Self-Guided School Trips

Self-Guided School Trips

  • Several children playing in the arboretum grass
  • A teacher and several children looking at a flowering tree
  • Four young men standing near a creek holding a giant leaf.
  • Group of students sitting in a circle working on class assignment.
  • Three young women sitting in leaf covered grass writing.

All self-guided groups must register before coming to the Arboretum.

The Arnold Arboretum is a living laboratory for science learning, as well as a place of quiet reflection for art and writing projects. Whether you are a teacher looking to bring your class on a field trip, or a parent interested in learning opportunities for your children, the Arboretum is an ideal site for self-guided exploration.
If you teach in the City of Boston, you may qualify for a bus funding grant to receive free transportation to and from the Arnold Arboretum.

Guidelines [pdf]

1. Rules:

  • Respect the trees and the many other visitors who are learning here.
  • To preserve the health and beauty of the trees, students may not pick, pull, or climb on the trees. Students may gently touch plant parts to feel texture and smell scents. Students may collect plant material that has fallen to the ground.
  • Walking in plant beds or mulched areas is not allowed.

2. Buses:

  • Schools should plan to drop off students outside the gates and park along the Arborway or Bussey Street. (see map)
  • Make sure the bus driver understands that buses cannot drive through the landscape.
  • If you need special accommodations, please contact us at 617.384.5239.

3. Public Transportation:

  • The Arboretum is easily accessible from the Forest Hills T stop, and by Bus #35, #38, #39, and #51.

4. The Visitor Center:

  • Here you will find a scale model of the Arboretum, changing art exhibits, seasonal highlight displays, and friendly staff who can guide your visit and answer questions.
  • If you would like to bring students inside, plan to enter in staggered groups of 10 or less, always accompanied by a supervising adult.
  • Use indoor voices.
  • Note that the Visitor Center is closed on Wednesdays.

5. Bathrooms:

  • Bathrooms are located in the Hunnewell Building, which is open from 9am to 5pm weekdays.
  • Plan for students to use the facilities in small staggered groups, with a supervising adult.
  • Use indoor voices.
  • There are portable toilets right inside the Main Gate, near the Dana Greenhouses, and on Peters Hill.

6. Picnics:

  • School groups may picnic on the grounds, as a special exception to our no-picnicking policy.
  • Plan to carry out all trash, or use the receptacles available throughout the park.
  • We do not have storage for lunches, nor do we have any indoor space in case of rain.


Suggestions for a Successful Trip [pdf]

1. Proper clothing includes closed-toe comfortable shoes, long pants and socks to pull over pants—no skin exposed. Review our page about ticks.

2. Bring water.

3. Adults can carry a backpack containing:

  • Coloring materials and paper for making observational drawings. If students have science journals, bring them to record learning.
  • Tape to affix found plant material next to drawing.
  • Tupperware or plastic bags for collecting found material of interest.
  • Bug boxes/magnifying viewers/hand lenses for close observation of small animals and plant material.
  • Binoculars for observing birds, trees, across the ponds, etc.
  • Child friendly field guides.
  • Activity sheets or other visual organizers to record learning.
  • Printed map of the Arboretum.

4. Bring a waterproof tarp or mat for sitting on while visiting the grounds. An easy, inexpensive and large mat is a vinyl picnic tablecloth (the kind with flannel on the back.)

5. All group leaders should have a basic first aid kit containing assorted bandages, gauze, adhesive tape, antiseptic wipes, insect bite ointment, Neosporin or other antibiotic ointment for scratches, 2 pairs of non-latex gloves, and hand sanitizer

  • Don’t forget individual child medications, such as Epi-Pens.

6. Make sure all adults know the plan for the field trip including where and when to meet up at the end, and carry cell phones in case of emergency.

Cherries in spring

Self-guided groups explore the ponds.

Activity Sheets:

Pre-School Through Grade 5:

Self-Guided search for insects

Search for invertebrates!

In addition to the above, check out the Discovery Packs at the Visitor Center!

Middle School and High School: