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Discovery Stations

Book a field trip to our discovery stations for Spring 2023! We offer eight different stations, each representing a different ecosystem. Volunteers are available at each station to share information and assist students in handling the artifacts that relate to that ecosystem.

Learning at Discovery Stations

gradeschool student looking at bees

Discovery stations are a form of Informal Science Education (ISE) that is being used in natural history museums, botanical gardens and zoos. ISE promotes free-choice learning and the use of authentic artifacts. We have developed a series of discovery stations that highlight the Arboretum’s habitats and make use of the principles of ISE. Each station has a set of artifacts that are authentic to the habitat. These artifacts are meant to be held by visitors and inspire questions that lead to learning. Students can focus on which artifact interest them, which reflects the principle of free choice.

Each station has at least two volunteers available to answer any questions. Social interaction is another feature of ISE and the Arboretum’s discovery stations maximize learning through interactions between peers and volunteers. It is the intent of the Arboretum to make use of ISE to complement the formal science education that takes place in your classroom.

Discovery Station Choices

Discovery station artifacts highlight plants and animals that can be found in and around the pond. The Big Ideas explored through interaction with the artifacts are:

  • A pond is a unique freshwater ecosystem made up of living and nonliving things and their interactions with each other.
  • All living and nonliving things in a pond are interconnected.
  • Each plant and animal in the pond have a specific role to play.

Discovery station artifacts highlight pollinators that are important to the Arboretum’s plants and fruit trees. The Big Ideas explored through interaction with the artifacts are:

  • Pollinators are critical to the growth of our food supply.
  • Flowers cannot make seeds unless they are pollinated.
  • Pollinators support healthy ecosystems that clean the air, stabilize soils and support wildlife.
  • Many pollinator populations are in decline due to loss in feeding and nesting habitats, pollution, misuse of chemicals, disease and changes in climate patterns.

Discovery station artifacts highlight birds that are common to the Arboretum and promote ways to help protect birds. The Big Ideas explored through interaction with the artifacts are:

  • Birds are a diverse group of animals that share certain characteristics: Feathers, toothless beaks, mostly hollow bones, and four-chambered hearts.
  • Birds have complex migration patterns and green oases like the Arboretum can play an important role during this yearly undertaking.

Discovery station artifacts highlight the bark and seeds of trees that grow in areas that experience wildfires in California. The Big Ideas explored through interaction with the artifacts are:

  • Fire is a natural part of many ecosystems, in which climate conditions support wildfires.  This includes ecosystems across California.
  • Plants growing in such ecosystems have adapted to this natural phenomenon dependent on fires, or re-growing after fires.

Discovery station artifacts highlight the three themes of the Children’s Garden - Sustainability, Sensory, and LAWS (Land, Air, Water, Sun). The Big Ideas explored through interaction with the artifacts are:

  • Plants require LAWS (Land, Air, Water, Sun) to grow.
  • The senses of sight, touch, smell and hearing can be used to gather information about the natural world.
  • Connections exist between all aspects of life. Humans are linked to their environment.   

Discovery station artifacts highlight the diversity of conifers from around the world. The Big Ideas explored through interaction with the artifacts are:

  • Conifers are a group of trees that produce cones and have needles or scales as leaves.
  • Conifers are a very diverse group of plants. They vary in their overall shape, cone shape, size, leaves, and life history.
  • Conifers have existed on Earth for about 300 million years and have among the longest lifespans.
  • Conifers are under threat from deforestation and climate change.

Discovery station artifacts highlight the ways Native Californians made use of stones, rocks and plants found in the chaparral to create tools for processing seeds and acorns, bowls, baskets, reed boats and arrowheads. Pelts of animals common to the chaparral are also included. The Big Ideas explored through interaction with the artifacts are:

  • Chaparral refers to plants native to our area which have adapted to the amount of rain water we get here in Southern California.
  • Native Californians made use of stone and rock found in the chaparral to fashion tools for hunting and cooking.
  • Native Californians made use of plants found in the chaparral as a food source as well as to fashion tools, reed boats, baskets and musical instruments.

Discovery station artifacts highlight products that contribute to the 292 million tons of waste generated by Americans along with multi-use items that allow for a healthier planet. The Big Ideas explored through interaction with the artifacts are:

  • Americans generate 292 million tons of waste; that’s almost one ton per person.
  • One-half of our waste goes to landfills.
  • Acquiring less and using it more will allow us to enjoy our land rather than fill it.
  • Multi-use! Choose items made of material that you can use multiple times.  

Request a Field Trip

The school program is geared towards students in kindergarten through 6th grade. Please review the parameters below and submit a request 4 weeks in advance.

Kindergarten – 2nd grade
(up to 72, total)


  • The Pond
  • Natural History of the Chaparral
  • Children’s Garden

3rd – 5th grade
(up to 96, total) - pick four stations


  • The Pond
  • Natural History of the Chaparral
  • Pollinators
  • Birds
  • Conifers
  • Fire Ecology
  • Waste Awareness

Days/Time: Wednesday – Friday, 9:00-11:00 a.m.
No food or drink except a water bottle

Group Size: Up to 72 for Kindergarten-2nd grade (see above) including students, teachers and chaperones. Up to 96 for 3rd-5th grade (see above) including students, teachers and chaperones.

Cost: Free for students and teachers. Class donation is strongly suggested.
No siblings and no extra parents

Chaperone fee: $5 suggested donation

Scheduling: Must schedule at least 4 weeks in advance

Provided Materials:
Participating teachers will receive a packet that contains materials to prepare for the field trip. This includes a map of Fullerton Arboretum for each student to color and label the 4 main living collections and a copy of What is an Arboretum, a comic book that describes what an arboretum is and information about visiting an arboretum.

Please note that if there is inclement weather, Fullerton Arboretum will cancel the field trip 48 hours in advance. If your school decides to cancel, you must notify us at least 24 hours in advance.

Request a Field Trip 

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