Programs for Exploring the Natural World

Nature Study

MONDAY(S) 3:30-4:00pm

February 5 & 19 | March 4 & 18 | April 1, 15, & 29 | May 13

For youth of any age and their families

We'll meet at the family garden pavilion for a short nature walk to find one of our native plants! We will make careful observations, learn some facts and lore, and do a little relaxed sketching. Bring a notebook or paper and some colored pencils. Rain or Shine.


Register Here



magnolia bloom
Snowflake Bentley Book Cover

Wondercraft: Snowflake Making

Monday, Feb. 12 at 10:30 a.m. (Rockingham County schools are off)
Monday, Feb. 19 at 10:30 a.m. (Harrisonburg City, Augusta, Page, & Shenandoah County schools are off)

In light of school being out on these days, join us for this wonderful Wondercraft activity! We’ll meet in the Frances Plecker Education Center to share the true story of Snowflake Bentley and take a closer look at the fascinating structure of snow. Then we’ll enjoy making our own paper snowflakes to brighten up a winter wonderland. Whether you’re a beginner or have made entire blizzards before, we’ll have suggestions and instructions to step up your paper snowflake skills!

Register Here

campers and counselor in herb garden at arboretum camp

Arboretum Explorer Camp 2024

For rising 1st through 3rd graders: July 29 - August 2 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. daily

For rising 4th through 6th graders: August 5 - 9 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. daily

The Arboretum Explorer Camp is the perfect place for budding naturalists, animal lovers, and young outdoor enthusiasts. With explorations, activities, and crafts thoughtfully curated by arboretum staff this week is designed to help children deepen their friendship with nature! Instructors will include Arboretum staff, JMU students, and local naturalists. This year's theme is Incredible Invertebrates

Registration will open through the JMU School of Professional and Continuing Education Youth Programs at the end of January. 

Register Here

The Great Backyard Bird Count is Feb. 16-19 

FREE, for all ages! We’re excited to join the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for this community science blitz! Participate for 15 minutes or more, from wherever you are—details at  Stop by the Frances Plecker Education Center the week of February 12 to pickup a free checklist of local birds you're likely to spot. 

You can also join us at the Frances Plecker Education Center on Saturday, Feb. 17 for one of our educational programs. 
Bird Count Participant:  Friday, Feb. 16 through Monday, Feb. 20—anywhere, anytime!  You're welcome to come birding at the Arboretum, but you can participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count anywhere. Check out for more information. If you register, we can email you a checklist of birds in our arboretum birding hotspot. 
Bird Feeding Frenzy:   Saturday, Feb. 17 at 1:30 p.m. (Program designed for kids, but interested adults are welcome)
We will learn about what foods birds need to survive--what they eat and why, how different beak shapes benefit birds, and what's important to know about setting up a bird feeder. Participants will make a bird feeder out of recycled materials to take home. 
See our bird count programs designed for adults on our general events page

Register Here

The Backpack Program

Pre-School - Elementary

Explore the Arboretum with themed activities! This program is FREE. Backpacks are located in the lobby of the Frances Plecker Education Center, Monday - Friday (8 AM - 4 PM)

How it Works

1. Sign out a backpack of your choice:

- Reptiles & Amphibians
- Flowers
- Exploring Trees
- Forest Mammals
- Butterflies
- Insects
- Macroinvertebrate Study

2. Leave a driver's license with us, to be picked up after the backpack is returned.

3. Enjoy the backpack's activities and adventure onward!

Programs Supporting Literacy, Imagination, and the Arts in the Natural World

Storytime in the Understory

Hibernating until Spring 

Pre-School - Elementary suggested

Bring a blanket if you like and come enjoy nature-themed reading. We will meet in the At Home in the Woods Family Garden in the Storytime area! In inclement weather, we will meet inside the Frances Plecker Education Center.


Fairy House/Gnome Home Building

Hibernating until Spring 

Pre-School - Elementary suggested

Come hear an enchanting story about woodland fairies and build your very own fairy house or gnome home out of natural materials found in the woods!

Back to Top