and Communities
  • Art and Ecology
  • The Wonders of Wandering

The Arb even has extra outdoor clothing available for students who arrive under-dressed, over-the-boot cleats for especially icy trails, and a fort-building area beside the Centre for extreme days when outdoor exposure should be limited.


Attention: Cancellation Policy Waived for Cancellations due to Rotating Walk-Outs

The Humber Arboretum is temporarily waiving our standard cancellation policy of 14 days notice (as outlined on this page and in confirmation documents sent when a trip is confirmed) for the duration of Ontario school board job actions. We ask that for a confirmed trip, you simply let us know as soon as you find out if the scheduled trip date will be a strike day for your school. If it is possible to reschedule, we will do our best to work with you to make that happen, but otherwise there will be no penalty for cancellation due to the job action.

Explore our Programs

nature walk

Nature Walk

All grades

A Nature Walk will make up one half of all full-day bookings, but even if you're only coming for a half-day you can choose to keep it simple with a guided walk through the trails of the Arboretum. Your group will explore fascinating habitats bursting with life such as the Carolinian forest, the Humber Valley, an oxbow swamp, a meadow, ponds, and the botanical gardens. Search for wildlife such as chickadees, hawks, and deer. Let us know if you'd like us to focus on a specific area such as insects, pollinators, trees, or birds. 

Art and Ecology

All grades, Visual Art

Come learn about nature by making art! Art & Ecology is about giving students creative freedom to explore, discover, and create works of art using natural materials found onsite. Infinitely adaptable, this program can engage the youngest minds and challenge the more mature.

healthy planet

Healthy Planet, Healthy Lives

Grades K-8, Social Studies

Explore concepts that are fundamental to the study of People and Environments while also exploring a wonderful urban greenspace. Learn how our actions affect the health of the planet and of all life on earth through interactive games and activities. Expand existing knowledge in such areas as recycling, ecological stewardship and environmental monitoring. This program encourages students to take better care of the environment in ways applicable to their own communities. Let us know if you would like to focus on a topic such as urban greenspaces or pollinators. 

Hands reach out for sticks

Sensational Senses


Use all of your senses to explore the wonders that nature has to offer! Focusing on one sense at a time, students will stimulate and enhance their perception of urban wildlife. Activities are designed to help students better understand how humans and animals use their senses to engage with their surroundings.

Think Nature Walk but with more freedom to explore natural curiosity.  Students will be guided through a series of locations and given general guidelines and boundaries before being released to investigate what and how they feel.  Arboretum staff will be present to assist with interpreting, but the structure of the program will be open-ended to allow for students to discover what interests them at their own pace.  

Like many of our programs, snowshoeing combines biology, social studies and good old fashioned exercise.  Make a lesson out of the historical importance of snowshoes and enjoy this winter activity.  Explore serene winter landscapes and discuss the diverse ways that species adapt to our climate.  Many species migrate, such as monarch butterflies and ruby-throated hummingbirds; many species go dormant, such as groundhogs and turtles; and (luckily!) many species stay active, such as white-tailed deer and black-capped chickadees.  Investigate different habitats and the unique challenges they pose for the organisms living in them.

The history, production and taste of maple syrup is rich and sweet.  Come enjoy all three!  Explore a small but active sugar bush right here in the city of Toronto! This program combines the past and present to show the different ways to make maple syrup in the city. Engage in interactive activities that help show students that this delicious syrup is both easier and harder to make than they think, but definitely worth the effort! And of course, the day would be incomplete without enjoying tasty samples of syrup and sap!

In this program, students will get a hands-on and fun-filled introduction to the great outdoors with a focus on learning through play. Our activities provide an opportunity to deepen participants’ experience with their natural world. By getting to know our plant and animal neighbours a little better, we can learn to appreciate the beauty and relationships that nature has to offer.

Visit our pond and uncover its secrets!  The Arboretum is home to many aquatic ecosystems, including three ponds, numerous seasonal wetlands and of course the Humber River. You might be surprised by how much life is in something so simple as a pond when you look closely. Take a tour to look for vertebrates such as geese, ducks, herons, turtles and frogs, then get out the nets and search for the often overlooked invertebrates such as dragonflies, crayfish, snails and more! Let us know if you'd like to focus on a topic such as insects.

Stay active with a series of games designed to explore the different habitats and ecological processes at work in the area.  Games are medium to high energy and keep students as engaged as possible at all times. This program can serve as a great introduction to the grounds while burning some energy before going out and learning more advanced information or equally as a reward for the students after a more challenging morning of ecological study.

Needs and Characteristics of Living Things, Daily and Seasonal Changes & Energy in Our Lives

Plants and animals respond to the cyclical nature of our environment. Come learn about who they are, the energy they need to survive, and how the seasons shape their lives. By learning more about the challenges and opportunities faced by our local plants and animals, students will leave with a greater appreciation of nature’s cycles. Areas of focus can include birds, insects, pollinators, plants, trees, winter survival, or urban wildlife.

Practice the vital skill and art that is map making and map reading. Map literacy is critical to understanding many concepts explored in the social studies and is also widely used in the applied sciences. Come explore the amazing world of maps and find out all the interesting clues that they reveal about the Arboretum and where you live.

Uncover the differences between the animal groups and track down some local wildlife. Students will investigate seasonally relevant animals and their adaptations to the city and to Canada in general.  Looking to learn more about a specific animal group?  Consider selecting one of many themes for the day, including Birds, Insects, Owls, Animal Tracks, Pollinators or other requests that would interest your class.

Learn about the properties and characteristics of air and water through observation of demonstrations and performing activities outdoors. Understand the role of air and water in the environment and the many places it can be found. Students will explore ponds, the water table and the Humber River.

Explore the mysteries beneath your feet! Learn about the different types and components of soil and where to find them.  Take a hike to gather and examine soil samples from different habitats such as a deciduous forest, a coniferous grove, a reclaimed farm and the Humber riparian zone.  Engage in activities designed to enhance student understanding of the importance of soil and the many organisms that depend on it to live.  You’ll want to wash your hands after this program, because you’re going to get soily!

Learn about the importance of plants in our world and discover the variety of plants here at the Arboretum.  With natural areas to explore and our phenomenally curated botanical garden, plants are the main attraction here at the Arboretum.  Explore our forests, meadows and wetlands to see some of the unique characteristics of plants first hand.  Engage in activities designed to help students understand more about why we need plants and what we can do to help protect them in our communities. Consider selecting one of many themes for the day, including Trees, Wildflowers, Pollination, Seeds or other requests that would interest your class.

Explore the fundamentals of wilderness survival. Activities will vary with the season, but students will be introduced to skills such as natural shelter building and animal tracking. We will explore how we can understand all that nature can provide us, if we just know where to look. Food, water, fire, and shelter are all out there, but which is most important? The students will have to decide.

Immerse yourself in the ever changing habitats and communities right here in the city!  With ponds, a meadow, a forest and the Humber River at our doorstep, the exploration of a wide range of plants and animals is possible in a short time. Learn about the four basic needs of all living things and how those needs can be satisfied by the plants and animals living in an urban greenspace.  Engage in activities designed to reveal ecological processes and deepen student understanding of the environment on a local and global scale. Let us know if you would like to focus on a topic such as insects, birds, or trees. 

Come see for yourself why minerals rock! Investigate the properties of rocks and minerals and which ones are common in our area. Search for geological materials in such areas as a forest, a meadow and a riverside to compare what sort of geological forces brought each type of rock to our city. Engage in activities designed to deepen student understanding of rocks, minerals and their role in the environment.

A girls investigates a rock with a magnifying lens

Step into the shallows of the Humber River and uncover its secrets! The Arboretum is home to many aquatic ecosystems, including three ponds, numerous seasonal wetlands and of course the Humber River.  You might be surprised by how much life is at work in such an urban river when you look closely. Take a tour of the riverside to look for vertebrates such as geese, ducks, herons, turtles and frogs, then get out the nets and search for the often overlooked invertebrates such as dragonflies, crayfish, snails and more!  

This unique game highlights interactions in the environment and the challenges animals must face in nature in order to survive. Students will be split into different groups including herbivores, omnivores, and carnivores. The game will take place in a semi-forested area where players will try to locate food and water stations to ensure their survival, all while watching out for predators!  This highly engaging game simulates the energy transfers at work in an ecosystem and shows students first-hand what life is like for animals living in the wild. 

Explore the features that make the Centre for Urban Ecology a LEED Certified Gold Facility AND a Platinum EcoCentre!  Discuss renewable energy and how it is everyone’s responsibility to help conserve resources.  Conduct an experiment using passive solar heating while taking an interactive eco-footprint challenge.

Students build a solar cooker

The unique nature of the Arboretum comes with challenges and opportunities.  Because the property has both a botanical garden with rare species from all over the world AND an environmentally sensitive woodland habitat in close proximity, there is an abundance of biodiversity but also the constant threat of invasive species disturbing the natural balance of the ecosystem.  Explore the different sections of the Arboretum and conduct surveys to determine and compare the diversity and health of sample environments. You may want to choose a focus such as trees, birds, insects, or urban greenspaces. 

Students will work together to complete a series of games and challenges. Depending on the season your group could be taking part in activities such as shelter building, egg drops, testing their observation skills in the leaf match, or constructing dams.

Expand on previous knowledge: animals, plants, soils, habitats, biodiversity – it all comes together in ecosystems! Discover that everything is connected studying the ecosystems present in this vibrant urban greenspace. Analyze biotic and abiotic elements involved in the forest, meadow, wetlands and river and engage in the never ending stewardship mission that is critical to the preservation of this land: thwarting invasive species! 

A girls uses a magnifying glass to investigate a flower

The Humber Arboretum is a collaboration between Humber College, The City of Toronto and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority with the combined mission of protecting this section of the Humber River watershed. Explore what makes a watershed such an important geographic unit and how the Humber watershed affects and is affected by the ecology and urbanization of the area. Explore important watershed features such as ponds, wetlands and, of course, the river! Consider focusing on a topic such as urban greenspaces.

A student dips a net in the Humber River

The Humber Arboretum, like many of Toronto’s Urban Greenspaces, is a dynamic and diverse ecosystem.  With a focus on practical exploration, students will investigate the physical and biological characteristics of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems such as our forest, meadow, wetlands and river.  Engage with our ecosystems to identify their ecological health and identify ways that increasing urbanization impacts the local environment.

Students explore the Arboretum grounds

Climate change is one of the greatest threats to the Humber Arboretum and the world at large.  Investigate the different ecosystems located around the property and discover why climate change is such a worry and how it is already starting to have an impact here.  Students will engage in activities designed to help them better understand the causes and effects of climate change and what they can do in the community to make a difference.