Arboretum Workshop Descriptions

The Arboretum offers adult and family appropriate workshops on a variety of topics. Please consult our workshops page for currently running workshops.

Arts and Photography

greeting card image

This workshop for both novice and experienced painters covers the basic techniques and tools necessary to create your own greeting card using watercolours and simple calligraphy. Materials are provided, but participants are also welcome to bring their own.
*Maximum 20 adults when held in person.

image of jewellery

In this workshop participants learn to create something beautiful with treasures found on the forest floor! All materials and tools will be provided, and everyone will leave with at least two pieces. A great family activity. Children 9+ years old are welcome to register with a registered adult.
A great family activity. Children 9+ years old are welcome to register with a registered adult.
*Maximum 20 participants when held in person.

Focusing on sketching techniques and note-taking, this workshop is designed for beginners who want a permanent record of their observations of nature.
*Maximum 20 adults when held in person.

a painting image

This program is designed for beginners to discover the natural world and the fun of watercolour painting. Those with experience are welcome to join, too. .
*Maximum 10 participants when held in person.

smartphone photo

This workshop seeks to open the door to the world of photography that can be achieved simply through a mobile phone. Timed to take place during the golden hour on a spring evening, participants will learn some basic concepts and skills using their own mobile devices. iPhone or Android, beginner or expert, all are invited to come take some photos.
*Maximum 18 adults when held in person.

watercolour image

This fun 4-week class focuses on the Canadian landscape. Participants learn a variety of techniques to help them build confidence painting in watercolour, learn about colour theory, and develop their own personal style. No experience necessary. After registration participants receive a list of supplies to bring with them to the workshop.
*Maximum 20 adults when held in person.

decorative painting of a landscape

Learn how to capture the Canadian landscape outdoors or en plein air like the Group of Seven using watercolour paint. Workshops cover supplies needed, set up, techniques, and how to finish a painting quickly and accurately with changing light. After registration, participants receive a list of supplies to bring with them to the workshop.
*Maximum 20 adults when held in person.

decorative watercolour painting of a spring landscape

Participants will learn several techniques in watercolour and put them together to create lovely spring landscapes. Beginner and intermediate classes are offered.
*Maximum 20 adults when held in person.

decorative watercolour painting of a winter landscape

Winter landscapes do not have to be bleak and boring. This workshop explores a variety of ways to paint glistening snow and ice, and participants learn how to paint expressive and vibrant winter landscapes in watercolour.
*Maximum 20 adults when held in person.


Astronomy

Planetarium sessions are live and interactive. Families are welcome. Registrants under age 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Participants are encouraged to bring questions to ask during the workshops. *In person workshops have a maximum capacity of 25 participants.

The planetarium dome is 5 meters in diameter. This small, intimate space requires most participants to be seated on the floor during presentations. Foam floor cushions are provided. The dome is wheelchair accessible. In addition, chair seating can be accommodated for up to 3 guests, if requested in advance.

Check out this video of a past Planetarium Workshop with guest instructor Trevor Chandler.

Planetarium Photo

Astronomy Foundations is an online course designed to introduce and orient astronomy enthusiasts to the night sky. Over the 12 sessions, a wide range of topics are covered, from understanding our place in space, finding our way in the sky, and understanding a little more of the wide variety of astronomical objects that await your discovery. Each session focuses on a specific astronomical topic in detail. These topics will include why the sky looks and moves as it does, the nature of planets and other solar system bodies, where stars come from, how they evolve and where they’re going, and how astronomers have learned what they are and how they have estimated their staggering distances. Clusters of stars small and large as well as the great “Star Cities” - the galaxies, such as our own Milky Way will be covered. Throughout the sessions there will be reviews on how to use the star maps to find some of the best and brightest of the night sky’s offerings for yourself.

Planetarium Photo

Planets are always on the move, as are we! This planetarium program series explores the planets, stars, and constellations that are visible in the night sky each month. Participants learn how to orient themselves in the sky to find the Big Dipper and how it can be used to find North. Every workshop explores at least one constellation or planet and its mythology, the brighter stars in the sky and their names, lore and meaning, as well as a few of the astronomical objects located within the boundaries of the featured constellation. If weather conditions permit, participants may be invited outside under the stars to see the real deal through a telescope.

  • January features the planets Mercury and Orion.
  • February features the planets Venus and Taurus.
  • March features the planets Uranus and Gemini.
  • April features the planet Gemini and Earth's Moon.
  • May features the planets Leo and Neptune.
  • June features the planets Virgo and Mercury.
  • July features the constellation Hercules.
  • August features the planet Mars.
  • October features the planet Saturn, minor planet Pluto, and the Constellation Cygnus.
  • November features the planets Uranus and Neptune, and the Constellation Cassiopeia.
starry sky

This planetarium program introduces the history of navigation using the stars, reviews why stellar navigation was developed, and how the North Star and Polaris can be used to determine compass points and to estimate latitude. The planetarium will be used to simulate how the stars appear to change when viewed from different latitudes on Earth. Is there such a thing as a South Star? Families are welcome and encouraged.

photo of a moon

There are currently eight planets in our solar system. Orbiting many of these planets are a wide variety of moons, each one of them with its own unique story to tell. This program explores some of the differences between planets and moons and will introduce some of the major moons of our solar system. Participants learn the definitions for celestial bodies like, “star”, “planet”, moon”, and “orbit” and the associated sizes, distances, and scales. How the motions of the Earth, Sun and our Moon and cause the Earth’s moon cycles through phases will also be covered.  The first 30 minutes of the program is spent outside of the dome working with physical models of the Earth, Sun, and Moon to help understand what we see in the sky.

Mars

This program provides an opportunity to explore the some of the basic scientific facts that have been discovered about one of our closest space neighbors - Mars. Mars appears to have once been a lot like Earth, with oceans and a dense atmosphere, but then it all went horribly wrong. Much of what we have learned about Mars has come from robotic missions that seem to give rise to as many questions as are answered. This workshop also includes a review of astronomy terms such as “planet” and “orbit”. Participants learn about the physical characteristics of Mars and how to recognize Mars and other planets in the night sky.

Planetarium Photo

The Constellation Hercules - the champion - is prominently positioned in the mid-summer sky. This region of the sky also happens to be the direction toward which our solar system is heading as it makes its long circuit around the center of the Milky Way once every 250 million years or so. Although it is the 5th largest of the 88 constellations, Hercules does not contain many bright stars, but it abounds with objects that are visible even with a small telescope. Perhaps its most beautiful feature is the Great Hercules Star Cluster, a swarm of about one million bluish suns.
This workshop also includes a review of astronomy terms such as “planet” and “orbit”. Participants learn how to recognize the Constellation Hercules and other celestial objects in the night sky.

 


Birds

photo of birds

This workshop is for those who don't know where to start but want to become a bird watcher. Over lunch participants watch Arboretum birds and study their behaviour. Topics from identifying birds to choosing and using binoculars, basic ornithology by studying anatomy, breeding biology, classification, and habitat requirements will be covered. Participants are encouraged to bring a lunch, plus a bird book and binoculars, if possible.
*Maximum 18 adults when held in person.

photo grid of 8 birds with the number 8 in the center

Birding has become an even more popular hobby now that more people are home and enjoying nature. Why not take it to the next level? This workshop series includes eight noon-hour lectures on eight different bird groups: hawks, ducks, sparrows, sandpipes, gulls, spring warblers, fall warblers, and spring migrants. ID techniques, field marks, shapes, behaviour clues, and more will be covered. Each workshop includes a 10-15 minute discussion period for bird-related questions.

photo of a gull

This workshop has been designed to help you develop your skills in the identification of wintering gulls. Through a variety of hands-on activities participants will learn about gull plumage, size differences, bill shapes, and behaviours of 13 different gull species. Where to the best places to watch gulls are and how some gull species have adapted to the urban environment are also covered.
*Maximum 18 adults when held in person.

photo of a hawk

This workshop has been designed to help you develop your skills in identifying migrating hawks, falcons, vultures, eagles, and osprey.  Through a wide variety of hands-on activities participants will learn about plumage, body shape, foraging techniques, flight patterns, and the migration times of 15 species. An information booklet is provided.
*Maximum 18 adults when held in person..

Owl Workshop

Discover how to use your eyes and ears to identify Ontario's Owls. Through a wide variety of hands-on activities participants will learn about owl plumage, calls and behaviour, habitat requirements, migration patterns, and owl folklore.

Check out this video of a past Owl Workshop.

Owl Prowl

Learn about the behaviour and adaptations of owls in the Guelph area. The introduction to this program will take place indoors, but participants are encouraged to dress warmly in preparation for a walk outdoors at night. This program is for adults and teens aged 14+. 
*Maximum 25 people when held in person.

Watch this video about the Owl Prowl to learn more.

Owl Prowl

Learn about the behaviour and adaptations of owls in the Guelph area.  The introduction to this program will take place indoors, but participants are encouraged to dress warmly in preparation for a walk outdoors at night. This program is for adults and children under 14.
*Maximum 25 participants when held in person.

Watch this video about the Owl Prowl to learn more.

photo of shore birds

A workshop on one of the most difficult groups of birds to identify. Using plumage, shape, size, calls, and behaviour, participants learn  to identify and distinguish sandpipers, plovers, phalaropes, turnstones, knots, godwits, and whimbrels.  If you are up for the challenge, this is the workshop for you!
*Maximum 18 adults when held in person.

This workshop begins with an early morning hike in The Arboretum to get you tuned into bird sounds. Participants learn how to develop their listening skills to identify that bird "way up there behind all those leaves." A variety of techniques will be used to help participants describe and remember the different songs and calls of birds such as flycatchers, vireos, thrushes, and woodpeckers.
*Maximum 18 adults when held in person.

photo of Songbirds

Songbirds, also known as the 'perching birds' or 'passerines', are by far the most diverse bird group accounting for 60% of known bird species on Earth. In this workshop, participants learn how to use shape and other key characteristics to simplify identifying songbirds. Learning how to ID different passerine families makes for exciting and interesting connections between different species and helps to build a story around a group of birds rather than memorizing individual species. This workshop series includes four lectures covering all of Ontario's songbird families including stories about the various survival strategies of this amazing group of birds. An optional guided walk to practice songbird family ID is also included.
*Maximum 40 adults when held in person.

photo of a sparrow

This workshop explores how to identify and study the 19 species of sparrows found in Ontario. Through hands-on activities, participants learn about the plumages, songs, and habitats of this difficult-to-identify group. This workshop takes place over lunch and includes a hike through The Arboretum looking for our resident sparrows. An information booklet will be provided.
*Maximum 18 adults when held in person.

warbler

Through a wide variety of hands-on activities participants learn about the plumage, song and behaviour of warblers, and investigate warbler habitat requirements and the timing of their migration. An information booklet is provided.

This workshop covers 15 less commonly seen southern Ontario warblers that are not covered in the Level I Warbler Workshop.  Participants will receive an information booklet.

warbler photo

This workshop takes begins with a stroll through The Arboretum listening to and identifying the bird songs, after which participants spend time reviewing warbler songs and develop a method of remembering warbler songs.
*Maximum 18 adults when held in person.


Nature Discovery

photo of a man smiling

Ask you garden related questions in this free one-hour live session (delivered on Zoom).

ask the nat Photo

Ask your nature and wildlife related questions in a free one-hour live session (delivered on Zoom).

photo of smiling people

Participants will be guided through meaningful and fun invitations to ease them into full body senses with a Certified Forest Therapy Guide.


Gardening and Horticulture

the art and practice of pruning

This half-day indoor/outdoor practical workshop teaches the principles of easy and correct pruning in the home landscape. Participants learn how to choose the right equipment and how to keep it sharp and clean. Pruning techniques will be shown and practiced on a variety of shrubs and small trees.
**Maximum 16 adults when held in person.

photo of plants

Diversity is the emphasis of this full-day course on how to grow your own native trees and shrubs. Characteristic seeds for the workshop will be collected while touring part of The Arboretum. Participants learn the techniques for cleaning, treating, and sowing seeds; and how to protect them as seeds and young plants. A tour of The Arboretum's native plant nursery is included.
*Maximum 16 adults when held in person.

gardening image

Gardening Fundamentals is a series of courses designed for both the beginner and experienced gardener. Course material covers basic information to provide a good grounding and then goes on to introduce advanced topics that are normally not found in gardening books. Participants learn the fundamentals of gardening, how to plant and maintain the best garden on the block, and have an opportunity to have all of their gardening questions answered by local master gardeners.

Watch master gardener Robert Pavlis being interviewed by Rogers TV about the Gardening Fundamentals workshop.

photo of plant propagation

This full-day course introduces participants to the wonderful world of creating new plants. The morning session focuses on growing plants from seeds and include topics such as, collecting, cleaning, storing, dormancy, and stratification. Growing under lights in pots, winter sowing, and germination using the baggy method will also be discussed. The afternoon focuses on vegetative propagation including division, cuttings, layering, and budding. This course provides the foundation you need to propagate thousands of different plants, including perennials, shrubs, and trees.
*Maximum 20 adults when held in person.

image of a tree

This full-day program helps participants refine their skills to identify trees in Ontario. The focus of the workshop is on learning the important identification characteristics of difficult tree groups such as the cherry, oak and walnut families as well as the easier groups such as ash and maple. The afternoon is spent outside identifying trees in the forest as well as young cultivated trees with their Eurasian counterparts in the World of Trees collection.  Participants are encouraged to bring their field guides and binoculars.
*Maximum 16 adults when held in person.

decorative graphic of garden planning

Learn how to design a diverse garden space that attracts native wildlife species through key design elements, plant choices and maintenance needs. This course will draw from concepts found in The Arboretum’s Gosling Wildlife Gardens, while also offering insight on design features and plant species that have proven to be successful in our local Ontario setting. From attracting endangered pollinators to gardening with native plants, participants discover the relationships between plants and wildlife and how these ideas can be applied to a backyard!


Insects, Mammals and More

Animal Tracking Workshop

In this full-day program participants learn how to track animals and study the tracks and signs of Ontario mammals and other types of wildlife in the snow. This workshop also includes an introduction to scat identification and an outdoor component of looking for and following animal tracks and trails. Each participant receives a copy of The Mammals of The Arboretum booklet that includes many tracks.

*Maximum 18 adults when held in person.

Watch this teaser video about our Winter Animal Tracking workshops.

dragonflies and damselflies

Ontario is home to over 150 species of Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies), many of which are common in the Guelph area. Most species can be identified with a field guide and pair of binoculars. Participants learn about these beautiful creatures, their fascinating lives, and see why they are an important part of our local ecosystems. This workshop includes an outdoor component of catching and identifying the dragonflies of The Arboretum.
*Maximum 18 adults when held in person.

identification and biology of butterflies

This workshop has been designed to educate participants about butterflies and how to identify them in the wild. Topics covered include, butterfly natural history, capture techniques, field identification, tagging, migration, and creating and maintaining butterfly habitat. The workshop concludes outside catching and identifying the butterflies of The Arboretum.
*Maximum 18 adults when held in person.

moth photo

If you have ever wondered about the close cousins of butterflies, this introductory workshop will open your eyes to the amazing and mysterious world of moths. Participants are introduced to the "moth world" and what makes a moth so unique; learn about the families or groups of moths that you are most likely to encounter in the Guelph area; and how to find, identify, and appreciate moths. The workshop concludes with an outdoor explore in The Arboretum looking for roosting moths, day-flying moths, and moth caterpillars.
*Maximum 18 adults when held in person.

photo of bugs

This workshop introduces participants to all the major groups of insects in Ontario with a focus on how to recognize major groups or families, with special reference to the common species one is likely to encounter in both the backyard and in the field. This is a great introductory course for educators, field researchers, and those who wish to simply become familiar with the mini-wildlife of Ontario.
*Maximum 18 adults when held in person.

Caddisfly for Pond Life workshop

In this full-day program, participants will learn about the extraordinary biodiversity of ponds and learn the difference between the life in vernal (temporary) pools and permanent ponds. The workshop begins indoors with an overview of pond life and then moves outdoors for a hands-on opportunity to catch and identify organisms in a vernal pool and a permanent pond and discuss their unique ecologies. Participants receive a copy of the Pond Life Biodiversity Identification Sheet.
*Maximum 18 adults when held in person.

photo of a Turtle

Reptiles are the most at-risk group of flora or fauna in Ontario.  Due to their secretive nature, many of these amazing species, are largely unknown or overlooked by many outdoor enthusiasts.  Every one of Ontario’s turtle species needs help and learning about these adorable creatures is an excellent way to assist them. Snakes are often misunderstood and maligned, but through this program we hope to change this by teaching the truth about these animals and providing opportunities to interact directly with some live specimens. Identification, ranges, and habits of our reptile species will be covered, and hands-on opportunities with some of our native snakes and turtles will make this an exciting experience.
*Maximum 18 adults when held in person.

photo of spiders

In this day-long workshop, participants learn about the fascinating life stories and identification tips about our most important invertebrate predators, the spider. Participants will venture outside for part of the day learning how to find and identify some of our amazing local arachno-fauna, discover first-hand why most insects are arachnophobic, and how we can (and should) help our local spider population.
*Maximum 18 adults when held in person.

winter invertebrates

In winter’s frigid grasp, insects, spiders and other invertebrates seem to vanish from the surface of the earth.  Knowing what to look for and where to find these hidden creatures make cold-weather expeditions far more enjoyable.  During this half-day program, participants search for goldenrod gallfly larvae and caterpillars that hide in burrs, learn how woolly bears forecast the severity of winter’s blast, and discover a great variety of other “bugs” that are surviving their most challenging season. Through photographs, hands-on bio-artifacts, and an outdoor exploration and discovery session participants become familiar with our cold and spineless neighbours. This workshop is held in winter, anticipate dressing to trek in cold and hopefully snowy conditions. A hand lens is recommended, but not required.
*Maximum 18 adults when held in person.


Plants and Mushrooms

This is really two workshops in one. In addition to learning to identify Ontario's springtime flora, participants go "beyond the field guide" to delve into the natural history, ecology, lore, and uses of these plants. Following a brief classroom session, participants spend the remainder of the workshop engaged in hands-on exercises and stimulating discussions while exploring The Arboretum's nature preserves. Wildflower field guides and a hand lenses are recommended, but not necessary.

*Maximum 16 adults when held in person.

winter tree id

No leaves? No problem! From bark, to buds, to leaf scars, participants get hands-on experience in reading these winter clues for winter identification of deciduous trees. This workshop focuses on native Ontario trees, and part of the session is held outdoors, anticipate dressing for the weather.
*Maximum 16 adults when held in person.

photo of mushrooms

Explore the mysterious, weird, and wonderful world of fungi!  The course is open to participants of any skill level, with the assumption that most will be beginners. The program begins with a morning foray that is followed by an identification session and generation of a species list. Participants are encouraged to bring a field guide such as George Barron's Mushrooms of Ontario and Eastern Canada, as well as a digital camera. 
*Maximum 16 participants when held in person.


Wellness

Participants will have the opportunity to engage in an 8-week program that explores the principles of Ecopsychology and Eco Art Therapy. Throughout this program, participants explore developing a deeper sense of self-value, their relationship with nature, and a desire to engage with nature as a trusted and valued aspect of life. This course will also explore Eco-Art activities that go beyond the barriers of artistic techniques and create pieces that they are truly proud of because of the deep experiences and meaning those pieces of art hold.
*Maximum 16 adults when held in person.

shinrin-yoku walk image

Inspired by Shinrin-Yoku, a Japanese term that translates into “Forest Bathing” in English, discover a gentle way of moving mindfully through nature. Led by a guide from the Canadian Chapter of the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides, participants experience a walk intended to open the senses, deepen a connection with the natural world, and enhance wellbeing.
*Maximum 20 adults when held in person.