About Project Explore’s Outdoor Education Lessons

What is Project Explore all about?

“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

Who is eligible?

  • Classroom teachers and school educators in various NC counties.
  • Available for all grade levels, Pre-K through 12th grade.

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 130 teachers and 7700 students in 21 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.

Free Guided Lessons

Project EXPLORE’s team of professional environmental educators will provide models of outdoor education techniques for participating teachers in grades pre-K-12 through an introductory lesson at the beginning of the school year. Additional support will be provided throughout the school year and a discussion and wrap-up activity incorporating the N.C. Standard Course of Study with students will conclude at years end.

Real Science Outdoors

Engaging students in citizen science encourages students to collect and submit scientific information to real life scientists, which will assist in their research and data analysis. Each week, teachers will conduct 15-minute outdoor observations with their students on a project of their choice, including birds, squirrels or plants. Data will be submitted to real scientific research studies.

Hands-On Curriculum Guide

Project EXPLORE’s teacher created curriculum guide includes hands-on, interdisciplinary activities that support your students’ science research and includes science, English, math and social studies lessons for grades K-12. This guide will allow Project EXPLORE participants the opportunity to incorporate students’ data collection into the standard course of study throughout the year.

How to Participate


Apply for the Mini Grant


Get access to the NC Arboretum Curriculum and receive two free guided lessons at your school


Receive access to teacher-submitted lesson plans and share your own lesson plans


Become a Project EXPLORE Graduate after 2 years of participation

Teacher’s Commitment and Certification

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, students will have the opportunity to present their data in various settings. Teachers also receive a small grant award to purchase materials and can borrow field equipment to borrow for the school year.

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.