Explore: Nature & Environment
A resource for educators, homeschoolers, scouts and parents
Photo courtesy of Seattle Japanese Garden
Explore is the expanded Seattle's Child guide to enrichment opportunities available to schools, homeschoolers, scout leaders and others offering programs for kids in our Puget Sound community.
Whether you're planning outings for preschoolers, educating a third grader at home, running a day camp or teaching high school science, you'll find a truly remarkable variety of ways to enlarge and expand on your curriculum – field trips, classroom visits, homeschooler programs, and teacher education, to name a few.
Listings are unpaid and compiled by Seattle's Child staff.
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15510 Rosario Beach Road
Anacortes, WA 98221
Academic Adventures is an inquiry focused Coastal Ecology and Marine Biology Field School based in Anacortes. Students participate in the scientific process and are surrounded by the specific habitats, organisms and ecosystems they are studying. Programs for grades K-12 include one-day field trips, multi-day field school, naturalist programs and Deception Pass day camps.
Bellevue Botanical Garden
12001 Main St.
Bellevue, WA 98005
Highlights of the Bellevue Botanical Garden include the Northwest Perennial Alliance Border, Waterwise Garden, Yao Garden, Alpine Rock Garden, the new Ravine Experience and summer displays of dahlias and fuchsias. The Living Lab Program for grades K through 5 provides quality science and botany-related educational opportunities for youth. Activities are interactive, fun, hands-on and aligned with the Washington State Standards for Science.
The Bloedel Reserve
7571 NE Dolphin Drive
Bainbridge Island, WA 98110
206-842-7631, ext. 14, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island is an internationally renowned public garden and forest preserve. The Reserve’s 150 acres are a unique blend of natural woodlands and beautifully landscaped gardens, including a Japanese Garden, a Moss Garden, a Reflection Pool and the Bloedels’ former estate home. The Bloedel Reserve welcomes school children, youth groups and college students for guided tours. Many of the tour guides are retired teachers, who love leading tours for students of all ages.
Brightwater Education & Community Center
22505 State Route 9 SE
Woodinville, WA 98072
The Brightwater Center at the Brightwater Sewage Treatment Plant was designed with learning in mind. It aims to educate people of all ages about the impacts individuals have on water resources and the environment. Brightwater has partnered with the non-profit organization IslandWood to offer programs for local schools. All school field trip programs are free and include hands-on activities and/or field investigations. The center also features 70 acres of open space with trails and 40 acres of natural habitat along with a variety of public art. Editor’s note: For information about King County’s other treatment plants, go to “King County Water Treatment Plants” under Nature & Environment.
5200 35th Ave. SW
Seattle, WA 98126
Camp Long is one of Seattle's best-kept secrets. Located in West Seattle, this 68-acre park offers visitors an opportunity to enjoy nature, hike in the forest, camp overnight in rustic cabins, rock climb and learn about natural history. Naturalists lead environmental education classes for schools, preschools and homeschool groups. Program topics include spiders, insects, low tide, wetlands, stewardship and birds. Camp Long now has challenge courses available with a variety of programming options.
Cedar Hills Regional Landfill
16645 228th Ave. SE
Maple Valley, WA 98038
Groups, organizations or individuals can arrange to tour the Solid Waste Division’s facilities in Maple Valley. Tours include an overview of the operations on-site, garbage statistics, and a ride around the active landfill area, the North Flare Station, and the leachate ponds. Participants must be at least 5 years old.
Cedar River Watershed Education Center
19901 Cedar Falls Road SE
North Bend, WA 98045
Seattle Public Utilities Cedar River Watershed Education Center offers free 4th and 5th grade naturalist-led watershed education field programs to public and private schools in the spring and fall. These options consist of the “Seeing the Source” program and the center-based “Land and Water” program. A third option for all grade levels is the “Water Is Magic” education center visit. This flexible field trip explores water’s wonders through hands-on indoor exhibits and teacher-led self-discovery of the center’s outdoor environment and area trails.
Center for Urban Horticulture
3501 NE 41st St.
Seattle, WA 98195
The Center for Urban Horticulture, opened in 1984, is part of the University of Washington Botanic Gardens. It includes a 16-acre landscaped site with buildings and gardens, the UW Farm, and the 74-acre Union Bay Natural Area, which provides publicly accessible wildlife habitat (more than 200 bird species have been sighted there) and an outdoor laboratory for UW research. Self-guided or guided tours are available.
13533 Northshire Road NW
Seattle, WA 98177
The esteemed Olmsted Brothers Landscape firm designed the Dunn Gardens in 1915. Notable features include naturalistic groupings of trees, broad lawns with borders of shrubs, and woodland walks. Plants range from diminutive erythroniums to large rhododendrons and towering Douglas firs. The Dunn Gardens are open to the public for docent-led guided tours in April, June, July, September and October.
308 4th Ave. S
Kirkland, WA 98033
Volunteers from Eastside Audubon’s Youth Education Program work with children of all ages in a variety of settings—schools, nature centers, parks, camps, festivals and fairs. All presentations are interactive, hands-on, and can be adapted to the needs of students. Teachers may also borrow the Bird Discovery Box, which contains lesson plans and the materials needed to teach them.
Edmonds Discovery Programs
700 Main St.
Edmonds, WA 98020
The Edmonds Discovery Programs include a popular two-part K through 12 “Marine Education” program as well as the K through 6 “Discover the Forest” program held at Yost Park. Students learn about ecosystems, biodiversity, interdependence and much more. The EDP website also contains descriptions as well as downloadable materials on local mammals, birds, fish and plants in and around Edmonds.
Environmental Science Center
2220 SW Seahurst Park Road
Burien, WA 98166
Serving South King County since 2000, the Environmental Science Center promotes environmental stewardship, sustainability and academic achievement through science-based education. Typically, a one-hour classroom session is followed by a 90-minute inquiry-based field program at a location such as Seahurst Park or the Normandy Park Cove. Programs for grades K through 12 include Beach Heroes and Salmon Heroes.
FISH (Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery)
125 W Sunset Way
Issaquah, WA 98027
FISH is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting watershed stewardship through education. FISH offers tours of the hatchery for groups of all ages throughout the fall when the salmon arrive in Issaquah to spawn. FISH also offers in-class presentations to schools and homeschool groups either in conjunction with the students’ visit to the hatchery in the fall, or any time in the spring or winter. For a small fee, FISH will bring hands-on displays about salmon to your school’s science fair.
Highline SeaTac Botanical Garden
13735 24th Ave. S
SeaTac, WA 98168
The Highline SeaTac Botanical Garden covers 10.5 acres of display gardens, woodlands and trails reclaimed from a suburban brownfield. Highlights include the Seike Japanese Garden, Elda Behm's Paradise Garden, the Sensory Garden located adjacent to the SeaTac Senior Center, and display gardens planted and maintained by the King County Iris Society, Puget Sound Daylily Club, Seattle Rose Society, and the City of SeaTac Parks Department. Docent-led tours are available by appointment.
Hiram M. Chittenden Locks and Carl S. English, Jr. Botanical Garden
3015 NW 54th St.
Seattle, WA 98107
Students can watch ships pass through the locks, learn about the historical importance of the local shipping industry, and view migrating salmon in the fish ladder when in season. The botanical garden has more than 570 species of plants from around the world. Guided tours are provided all year, although availability in winter is limited. Tours of the locks, fish ladder or gardens are tailored to the age group of the class and to the area of study requested.
4450 Blakely Ave. NE
Bainbridge Island, WA 98110
In addition to their school camps and Brightwater Center programs, IslandWood offers teacher resources as well as the Homewaters Program for Seattle students. Homewaters connects school science curriculum to watersheds and other natural ecosystems in the communities where students live. The core programming ties directly to the Microworlds, Ecosystems and Land & Water science units used by 4th and 5th graders in the Seattle School District.
King County Solid Waste Division
201 S Jackson St., Suite 701
Seattle, WA 98104
Students learn to make choices that contribute to a cleaner school, community and planet through a school-wide assembly, hands-on classroom workshops and Green Teams that implement projects in the school or community. Materials and programs are available for preschool through 12th grade.
King County Wastewater Treatment Plants
Plants in Renton, Woodinville and West Seattle
The Wastewater Treatment Division’s education programs provide information on treatment plants, clean water processes and technology, resource recovery, pollution prevention for homes and businesses and Puget Sound health. Learn where it all goes when you brush and flush. School tours for King County schools, grades 4 through 12, are available in Renton, Seattle and now Woodinville for all King County residents. School field trips can include water quality testing, beach cleanup or a community recycled resources garden project. Ask about the Wheels to Water bus program.
Kruckeberg Botanic Garden
20312 15th Ave. NW
Shoreline, WA 98177
This four-acre public garden contains a unique blend of Pacific Northwest native plants and unusual exotics set in a natural wooded setting. KBG offers a variety of seasonally appropriate field trips for preschool and kindergarten groups including “Forest Layers,” “Garden Senses” and “Flower Power.”
9817 55th Ave. S
Seattle, WA 98118
A stunning 25 acres of hills and valleys, the Kubota Garden features streams, waterfalls, ponds, rock outcroppings and an exceptionally rich and mature collection of plant material. This unique urban refuge displays more than 60 years of vision, effort and commitment by the Kubota family. Maps for self-guided tours are available online and at the entrance kiosk. Guided tours are available for groups of eight or more. Call the Kubota Garden Foundation to make an appointment for a tour guide.
Magnuson Nature Programs
6344 NE 74th St.
Seattle, WA 98115
Magnuson Park is a wonderful place for a nature adventure, whether on a guided nature walk, a school field trip with Magnuson Nature Educators, or using one of our Explorer Packs for a self-guided tour. Teachers can choose from four topics, each filled with multiple experiential learning activities and held in a different part of the park. Our field trip activities introduce or reinforce elementary-school science units such as animals, organisms, plant growth and development, ecosystems, land and water, and more.
Marine Science and Technology Center
28203 Redondo Beach Drive S
Des Moines, WA 98198
The MaST Center is the marine biology and aquarium facility of Highline College. Located 4 miles south of campus at Redondo Beach with easy access to a variety of nearby habitats, the 2,500 square-foot facility offers public space, classroom, laboratories, offices, research areas with state-of-the-art equipment and an aquarium. The Aquarium holds more than 15 tanks totaling approximately 3,000 gallons of flow-through seawater and displays more than 250 native Puget Sound marine species.
Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center
1625 118th Ave. SE
Bellevue, WA 98005
The Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center, a collaboration between the City of Bellevue and the Pacific Science Center, features classrooms, a visitor center, a community building and a “tree house,” all sustainably built. In addition to exhibits at the visitor center and self-guided walks through the Mercer Slough, PSC offers year-round education about wetlands and nature for youth, families and school groups. Outreach lessons are also available.
Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust
2701 1st Ave., Suite 240
Seattle, WA 98121
The Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust works to conserve and enhance the landscape along the I-90 corridor, ensuring a long-term balance between people and nature. Their education program has been engaging 4th through 12th grade students in King County with high-quality, science-based outdoor learning opportunities for 15 years. The inquiry-based programs are aligned with state learning standards, and are affordable and fun. The goal is to plant the seeds for a more sustainable future by teaching and inspiring the next generation of environmental stewards and conservation leaders.
National Geographic Live Student Matinees
200 University St.
Seattle, WA 98101
National Geographic believes in the power of science, exploration and storytelling to change the world. NG explorers, photographers, filmmakers and scientists embody the importance of living curious, responsible and empowered lives and serve as inspiring role models through their student matinees. Student Matinees are free (some bus subsidies are also available) and include a collection of resources to complement the speaker’s focus such as classroom activities, videos, maps and more.
Pacific Bonsai Museum
2515 S 336th St.
Federal Way, WA 98003
The Pacific Bonsai Museum features world-class bonsai from around the globe. Free and open to the public, this cultural gem offers contemporary and traditional bonsai exhibits, group tours, education and special events.
Pacific Marine Research
2203 Alaskan Way, Pier 66
Seattle, WA 98121
The Marine Science Afloat program is targeted for grades 3 through 12. Students do water sampling, plankton sampling, video and hands-on microscope labs, hands-on invertebrates labs and marine mammal labs. The highlight of the day is a live dive, in which a diver carrying a closed-circuit TV camera and communication system takes students to the bottom of Puget Sound for specimen collection. When schedules permit, PMR can send one of its educators to the classroom for a fun and informative biology lesson.
Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
10441 Bayview-Edison Road
Mount Vernon, WA 98273
At low tide, Padilla Bay exposes miles of mudflats formed by sediment from the Skagit River. The area is a perfect habitat for a variety of estuary plants and animals, which makes it a great place for nature study. Programs are offered for grades pre-K through 12 and can include a lecture, slide shows, videos and hands-on lab and fieldwork. Facilities include exhibits and an aquarium. Programs are free, but donations are accepted.
PowellsWood: A Northwest Garden
430 S Dash Point Road
Federal Way, WA 98023
A Northwest pleasure garden tucked away in a Federal Way neighborhood, the three acres of PowellsWood are nestled against another thirty-five acres of native successional forest. Several distinct garden rooms are graced with more than a thousand varieties of trees, shrubs and perennials. The garden’s perennial borders thrive, the fruit of an extensive soil conservation project. The garden is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, April 1 through Oct. 31. Discounted school and youth club field trips can be tailored to your group’s age and subject matter.
Quiet Heart Wilderness School
23632 Hwy. 99, Suite F
Edmonds, WA 98026
Since 1997, Quiet Heart has enhanced students’ understanding of the natural world, and instilled in them a sense of stewardship toward their planet and its creatures. Led by experienced instructors, programs include primitive and survival skills, edible and medicinal plants, animal tracking, wilderness navigation, awareness skills, team building and problem solving. Quiet Heart’s various programs range from our preschool program ”Through the Eyes of a Naturalist,” OWLE for ages 8 to 15, summer camps, year-round programs, and many other family programs and courses.
Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden
2525 S 336th St.
Federal Way, WA 98003
253-838-4646, ext. 140, email@example.com
Home to one of the largest collections of species rhododendrons in the world, the garden displays over 700 of the more than 1,000 species found around the world. Self-guided or docent-led tours are available of the gardens, the Conservatory and the Victorian Stumpery.
Seattle Audubon Society
8050 35th Ave. NE
Seattle, WA 98115
206-523-8243 ext. 19, firstname.lastname@example.org
Seattle Audubon education programs provide classroom and experiential learning opportunities for ages 3 to 103 for the purpose of creating environmental stewards and mobilizing a community to take action in the protection of birds and their habitats. In-school programs, classroom kits and teacher resources make learning about local birds engaging and fun. High school programs include Northwest ecology along with citizen science and service learning projects.
Seattle Bug Safari
Educating kids and others about the fascinating world of insects is one of Seattle Bug Safari’s passions. Outreach programs for grades pre-K through 12 can be tailored to include the specific topics your class is covering now. We also have special programs for home school groups, families and Scout troops.
Seattle Chinese Garden
South Seattle College, 6000 16th Ave. SW
Seattle, WA 98106
Next to the South Seattle College Arboretum, the Seattle Chinese Garden is the only Sichuan-style Chinese garden of its kind outside of China. The Garden offers many treasures of nature to discover and admire in every season and all times of day. Self-guided tours are available. Contact the park to arrange for a docent tour.
Seattle Japanese Garden
Washington Park Arboretum, 1075 Lake Washington Blvd. E
Seattle, WA 98112
Part of the UW Botanic Gardens, this 3.5-acre formal garden was designed and constructed under the supervision of world-renowned Japanese garden designer Juki Iida in 1960. School tours, available Tuesdays and Thursdays for students ages 8 and older, provide an educational introduction to the culture and history of the Seattle Japanese Garden.
Tacoma Nature Center
1919 S Tyler St.
Tacoma, WA 98405
In this 70-acre outdoor classroom, students discover nature and science in a hands-on, interactive environment. Guided tour topics include Pond Critters, Wetland Wonders, Water Sleuths and more. TNC also offers classroom inquiries that allow students to get a close-up view of nature in the convenience of the classroom. In-class programs include “City Critters,” “Washington Wildlife,” “Habitat is Where It's At!” and more. Scout programs are also available.
Tilth Alliance (formerly Seattle Tilth)
Good Shepherd Center, 4649 Sunnyside Ave. N
Seattle, WA 98103
206-633-0451 ext. 122, email@example.com
At the Tilth Alliance's garden and farm education programs, groups visit our organic gardens in North and South Seattle and our 8-acre farm at Rainier Beach Urban Farm & Wetlands for hands-on, science-based learning adventures. We taste fresh vegetables straight from the garden or farm, tend and harvest crops, collect seeds, make compost, learn about worms, insects and pollinators and explore our natural environment. Mobile Garden Classroom lessons about recycling, waste management and soils are also available. Tilth Alliance offers classes for teachers to learn techniques for incorporating garden curriculum in the classroom or in school gardens.
Vashon Wilderness Program
PO Box 712
Vashon Island, WA 98070
Vashon Wilderness Program (VWP) cultivates a deep relationship between self, community and the natural world. Our mentors guide students to a joyful understanding and appreciation of the more-than-human world we share. With an emphasis on nature as teacher, students develop ecological knowledge, awareness and skills that inspire and empower them. In addition to their spring and summer camps and monthly Saturday classes, VWP offers weekday school-year programs geared toward homeschool students.
Volunteer Park Conservatory
1400 E Galer St.
Seattle, WA 98112
The Conservatory, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is one of the few remaining original Victorian public glass houses in the country. It shelters a tropical plant collection and provides a warm, quiet, beautiful refuge. Docents lead 30-60 minute tours, including information on Conservatory plant collections, architectural history, plant acquisition and production, physical facility operation, and behind-the-scenes news.
Washington Park Arboretum
2300 Arboretum Drive E
Seattle, WA 98112
At this 230-acre outdoor classroom, the goal is to use wetlands, woodlands and world-renowned plant collections to promote conservation through education and recreation. UW Botanic Gardens offers a variety of hands-on field trips in the Arboretum for students pre-K through grade 10, with topics including Trees and Seasons, Wildlife 101, Race Around the Rim, and much more. Explorer Packs are also available to rent for use in self-guided field trips.
W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory
316 S G St.
Tacoma, WA 98405
This historic glass conservatory, with its distinctive twelve-sided central dome, is listed on the City of Tacoma, Washington State and National historic registers. School groups can learn about the extensive exotic and seasonal plants, the history of the conservatory and the trees in Wright Park. Many groups combine this visit with a visit to the nearby Karpeles Manuscript Museum.