Image of class along the UC Davis Arboretum Waterway.

Academic Engagement

Academic Engagement

Faculty members from across the disciplines use the "green classrooms" of the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden to teach in creative and engaging ways that provide students with real-world applications of their scholarship.

A wide range of courses utilize the Arboretum’s gardens and scientific collections each year. The Arboretum is uniquely equipped to serve as an academic resource, akin to a campus museum or library. Arboretum staff support faculty and students in planning curricula, providing specimens and documents for research, lecturing and giving garden-based tours, and showcasing student projects and faculty research to garden visitors through the UC Davis Arboretum GATEways Project. Many student projects have informed the development of the Arboretum, produced new exhibits, and promoted innovative technologies and digital media.

If you have questions about how the Arboretum can support your instruction, or to share how you have used the Arboretum in teaching, a course assignment, or an independent project, email us at

Curriculum course use
  • ENT 116: Freshwater Invertebrates. Dr. Sharon Lawler's students designed and conducted an aquatic insect colonization experiment in the Arboretum.
  • ENH 6: Introduction to Ornamental Horticulture. Dr. Truman Young uses the Arboretum’s living collection of plants to teach 140 woody plant species, growth forms, and management considerations through weekly outdoor labs and garden tours. Other Environmental Horticulture classes that use the Arboretum include: ENH 1, 100, 101, 105, 129 and 133.
  • ART 156: Where Here Is: Site-Specific Public Art. Dr. Robin Hill guides students to create interactive pieces in the Arboretum, learning to research and embrace the aesthetic, environmental and social conditions of the site. Students in ART 2, 3, 103, and 145 also draw inspiration from the Arboretum.
  • ENT 1: Art, Science and the World of Insects. Dr. Diane Ullman tours the Arboretum collections with her students, observing plant and insect interactions that then serve as inspiration for students’ large scale public art installations in the Arboretum. Students in ENT 10, 100, 103, 104, 106, 107,109, 11, 120, 135, 227 and 230 also use the Arboretum.
  • EVE 134: Field Herpetology. Dr. Brad Schaffer’s students work in teams to monitor Arboretum turtle populations, plan experiments, collect and analyze data, write up results and give oral presentations to the class.
  • DES 186: Environmental Graphics. Design Professor Tim McNeil challenged students to develop visitor orientation plans and prototype wayfinding signs for the City Arts GATEway in the UC Davis Arboretum. Other design classes that use the Arboretum include: DES 3, 125, and 191B.
  • GEL 91: Geology of Campus Waterways. Dr. Dawn Sumner teaches research skills and water-quality monitoring techniques in a multi-year class project using the Arboretum waterway. Undergraduates assess water quality parameters to help understand how water quality changes in response to the seasons and UCD environmental policies.
  • TCS 190 & TSC 101: Research Methods & Experimental Digital Cinema II. Dr. Julie Wyman expanded her students’ understanding of the Arboretum through history research, visual art, blog creation, and experimental video.
  • NAS 191: Survey of California Indian Basketry. Visiting Scholar Katherine Wallace collected native plants with her students to learn ethno-ecology and plant management techniques related to harvest, preparation, and weaving of traditional Native Californian baskets.
  • DES 191C: Intermediate Interactive Design. Design Professor Glenda Drew challenged students to create an interactive, web-based map of the Arboretum using Flash technology.
  • EDU 198: Environmental Education. Dr. Heidi Ballard’s students collaborate with Arboretum naturalists to create interactive, discovery-based activities for young learners in the garden.
  • LDA 181: Design and Planning Studio. Dr. Mark Francis challenged students to develop design solutions and new ideas for the City Arts GATEway area of the Arboretum. A variety of other landscape architecture faculty use the collections and students find support for their senior projects.
  • UWP 101: Advanced Composition. Dr. Laurie Glover’s students draw inspiration from bioregional authors and write reflective pieces about their tour of the Arboretum.
  • PLB 102: California Floristics: Dr. Dan Potter relies on the Arboretum collections for tours and teaching of diverse plant families and genera. Students review their learning by touring the Arboretum independently throughout the quarter. Other plant science courses use the living collections for teaching plant taxonomy, horticulture, conservation biology, and geography. These courses include: PLB 1, 10, 101, 108, 116,119, 121, 129, 131, 140, 141, 144, and 147.