Education for Schools and Teachers


Schoolchildren exploring the Coastal Plain habitat garden with a guide.

The North Carolina Botanical Garden offers a variety of education programs for visiting schools and other groups. These programs are hands-on explorations of plants and nature. All on-site and outreach programs are aligned with the Common Core and Essential Standards, and include lesson plans for teacher-led pre-visit and extension activities.

We also periodically offer training opportunities for teachers. Each summer we offer an Earth Partnership for Schools Institute where teachers are trained to create native plant gardens on their school grounds.

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Earth Partnership for Schools Teacher Institute


Participants in an EPS Teacher Institute learn about native plants.

2014 Earth Partnership for Schools Teacher Institutes:
July 7-11, 2014, 8:00 am-4:30 pm, Cost: $105 (to be paid after notification of acceptance)

The North Carolina Botanical Garden and City of Durham Stormwater Services invite teams of teachers to join the Earth Partnership for Schools. This week-long institute will train teachers to create rain gardens, native plant gardens, or restored natural habitats on school grounds.

During the institute, teachers will learn about North Carolina's local flora, native plant gardening, and using the outdoors as a place for learning. Participants will also have the opportunity to visit some unique natural areas in the Triangle as well as some area schools that have schoolyard native plant gardens.

Participants will be provided with a curriculum notebook containing over 100 lesson plans and other resources. All curriculum is aligned with the Common Core and Essential Standards and is applicable to all subject areas for grades K - 12. This institute is approved as a Criteria I workshop for the NC Environmental Education Certification. CEUs can be awarded from UNC's Friday Center for Continuing Education for an additional $6.

The application for the 2014 Earth Partnership for Schools Summer Institute are due by May 27, and can be downloaded here.

For more information, please contact Grant Parkins, NCBG Natural Science Educator.

On-site Education Programs

Caterpillar photo

The North Carolina Botanical Garden offers on-site, hands-on educational programs for school groups and other children's groups. Each program lasts about 60 minutes, and can be offered for 60 students at a time. Although each program is recommended for a certain grade level, they can be adapted for different ages of children.

Nature Tales: Recommended for Ages 4 - 6—Visitors will be broken into small groups, where they will hear a nature story. Following the story, docents will lead the group on a short nature walk through the Garden.

Herbal Adventures: Recommended for Ages 4-6—In this program, students are led to 5 different stations in the Mercer Reeves Hubbard Herb Garden. At each station, students learn about one of the five senses, and they use their senses to explore nature. This is a multi-sensory experience for students, who will see, smell, hear, touch, and taste nature.

Flora Explorers: Recommended for 1st Grade Classes—This hands-on program is designed to teach students about the different parts of a plant, and how those parts play a role in helping the plant survive. Students have a chance to use Yellowroot (Xanthorrhiza simplicissima) as a crayon, make a bark rubbing, and taste sunflower seeds.

The Monarch's Journey: Recommended for 2nd Grade Classes—This program focuses on the life cycle of the Monarch Butterfly. Students learn about the egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and adult stage of the Monarch Butterfly and their unique relationship with Milkweed (Asclepias spp.). Teachers can choose to have this program taught using models of the life stages of the Monarch, or by using live animals at each of the Monarch’s life stages. The live animal option is only available May - September and requires an extra fee.

From the Mountains to the Coast: Recommended for 3rd Grade Classes—In this lesson, students learn about the different geographic regions of North Carolina and how plant communities are shaped by the regions’ unique climates and soils. Students also have the opportunity to explore the different soils of the regions, learn about carnivorous plants and dissect the leaf of the carnivorous Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia spp.).

Native Plants, Native People: Recommended for 4th Grade Classes—This interdisciplinary lesson focuses on both Science and Social Studies. Students are introduced to American Indian tribes of the different regions of North Carolina. Students learn about their history, lifestyles, and the unique ways in which they used plants to meet their daily needs. This lesson aligns with the Essential Standards for Social Studies.

Ecosystem Expeditions: Recommended for 5th Grade Classes—In this lesson, students will learn some of the basic principles of ecology. Students learn about producers, consumers, and decomposers and their unique roles within an ecosystem. The students also get a chance to dissect an owl pellet as a way to better understand food webs.

General Tours of the Garden—The North Carolina Botanical Garden also offers tours of the Garden that can be general or focused on a particular topic.

students investigate the Carnivorous Plant Beds behind the Totten Center

Students investigate the Carnivorous Plant Beds behind the Totten Center

On-site Education Programs: Registration and Scheduling

We require one chaperone for every five students. The fee for On-site Education Programs is $30 /classroom of 30 students or less. For a class of more than 30 students, an additional $2 per student above 30 is required. There is no fee for a Self-Guided Tour, however, registration at least four weeks in advance is required.

To request an On-site Education Program, or for more information, call 919-962-2887. Programs are subject to availability of staff and guides.

Once your visit is scheduled, should you need to cancel due to a change of plans or inclement weather, please call us at the same number as early as possible so we can alert the Tour Guides.

Important Information for planning your Tour of the Gardens:

  • Please plan for one hour for your tour, plus additional time to gather prior to the tour, and again afterwards.
  • Nametags are helpful to the Guides, especially with children's groups.
  • We have limited parking, please ask parents and chaperones to carpool.
  • Wheel chairs are available at the Totten Center. When scheduling, please tell staff of this or any other special accessibility issues for visitors in your group.

If you have already scheduled your visit and have further questions, see our Preparing For Your Visit page.

On Your Own Tours (Self-Guided Programs)

Piedmont Nature Trail:The Piedmont Nature Trails provide an easy hike through a typical central North Carolina forest. Signs along the trail provide a self-guided tour that offers many points for observation of the workings of a forest, and an elementary introduction to forest ecology. We also offer a self-guided Nature Trail Walk for large groups.

Sculpture in the Garden: Our annual garden art show, Scuplture In The Garden, usually runs from mid-September to mid-November. It offers a bit of a twist on earth science and visual arts studies. Students investigate physical properties of the sculptures such as magnetism and explore artwork in an outdoor setting. These programs are correlated with the North Carolina State Standards.

Coker Arboretum: Located adjacent to Morehead Planetarium, Coker Arboretum offers quiet respite from the hubbub of Franklin Street and the busy UNC-Chapel Hill campus. Self-guided tours sheets are available for school groups. Please call the Programs Office to arrange for the tour materials.

Visiting Naturalist Outreach Program

In an effort to bring the world of plants and nature to students at school, the North Carolina Botanical Garden has offered a "Visiting Naturalist" outreach program in the Spring of each year. An NCBG Educator visits 5th, 6th, and 7th grade classrooms for a one hour lesson that aligns with the Essential Standards for Science. Students engage in a hands-on exploration of Producers, Consumers, and Decomposers, including dissecting owl pellets. While we have been able to offer this program in the past, we cannot guarantee this program will be available each spring. For more information, please contact Grant Parkins, NCBG Natural Science Educator.

Updated on May 19, 2014 at 01:40:09 pm.

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