Outdoor Education

School Programs

A nature educator shows a snail to a child

The Humber Arboretum offers a variety of curriculum connected outdoor education programs at two locations in the City of Toronto. Our home base for outdoor education is the Humber Arboretum which is located at Humber College's North Campus. Programs at this location are run year-round out of the Centre for Urban Ecology, Ontario's only Platinum Certified EcoCentre.

During May and June the Humber Arboretum also offers outdoor education programs at Humber College's Lakeshore Campus. (Lake Shore Blvd W. and Kipling Ave.). At this location students will have a chance to experience the diversity of life at Colonel Samuel Smith Park, a truly unique, human-created urban greenspace that has only been around since 1993.

Ontario Curriculum Connections

Our programs are designed to meet specific curriculum expectations. Program descriptions below identify the grades for which direct connections are available, however we can also adapt programs for other grades. We also can customize a program to fit the needs of a certain subject being covered by teachers. All our programs have an outdoor component, and many can be used to fulfill Daily Physical Activity requirements. Our programs also help to foster character development in children.

Please note any special needs or specific topics you would like us to focus on when you book your programs.

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Program Descriptions

*LAKESHORE CAMPUS: Programs marked with an asterix are also made available at the Lakeshore Campus (Colonel Samuel Smith Park) during May and June only.

Humber Arboretum Nature Education Programs
Nature Walk* - Full or Half Day
All grades
Keep it simple with a guided walk through the trails of the Arboretum. Explore fascinating habitats bursting with life such as the Carolinian forest, the Humber Valley, an oxbow swamp, a meadow, ponds, and of course the botanical gardens of the Arboretum! Search for wildlife such as chickadees, hawks and deer. Take part in exploratory activities designed to look closely at nature and enjoy some time in this unique urban greenspace.
The Wonders of Wandering* - Full or Half Day
All grades
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.
Art & Ecology* - Full or Half Day
All grades - Visual Art
Air, water, earth, and plants – these are just a few of the materials available to us here at the Arboretum. Art & Ecology takes advantage of this opportunity as it explores art-making in a natural environment. Whether exploring curricular-specific concepts or open-ended activities, this hands-on program encourages students to actively learn about their environment by engaging with nature creatively.
Pond Life (April to October) - Half Day
Grades K-4 - Science
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 of the ponds 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!
Snowshoeing (Jan to Feb, weather permitting) - Full or Half Day
All grades
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.
Urban Maple Syrup Harvesting (Feb to March) - Half Day
All grades
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!
Sensational Senses* - Half Day
Grades K-1 - Science
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.
Ecology Games* - Half Day
Grades K-4 - Science
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.
Healthy Planet, Healthy Lives* (April to Oct) - Half Day
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 pairs well with many of our science programs and encourages students to take better care of the environment in ways applicable to their own communities.
Mastering Maps (April to Oct) - Half Day
Grades 1-3 - Social Studies
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.
Growth and Changes in Animals - Half Day
Grade 2 - Science
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.
Air and Water in the Environment* (April to Oct) - Half Day
Grade 2 - Science
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.
People and the Humber (April to Oct) - Half Day
Grades 2-8 - Social Studies
In 1999 the Humber River became one of only a dozen Heritage Rivers in Ontario. Focusing on Heritage and Identity, this program offers a look into the rich local history of the Humber and Southern Ontario in general. Explore a forest that has remained virtually unchanged since European contact, an abandoned settler’s farm, and a river that has been an important trading route for centuries. Engage in activities designed to enhance student understanding of Canada’s history and geography.
Soils in the Environment* (April to Oct) - Half Day
Grade 3 - Science
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!
Growth and Change in Plants* (April to Oct) - Half Day
Grade 3 - Science
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.
Habitats and Communities* - Half Day
Grade 4 - Science
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. Consider pairing this program with complementary programs such as Pond Study, River Study, Ecology Games or Survival Game.
Rocks and Minerals (April to Oct) - Half Day
Grade 4 - Science
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.
River Study (April to Oct) - Half Day
Grades 4+ - Science
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!
Survival Game (April to Oct) - Half Day
Grades 4+ - Science
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. Consider pairing this high energy game with related programs such as Habitats and Communities, Biodiversity, Interactions in the Environment or Sustainable Ecosystems.
Conservation of Energy and Resources (April to Oct) - Half Day
Grade 5 - Science
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. Consider pairing this program with a related program such as Healthy Planet Healthy Lives.
Biodiversity (April to Oct) - Full or Half Day
Grade 6 - Science
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. Consider pairing this program with complementary programs such as Survival Game, River Study or Healthy Planet Healthy Lives.
Interactions in the Environment - Full or Half Day
Grade 7 - Science
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! Consider pairing this program with complementary programs such as River Study, Healthy Planet Healthy Lives or Survival Game.
Water Systems* (April to Oct) - Full or Half Day
Grade 8 - Science
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 pairing this program with a complementary program such as Healthy Planet Healthy Lives or River Study.
Sustainable Ecosystems (April to Oct) - Full or Half Day
Grade 9 - Biology
A discussion of the characteristics and elements of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems will be followed by an investigation of our nearby ecosystems, such as the forest, meadow, wetlands and river. Students will have an opportunity to analyze water and soil parameters such as pH, oxygen, conductivity, phosphorus and temperature. Engage in a hands on biodiversity survey of the ecosystems to identify their ecological health.
Climate Change (April to Oct) - Full or Half Day
Grade 10 - Earth and Space Science
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.
Plant Evolution (April to Oct) - Full or Half Day
Grade 11 - Biology
The Arboretum is rich with local and cultivated biodiversity. With labelled specimens from all over the world, the site is a great place to learn the basics of taxonomy, phylogeny and evolution. Students will practice plant identification skills before going out in the field to study the different plant groups represented in our collection. Students will explore themes related to the fields of horticulture, forestry, farming and botany in general.
Population Dynamics (April to Oct) - Full or Half Day
Grade 12 - Biology
Explore the different ecosystems of the Arboretum and analyze selected wildlife populations such as river invertebrates and squirrel genotypes. Engage in quick, dynamic activities designed to simulate wildlife growth cycles then compare the results to real-world data.

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Locations

Our outdoor education programs provide a fun and unique way to increase the ecological literacy and physical activity of your students. So come out and explore Colonel Samuel Smith Park, Have our interpreters engage your class with one of our famous nature programs!

Humber Arboretum

Connected to Humber College's North Campus (near Finch Avenue and Hwy 27), the Humber Arboretum is both a botanical garden and conservation centre. Depending on the program you select, visiting students could be walking in woods, meadows, or wetlands; exploring the western branch of the Humber River or our garden ponds; or learning about stewardship and the environment inside the Centre for Urban Ecology, an award-winning example of sustainable design.

Visit our Directions page for information on how to reach the Humber Arboretum by public transit, trail, or car.

Lakeshore Campus

During May and June, the Humber Arboretum's Outdoor Education Programming expands to include Humber College's Lakeshore Campus. The campus is connected to Colonel Sam Smith Park, which is one of Toronto's most amazingly diverse urban green spaces and is located on the shores of Lake Ontario. Programs at this location are run out of the H Building, one of Humber's architecturally beautiful "cottages" with a unique history.

Getting There

The main intersection is Lakeshore Blvd West and Kipling Avenue/Colonel Samuel Smith Park Dr (the street name changes south of Lakeshore Blvd). The official address of our Lakeshore school programs is 3199 Lakeshore Blvd, however if the bus driver puts this into their GPS it will not take you to the correct drop-off location.

Please download and share this PDF of the map below with your bus drivers and have students dropped off in front of H building where the cottages are located.

Humber's Lakeshore Campus is also easy to reach by TTC. From Kipling Station, take bus 44 Kipling South or the 188 Kipling South Express to the Humber College stop. The 501 Queen Streetcar also stops at the corner of Lakeshore Blvd West and Kipling Avenue.

Map showing bus drop off zone

Booking Information

Group Excursion Pricing

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Booking Number of Programs Cost per Participant
Half Day 1 Program $8.50*
Full Day 2 Programs $13.50*

*No tax for students aged 12 and under; HST will be added for all students aged 13+

Indoor lunch space is available. If your group is attending for a half day and you would like to use the lunch space please note that it must be booked in advance, and an additional charge of $50.00 per floor will apply (two floors are available). If your group is booking a full day, use of the lunch space is included. Supervisors are free up to 1 per 5 participants .

Further Details

Community Programs

Summer Group Excursions

Looking for an exciting trip for your summer group? Check out the Humber Arboretum's Outdoor Education Programs. These programs will take place in our outdoor classroom with a backup room inside Humber College. Programs can be customized to meet specific needs, or to cover specific topics.

Tour Groups

The Humber Arboretum can offer tours to horticultural socities and other interested groups. Visit the Contact Us page to inquire about availability and booking a tour leader for your group.

Community Events

Check our Upcoming Events page for upcoming programming open to the general public. Workshops, planting events, and seasonally-themed events are planned throughout the year, many of which are free to attend.