“The Arboretum educators do an outstanding job with initial and follow-up lessons related to the project. They are knowledgeable, accessible, and enthusiastic. The programs they offer make a wonderful difference in childrens’ (and adults’) lives!”
— Project EXPLORE Teacher

Project EXPLORE (Experiences Promoting Learning Outdoors for Research and Education) helps teachers utilize outdoor spaces at their school to engage preK-12th grade students in curriculum based learning activities. Since its launch in 2013, Project EXPLORE has served over 100 teachers and 5,000 students in 22 different counties.

We take a “teach the teacher” approach so that teachers gain the training and experience necessary to sustain their outdoor education efforts in subsequent years.


The Arboretum’s professional environmental educators support classroom teachers by:

1) Providing age-appropriate field materials and funding of $100 for classroom materials

2) Leading/modeling an outdoor lesson at the start of the school year so the teacher can see how an experienced educator utilizes the outdoors;

3) Observing the teacher as they conduct an outdoor lesson and providing on-site assistance;

4) Serving as an on-call resource to provide advice and suggestions;

5) Leading a session at the end of the school year to further enrich standard course of study; and

6) Offering free visits to all participating students to the Arboretum’s annual Mountain Science Expo, as well as an opportunity to present a class poster at the event.

Teachers Commitment and Certification: 2018 Project EXPLORE Overview

Mini Grant Program Overview 2018.png

Teachers commit to taking their students outside for at least 15 minutes a week to collect data and submit observations to one or more citizen science projects, including Nature’s Notebook, Project Squirrel, and Project eBird. At years end, each class presents their data at the Arboretum’s annual Mountain Science Expo, an official expo of the NC Science Festival. Teachers also receive a small grant award to purchase materials and can borrow field equipment for the school year from the Arboretum.

To receive an EXPLORE certificate of completion, teachers must participate in Project EXPLORE for at least two years. At that point they are awarded a class set of binoculars, field guides, and a detailed copy of our program curriculum. They have the option to participate up to three years in order to continue strengthening ideas and approaches from the initial introductory lesson.

Participants are selected based on an application process. 

Who is Eligible?

 - Available for all grade levels, Pre-K through 12th grade.  

 - Classroom teachers and school educators in the Western NC region.