Check out the Arboretum’s free Discovery Packs, supported by a gift from the Arnold Arboretum Committee. Be part of the Explorer’s Club and go on an adventure in the Arboretum. Living Museum, Science Lab, and Be an Engineer backpacks can be borrowed from the Visitor Center and are suitable for families with kids over the age of three.
How Does it Work?
- Come to the Hunnewell Visitor Center to check out a free backpack. Packs are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Last checkout is 2:00pm, and packs must be returned by 4:00pm. During busy times, a time limit may be imposed. You will be asked to leave an item of value (keys, credit card, or driver’s license) while you are borrowing the pack.
- Choose from three packs:
- Living Museum or Science Lab
- There are several activities in each pack, with enough supplies for four people to participate in each activity. Plan to do one activity on each visit; you may do more if your children are older or if you are planning a longer visit.
- Be an Engineer
- Try our newest addition! Connect bamboo sticks and stick-lets to create bridges, shelters, swings, sculptures, and whatever else the imagination conjures. The entire family will enjoy planning, problem-solving, and creating structures together.
- Living Museum or Science Lab
- Activities are suitable for families and after school groups with children over the age of three. Some activities are better suited for younger kids, some work better with older kids. Adults can customize the activities so they work best for your child’s developmental level. Adult participation is fun and important!
- Before exploring, adults should read the instruction sheet for each activity, and look for “Tips for Adults” cards with special information and discussion ideas.
- Call the Visitor Center at 617.384.5209 if you have questions.
Explorers Club Activity Descriptions
Living Museum Pack: The Arboretum is a tree museum. How do we take care of a museum with a living collection?
Items on bingo cards encourage observation and identification of tree characteristics. There are four different cards, so you can share one card as a group or compete against up to four individuals or teams. Good for a short or long walk. All ages.
Collect & Sort
Objects can be classified and organized in different ways; trees are the objects in the Arboretum’s museum collection. Collect items from around the Arboretum (on the ground only!) and then create a museum exhibit. Good for a short or long walk. All ages.
Champion Tree Challenge
Find the biggest tree of your visit, a.k.a. the champion tree. There are two card sets: yellow cards explore measurement through play, using our bodies as measuring tools. Green cards use real tools, like the ones used by Arboretum staff, to record actual tree measurements. Good for a short or long walk. Yellow cards for younger kids; green cards for older kids.
Science Lab Pack: Let’s be scientists exploring plants. What kind of plant science happens at the Arboretum?
Items on tic-tac-tree cards encourage observation and identification of plants and tools used in science research happening in the Arboretum. There are four different cards, so you can share one card as a group or compete against up to four individuals or teams. Good for a short or long walk. All ages.
Hula Hoop Eyes
Use your senses to create and then test a hypothesis. Set up a hula hoop on the ground and observe what’s inside the circle. Will it be different in a different location? Good for a short walk. All ages, but younger kids will not complete the hypothesis portion.
Is it Alive?
We understand the world by sorting and organizing. Sort picture cards into categories (alive vs. not alive, plant vs. animal), then use the cards to illustrate parts of a tree’s life cycle and look for the parts on a walk. Good for a short or long walk. Suitable for all ages, with modifications.
The Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) needs to stay out of the Arboretum! Learn to identify trees using a key, then find trees in the Arboretum to make sure that no ALB is present. About a 1.5 mile walk. Suitable for older kids. (Younger kids could do the identification only, or try to identify and find only a few of the trees.)
Engineering Pack: building lab kit invites creativity for visiting families
Do your kids love to play with sticks? Do they drag them around, use them for swordplay, or make music with them? A new free activity can help you explore the Arboretum while giving your kids a creative way to play with sticks in our landscape.
Designed to encourage engineers and architects of all ages, the Building Lab Kit is now available for borrowing in the Visitor Center. The kit includes safety glasses, 36 bamboo sticks in 3 different sizes, and a set of 24 stick-lets, all housed in an easy-to-tote shoulder bag. The kit also includes an introductory pamphlet—available in English and Spanish—with guidelines and suggestions for use.
What are stick-lets, you may ask? These colorful, flexible silicone shapes provide multiple ways to connect the bamboo sticks to create bridges, shelters, swings, sculptures, and whatever else the imagination conjures. The entire family will enjoy planning, problem-solving, and creating structures together. When done, share your genius with the world by taking a picture of your creation and posting it on Instagram (tag @arnold_arboretum).
Be among the first to use the Building Lab Kit and tinker with construction in our landscape!