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