Family Ecology Tours

June 14th, 2012 by Arboretum Education Supervisor, Patrick Mulligan

We’re excited to announce a new focus area for UWBG’s Education & Outreach Program at the Washington Park Arboretum – families!  We’ve done School Fieldtrips since the 80’s and will be offering Summer Camps for 1st – 6th graders for the second year come July, but we’d like to engage an older audience too. adults, after all, are really just big kids.

So be on the lookout for our new “Family Ecology Tours” and help us bring our fun, hands-on version of environmental education to “kids” of all ages.

Our first program is this Saturday, so come join us!


(“Park in the Dark” night hikes just around the corner)

June 16th: Citizen Science: Water Works for 6-12 year olds, 1-3pm

Help us kick off our participation in the “World Water Monitoring Challenge” – an international education and outreach program to build public awareness and involvement in protecting water resources around the world by engaging citizens to conduct basic monitoring of their local water bodies. Come learn about our watershed, water quality testing and the world of water. We will collect our first set of water quality data from Lake Washington, play some games, dip for macro invertebrates and dive into ways to keep our water clean.



Register Now for Arboretum Summer Camps

April 29th, 2012 by Sarah Heller, Community Programs Coordinator & Fiddleheads Forest School Director

During the Seattle Public Schools’ Spring Break week, the Washington Park Arboretum hosted a spring-themed camp program for ten students in 1st-5th grade. Scroll through these photos and captions to see how much fun we had and how much fun YOU could have at our Summer Camps this summer!

On the first day of camp the students came up with our team name – The Buzzing Bees. We did lots of bzzzzzing during the week and there was a bee-themed mural made to honor our team name.

A pair of campers play Meet-A-Tree. The blindfolded child is getting to know his tree with all of his senses – here he is licking the tree (DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME:)! His partner is waiting until he feels like he knows his tree well enough to find it later. She will walk him (blindfolded) back to the starting spot, making sure to take a new path. There she will take off his blindfold and he will have to find his tree!

One day we made an edible salad from native plants. The campers all proclaimed that they do not like salad so we came up with two new names – Wild Greens and Garden Yum! The concoction consisted of wood sorrel, big-leaf maple flower buds, salmon berry flowers, red huckleberry flowers, and dandilion flowers and leaves. We also made teas during the week from stinging nettle, the western hemlock tree and western red cedar.



On Monday we worked as a team to do the Bird-Themed Scavenger Hunt, which took us through the wetland area in search of birds with informational tags on them. We sucessfully found all the birds and cracked the code! At the tip of foster island we took a break in the sun to make daisy chains, explore the water’s edge and do a WAM (Water Appreciation Moment – someone says something they are thankful for and we all take a big sip of water).

We also made some time to let free giggles and energy while playing tail tag! Everyone has a tail and the objective is to steal as many tails as you can without having your own tail stolen.

Wednesday was our water day – we visited the two woodland ponds to see what’s in them. We brought along some tools: small and large dipping nets, white-bottomed trays, pipettes, and field guides. It’s still early spring, but we did find a variety of egg sacs, an aquatic earthworm, a snail shell, mosquito larve and a water strider.

It’s the time of year to plant and prep gardens for a full season of growing food. We grow vegetables in garden beds behind our greenhouse to use during summer camp. Spring break campers helped us out by weeding the beds and planting kale and lettuce starts. They also painted a pot and planted seeds in it to take home, and made mosaic garden tiles to either put in our garden or take home.

Missed Spring Break Camp? Check out our Summer Camps – they’re filling quickly!


Bird-Themed Scavenger Hunt at the Arboretum – April 14-22

April 13th, 2012 by Sarah Heller, Community Programs Coordinator & Fiddleheads Forest School Director

Come learn about local birds and the plants that attract them. Crack the code and receive a prize!  Two scavenger hunts are available: 8 and under; 9 and over. Pick up your scavenger sheet at the Graham Visitor Center (GVC) between 10am and 4pm or print them from these links:

Spring Scavenger Hunt – 8 and under

Spring Scavenger Hunt – 9 and over


If you come when the GVC is closed there is a blue folder located to the side of the front door with clue sheets inside.

Hidden throughout the Arboretum wetlands are birds and laminated cards clipped to trees, shrubs and benches waiting for you to find them. When you do, leave them where they are, but use their secret letters to fill the blanks and crack the code.

Return your sheet to the visitor center or mail them to us and we will mail you a prize! Good luck, have fun and Happy Spring!

If you have a smart phone there will be QR codes you can scan along the way for more facts on the birds and plants you will be visiting.


Earth Day for the Whole Family!

April 3rd, 2012 by Sarah Heller, Community Programs Coordinator & Fiddleheads Forest School Director

Celebrate Earth Day at the Arboretum on April 22nd from 10am-12pm!

Washington Park Arboretum and Wilderness Awareness School have teamed up to offer a family-friendly Earth Day event. Bring your family, bring your friends and come celebrate the earth, play games, do a small service project and eat yummy earth snacks.


Are you Ready for Spring?

March 7th, 2012 by Sarah Heller, Community Programs Coordinator & Fiddleheads Forest School Director

I know I am! I went for a walk through the Arboretum wetlands yesterday to gather some photos and information for our upcoming spring scavenger hunt (stay tuned for more info later this month!) and it truly felt like spring. Here’s what I saw:

Thimbleberry leafing out:

Flowering Indian plum:

So many water birds:

Blooming (or ready to bloom) tall Oregon grape:

Sunshine + pussy willow buds:

Grab your friends, family or come alone and see how many signs of spring you can find. If you have kids in 1st-6th grade sign them up for our Spring Break Camp where we will be adventuring in the Arboretum and looking for (and learning about) all the signs of spring we can find.


Where in the Arboretum is this?

February 22nd, 2012 by Sarah Heller, Community Programs Coordinator & Fiddleheads Forest School Director

The Washington Park Arboretum is full of quiet nooks, unusual plants, and hidden groves where our imagination can run free and our curiosity is hooked.  Bring your family and come find this special spot!

Sequoia trees in the Pinetum collection

Who are they? This is a grove of sequoia trees, also known as:

 Giant sequoia – Sierra redwood – Sequoiadendron giganteum – big-tree – mammoth-tree


Did you know?

These giant trees are all more than 70 years old and the tallest is 139 feet tall and 13 feet and 11 inches round.

The word “sequoia” contains all five vowels.

This quiet grove of sequoia trees is a favorite destination of our school groups and summer camps. We might play meet-a-tree or hide-and-seek, or eat our lunch in their shade or discover how trees grow and reproduce, and act out a tree’s life cycle.


To find this place you have to cross this:

Photo of the wilcox bridge


And walk to the left of this:

 Photo of the play structure


Why don’t you come and visit these friendly giants? You could:

  • Play hide and seek
  • Feel their bark and find a cone
  • Have a picnic underneath these mysterious mammoths
  • Find out how many humans it takes to wrap around one
  • Read a story sitting against one of their trunks (all available at CUH’s Miller Library)
    • The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
    • A Grand Old Tree by Mary Newell DePalma
    • Ancient Ones: The World of the Old-Growth Douglas Fir by Barbara Bash
    • A Tree is Growing by Arthur Dorros


  • Act out the life cycle of a tree!

Become a seed (curl up in a tight ball) – Now sprout! (Uncurl and kneel) – Grow a branch by sticking out one of your arms – Grow another branch, stick out the other arm – Grow leaves (wiggle your fingers) = Grow tall (stand up, feet together) – Grow roots (spread your feet apart) – Grow rootlets (wiggle your toes) – Oh no! You are being attacked by insects and fungi (start scratching all over – Lose a limb to lighting (make a loud noise and put your arm by your side) – Become a home for wildlife (smile!) – Woodpeckers looking for insects start exploring your dead wood (make a knocking noise) – You are blown down (make a creaking noise and fall down) – Become a nurse log, a new seed sprouts from rotting wood (stick one arm up).


  • Play a game!

I Like Trees

One person stands in the middle and everyone else finds a tree to stand in front of. Have each person mark their tree by putting a bandana, backpack or other visible item in front of it. The person standing in the middle (not next to a tree) says “I like___” and fills in the blank with something they like (could be about trees, or anything!). If other people like that thing too then they leave their tree and have to find another tree to touch (one with a marking in front of it). The person who called out “I like ____” also tries to find a tree to stand in front of. One person will be left without a tree and then it is their turn to stand in the middle and say “I like___” about something. Keep playing until everyone has had a turn in the middle.


Tree Tag

This is a great game for younger kids. Have each kid pick a tree. Maybe encourage them to get to know their tree a bit before the game starts. When you say “tree” or “sequoia” (or whatever word you decide to be the “go” word) the kids run and touch another tree. Do this over and over and the kids will love running from tree to tree and waiting for you to call out the word. Mix it up a little and say other words to help build the anticipation before you say your “go” word.



Jacobson, A. L. (2006). Trees of seattle. (2nd ed., pp. 362-363). Seattle: Arthur Lee Jacobson.



Fall Harvest Hunt

November 15th, 2011 by Arboretum Education Supervisor, Patrick Mulligan


Fall is a magical time of year in the Washington Park Arboretum. The sun-breaks, though few and far between, cast a glow on the myriad shades of change as if looking through some sort of filter. The air is crisp and clear and smells like a fort built by small hands for big and imaginative reasons. Walking through the woods, trudging through the leaves sends one’s mind toward the snow to come. I happened upon a collection of families yesterday armed with rakes and aspirations to make the biggest leaf pile ever. Their shrieks of unbound enjoyment were music to my ears as they leaped and swam about – good clean fun at its finest. McDonald’s ball-pit, eat your heart out.

If you’re one of those families that likes to get outside and enjoy each others company in the company of trees and birds and squirrels, we’re making it easy for you. Come take part in our inaugural “Fall Harvest Hunt”, a self-guided scavenger hunt at the Arboretum. There will be 9 hidden gourds, each one possessing a secret letter. Pick up a clue sheet at the Graham Visitor’s Center to find all nine and crack the secret code. Then come back sometime during regular business hours to redeem your cracked code for a small prize. So if you’re looking for some good clean fun with the family this Thanksgiving, we’ve got you covered.



Bioblitz 2011

September 9th, 2011 by Arboretum Education Supervisor, Patrick Mulligan


The UW Botanic Gardens is pleased to announce BIOBLITZ 2011, the 3rd installation of a long-term citizen science experiment aimed at measuring and tracking biodiversity within the Washington Park Arboretum – a 230 acre collection of trees founded in 1934 making it Seattle’s 4th oldest public park.

Bioblitz 2010 was held last May and attended by over 100 volunteers comprised of scientists, both professional and aspiring, of all ages and interests. Approximately 400 species from a variety of taxa groups, including a potentially new species of Philodromus crab spider.

foster island phil1The Fungus Among Us”, a special edition held in partnership with the Puget Sound Mycological Society and focused entirely on mushrooms was held in October, 2010. Close to 80 volunteers collected approximately 500 specimens during four 3-hour shifts.

With these base line numbers, we now have some idea of who is calling the WPA “home”, but these two surveys provide only snapshots of the ever changing story being played out upon this piece of urban green space. In order to gain a deeper understanding of this special place, we strive to duplicate our experiment and turn these snapshots into a movie. Our mission at the UWBG is to “sustain managed to natural ecosystems and the human spirit through plant research, display, and education.” You are invited to help us fulfill that mission by taking part in this unique event.

What: Small field groups surveying various habitats for different taxa groups during six 2.5 hour shifts over a 24 hour period.

When:  October 21 – 22

What time:

Friday, Oct. 21st                                                            Saturday, Oct. 22nd

  • 3pm-5:30                                                                     7am – 9am
  • 5:30 – 7pm (cookout dinner/lecture)              9am – 11:30
  • 7pm – 9pm                                                                   12pm – 2:30
  • 9pm – 11:30                                                                  2:30 – 3pm (show & tell)

Who:  Anyone and everyone, no experience necessary, just a healthy curiosity.

Cost:  FREE

How:  RSVP for specific shifts to or call 206-616-3381