Houston Arboretum & Nature Center partners with a select few Houston area schools through the Acorn Academy program! Acorn Academy schools receive two field trips per year, per grade level K-5. Students visit in the fall semester for one of our standard field trip offerings (designed to support the science TEKS students are learning in school), then return in the spring for a second, more hands-on and investigative field trip. This program is informed by the Arboretum’s goal of enhancing our ability to communicate with and engage Houstonians least likely to have access to or awareness of natural spaces.

General Information

The Arboretum offers science lessons in a living laboratory. A large percentage of the students who visit the Arboretum, particularly those who visit in the Acorn Academy program, come with no real experience in exploring nature; typically, the concepts learned in class remain merely concepts. By reinforcing their classroom learning with hands-on, experiential activities, the Acorn Academy program is able to help students master grade-level science theories while igniting a passion for outdoor exploration and the environment.  All curricula are aligned with current TEKS.

Indoor instruction is followed by guided hikes and hands-on experimentation. Depending on grade-level curriculum, students could expect to dip for organisms in the Arboretum’s ponds to learn about food chains, or explore rotting logs within the forest in a quest to understand nature’s own recycling methods. The curricula of the Acorn Academy program are accretive, and Arboretum naturalists use multiple visits to teach elementary students the science, terminology, and inter-connectivity of all living things using hands-on instruction and demonstration.


Discover the basic needs of living things. Children will explore forest, meadow, and pond habitats to learn how organisms depend on each other to survive.

Discover that organisms have different jobs in the ecosystem. During a forest hike, students will classify plants and animals by their ecosystem roles and explore the interactions between them.

Discover how nature recycles nutrients through the process of decomposition. Children will explore rotting logs to learn about the organisms that work on the decomposer team.

Learn about food chains and webs by exploring pond habitats. Students will classify aquatic organisms as producers, herbivores, omnivores, or carnivores. Later, they will create a food web based on their observations.

Discover adaptations that help organisms survive. While exploring the Arboretum’s forest, ponds, and meadow, students will identify and compare adaptive characteristics of organisms.

Review basic ecological concepts. As they explore the pond, meadow, and forest ecosystems, students will discover how communities of plants and animals rely on the non-living environment as well as each other. Great STAAR review!

How to Become an Acorn Academy School

Entry into the Acorn Academy program is by invitation only. Potential partner schools are identified based on several factors, including Title I status. If you are an educator at a Title I school in the Greater Houston Area who would like to submit your school for consideration next school year, please fill out the short form below.

School Contact(Required)

2023-2024 Acorn Academy Support Generously Provided By:

RBC Capital Markets

Vivian L. Smith Foundation

CenterPoint Energy Foundation

The Powell Foundation