Two Great Locations, One Organization

Guided Field Trips

Tours of the conservatory and trails at Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum are available throughout the academic year. Trained interpretive guides cover a variety of topics including basic botany, adaptations, and ecosystems, which relate to Michigan education benchmarks and the Next Generation Science Standards.

Schools with Title One status are eligible for field trip scholarships, reducing the cost by half. Schools provide an electronic letter from the principal indicating status. Please contact Liz Glynn ( for more details and to schedule a guided field trip.


  • Virtual field trips Monday-Thursday 9 am-1 pm
  • In-person field trips Tuesday-Friday 10 am-noon

Trail tours are conducted in most weather conditions. Please dress for the weather. In case of heavy rain, guided field trips include an indoor activity in addition to the conservatory tour.

Self-guided Field Trips

Self-guided tours are led by the teacher and chaperones, and can include exploration of both Matthaei’s trails and conservatory. Topics that can be investigated at Matthaei include native Michigan plant and animal species, plant parts and functions, adaptations, pollination, and ecosystems.


One hour conservatory or trails: $3.00/person (2 free admissions per classroom)

Two hour conservatory and trails: $6.00/person (2 free admissions per classroom)

Field based programs such as Wetland Explorers, Great Lakes Ecosystems and Bugs are Beautiful are $8.00/person and include all materials. 


A deposit, based on the number of students, is required when booking a field trip. The balance is due upon arrival.  Cancellations at least 3 weeks prior to the field trip date receive a refund of 50% of the deposit. No refunds for cancellations less than 3 weeks prior to the field trip.

Title One Subsidy

Schools with Title One status are eligible for field trip scholarships. Scholarships are available on a first come basis, based on availability of funds. Please inquire about a Title One subside when scheduling a tour.

Guided Programs

Guided field trips cover a variety of topics, including native Michigan plant and animal species,  plant parts and functions, and adaptations, biomes & ecosystems including Great Lakes plant communities,  and human impact on the environment. 

When you arrive:

  • Bus drivers and parents drop students off at the main entrance.
  • Bus drivers pick up parking hang tags from visitor services desk and park in west lot. For guided school tours there is no bus parking charge. For self-guided tours, there is a $15 charge for bus parking, per bus, per day.
  • Individual drivers park in west lot and pay at kiosks ($2.00/hour).
  • Teachers stay with students or float among groups.
  • Special permission required for collecting materials of any kind.

Guided Field Trip Themes

Sensory Explorers

Grade(s): K-1

How do leaves, roots, and stems help plants survive? How do plants meet all their needs? During this program, children look, listen, smell, and touch their way to a deeper understanding of a variety of plants. Children will compare plant textures and shapes, explore the diversity of nature, and learn how different plant parts help them survive in their environment. 

All About Plants

Grade(s): 2 

How do trees make more trees? Seeds! In this program students will learn about the parts of a plant, pollination and pollinators, and the life cycle of plants. Students will explore how plants interact with their environment, how animals and plants depend on each other, and different types of pollination and seed dispersal. 

Biomes and Environments

Grade(s): 3

Why don’t banana trees grow in my backyard? What do plants look like in a place with almost no rain? In this program students will explore the different biomes at Matthaei and the organisms that are found there. A collection of various tropical, arid, and temperate plants will demonstrate how plants thrive in different environments and how they have adapted to live in those diverse ecosystems. 

Traits and Habitats

Grade(s): 4 

Why does a venus fly trap feast on flies? Why does a cork tree feel so soft? On this field trip students will learn about the traits that plants inherit from their parents that give them an advantage in their environment. Students will explore how different habitats meet plants’ needs, and how disruptions to these ecosystems impact the rest of the organisms living there.

Energy Flow and Ecosystems

Grade(s): 5-6 

In this program students will learn how energy flows through an entire ecosystem and the important role that plants play in those interactions. Students will explore both the living and the non-living elements that impact energy flow, the interactions among organisms, and how changes to an ecosystem – whether natural or human-made – can impact these organisms.

Plant Survival Guide

Grade(s): 6-7 

How do different strategies for survival ensure plant success? Which plants illustrate unique reproductive strategies? On this field trip students will learn about plant reproduction strategies and explore a wide variety of flowers, ferns, trees, and other plants with unique adaptations to ensure survival.

Humans and Ecosystems

Grade(s): 6-8 

How are plants and animals connected in their native habitat? How do humans impact the natural world? Comparison of ecosystems enables students to understand complex relationships between plants and animals. Exploration of land management for native species addresses human impact on the environment.

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