Arboretum Classes

Classes at the Arboretum offer in-depth coverage of topics and explore ways humans interact with the environment, delving into natural history, conservation, restoration, Arboretum history, and the arts. For paid classes, refunds will be given while registration is open, minus a $10 service fee.

Advance registration is required. You will receive two automated email acknowledgements after you register: One is a payment confirmation, the other is a registration confirmation listing the class you’re attending. Save these emails for your records.

A few days before virtual classes, you will receive an email with a calendar invite and a link to access the talk.

Fall 2021 Classes

This fall we are offering outdoor and indoor in-person classes as well as virtual classes. We will continue to monitor COVID spread and follow guidelines. Currently, masks are required indoors in UW–Madison buildings. If needed, we may change some indoor classes to virtual or cancel those that can’t be held virtually. See information listed under each class. Registered participants will receive updates about the class status.

Mounds of the Arboretum (in-person class)
Saturday, October 30, 1–3 p.m.
Earthen mounds with conical, linear, and animal shapes were built by Native people in southern Wisconsin. The effigy mound groups at the Arboretum are among the few remaining of hundreds built in our area more than 1,000 years ago. Learn about the mounds, the people who created them, and their environment. Takes place indoors, with an optional outdoor walk if weather permits. Instructor: Paul Borowsky, Arboretum naturalist. Meet at the Visitor Center. Fee: $20. May be offered virtually if needed.

Register by October 26»

Poetry from the Anthropocene (in-person class)
Thursdays, November 4 and 11, 1–2:30 p.m.
Contemporary eco-poetry is shaped by ideas associated with our current geological epoch called the Anthropocene: the unprecedented influence that humans have on the non-human natural world. Join us to explore works by African American and Native American poets as well as science-based poetry. Instructor: Troy Hess. Fee $30. Two classes, November 4 and 11. Meet at the Visitor Center. This two-part class may be offered virtually if necessary.

Register by October 28»

History of the Arboretum’s Lost City (in-person class)
Saturday, November 13, 1–3 p.m.
Learn about the fascinating history of the failed Lake Forest development project and the land that became part of the Arboretum. This indoor class will explore the personalities involved, why the project didn’t succeed, and the status of the area now. Includes a video tour of the site. Instructor: Kathy Miner, Arboretum naturalist. Fee: $20 for session. Meet at the Visitor Center. This class may be offered virtually if necessary.

Register by November 9»

Ecopoetry – Following W.S. Merwin (in-person class)
Wednesdays, December 1 and 8, 10:30 a.m.–12 p.m.
Lauded as one of the most important poetic voices of the last century, W.S. Merwin cultivated a uniquely spiritually tuned voice concerned with the state of nature, time, and human perception. This two-part indoor class (December 1 and 8) will be a conversation exploring ecology, eastern spirituality, and poetic technique. Instructor: Troy Hess. Fee $30. Meet at the Visitor Center. This class may be offered virtually if necessary.

Register by November 24»

Ecopoetry as Healing Art (in-person class)
Tuesdays, September 14 and 21, 6:30–8 p.m.
This two-part class (September 14 and 21) will explore ways of finding spiritual practice through the process of understanding and writing eco-centric poetry. We will use quotes from Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind and other sources for inspiration. Instructor: Troy Hess. Fee $30. Meet in the outdoor classroom. Outdoor class, may be offered virtually if needed.

“The Great Work, based on the storm of life’s unfolding, moves us away from a preoccupation with the self into the larger ecological self of the Earth Community. This movement has deep implications for our psychological healing, awakening in us a sense  of both awe and belonging.” — K. Lauren de Boer, “Healing and the Great Work,” from Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind

Registration closed.

Reading the Land (in-person class)
Saturday, September 18, 1–4 p.m.

Learn about the ecosystems of southern Wisconsin – oak savannas, prairies, wetlands, and woodland – and their primary characteristics. We will also cover the basics of a site analysis and how to read the land, including soil, light, topography, and plant features, and practice ecosystem observation skills. Come prepared to spend time outdoors. Instructor: Sylvia Marek. Fee: $30. Meet in the outdoor classroom. Rain date: September 19, 1–4 p.m. Outdoor class. Will not be offered virtually.

Registration closed.

Birds of the Arboretum (virtual class)
Thursday, October 7, 9–11 a.m.
Arboretum birds range from the tiny hummingbird to the majestic bald eagle. Some stay year-round while others pass through in spring and fall. Chuck Henrikson, an avid birder and citizen scientist, monitors birds at the Arboretum weekly, all year long, rain or shine. He logs his sightings with eBird and writes birding reports for Journey North. He will share his knowledge and love of birds in this webinar. Fee: $20.

Registration closed.

Bluebirds (virtual class)
Thursday, October 14, 9–11 a.m.
Learn about the fascinating life of bluebirds, bluebird behavior, the reasons for bluebird decline, and restoration efforts. Instructor: Sylvia Marek, Arboretum naturalist, who created the Arboretum’s bluebird trail and has monitored it for more than 20 years. Fee: $20.

Registration closed.

Owls (virtual class)
Thursday, October 21, 9–11 a.m.
Learn about Wisconsin’s twelve owl species, focusing on the three that nest in Madison, and how to identify these elusive birds of prey. Habitat, calls, courtship, hunting, and eating will be discussed. Instructor: Sylvia Marek, Arboretum naturalist. Fee: $20.

Registration closed.

Annual Learning Programs

Native Gardening Conference

Held every September at the Arboretum, the Native Gardening Conference promotes sustainable gardening practices and use of native plants in home landscapes. We inspire and inform gardeners, homeowners, and landowners to create and maintain native gardens or small-scale restorations on their own property. The program welcomes people with a range of interests and experience.

Winter Enrichment

The Arboretum’s long-running Winter Enrichment series offers lectures for naturalists in the greater Madison area as well as for volunteers, friends, and community members as space allows. The ten-week series runs January to March. See the Winter Enrichment page for more information.

Friends of the Arboretum Luncheon-Lectures

The Luncheon-Lectures series, organized by Friends of the Arboretum, presents monthly talks with a catered lunch. Friends receive priority registration, but talks are open to anyone as space allows.