The Discovery Garden is a living classroom for visiting schools to become immersed into nature. Our gifted te reo name is Te Kaapuia o Te Waoku; introducing the concept that we are all part of nature.
Our curriculum-based programmes emphasise the many uses of plants including food, healing, and resources. Experienced educators facilitate a fun, hands-on and inclusive learning environment.
The diverse gardens help to show how important plants have been, are now, and will be in the future. The vital role plants play in our lives is crucial for our planet’s health.
Visit our wildflower garden for the pollinators, see different examples of how to grow your own food and experience the interconnectedness of nature in action.
Nestled in the centre of the garden is the Akoranga | Learning Pavilion. This living classroom operates as an education centre and gathering space for school visits, workshops & events.
Ōtari-Wilton's Bush is an open air museum where you can experience a diverse collection of plants sourced from one end of Aotearoa to the other. In 1926 Dr. Leonard Cockayne set up a garden of solely New Zealand native plants. Displayed in family groups or as re-created ecosystems, they represent different areas of Aotearoa. Almost all the plants have been grown from cuttings or seeds collected from their original habitats.
Book to hear our experienced educators share stories about the interconnectedness of plants, people and animals from the various regions they come from.
Explore the Kaiwharawhara Stream catchment area to experience a unique area that includes the only remaining original broadleaf-podocarp forest in Wellington City. Learn about the past and think about the future with our team of enthusiastic educators.
We want to make sure you and your group is aware of any of the risks involved around visiting both the Discovery Garden and Ōtari-Wilton's Bush Reserve. Download our Risk Registers before your visit.
Email the Education Team to find out more.
We encourage you to share your local curriculum needs with us, the Education Team. Our qualified teachers will create an experience that meets your specific learning outcomes and make real-world links to your local environment whether you're visiting from the heart of Wellington city or the waterways of Porirua. We strive to incorporate Universal Design for Learning in our sessions and therefore appreciate prior knowledge of your specific needs.
You have a choice of gardens to visit both with their own unique qualities to enhance your learning experience. For more information please visit our dedicated pages. There is a tendency for kura to visit Ōtari-Wilton's Bush when they need support with local histories and Wellington Botanic Garden ki Paekākā when wishing to enhance students' knowledge of biophilic and urban living.
We also have a selection of predesigned programmes. More information about these can be found by selecting the drop-down headings on this page.
Come and make a day of it – we are here to help your kura be part of nature with a fun-focused session and additional self-guided materials to explore our fabulous gardens. Email the Education Team Gardens.Education@wcc.govt.nz . We endeavour to reply within two working days.
Construction in early Aotearoa highlights plants and their role in the survival of humans. Plants provide food, shelter, and clothing, in addition to many other benefits. This is a programme that looks at the importance of plants and how Māori, living locally in the time of first settlements, were able to use this to their advantage. Different plant collections will be explored including plants from the offshore islands and the enormous kauri commonly found in Northland. Tamariki will experience a unique hands-on construction learning opportunity.
Fee: $6 per tamaiti
Education programme enquiry
Healing with plants is as old as mankind itself. Tamariki will look at how we have relied upon plants and developed our use of them throughout the years to treat ailments, conditions, and injuries.
We showcase both exotic and native plants and acknowledge native plants as taonga. Tamariki will engage in a range of activities. We take a walk where we look at native plants and learn about their medicinal benefits. While in the Lotions and Potions garden we explore the medicinal benefits of exotic plants. A drink of kawakawa tea is provided as an enjoyable morning or afternoon tea break. Having learnt about both exotic and native plants used for medicinal purposes, the tamariki take home an itchy bite balm they help to make using examples of plants they have learnt about earlier in the day.
“Plants Go to War” is an extension element to the medicinal programme which caters for years 5 - 8. We look at the important role plants played on and off the battlefield due to the scarcity of medicines.
Seeds, soil, sustainable planting, and self-sufficiency are just some of the levelled elements of this programme. Tamariki will learn through different activities about the parts and functions of a plant, their growing needs, how environmental changes affect their productivity, and urban planting. Making a paper pot and planting seeds in the potting garden, exploring the productive food garden, and feeding worms in the wormery are just some of the things to expect during this hands-on programme.
Wellington Botanic Garden ki Paekākā Education team have taken a giant leap into space with this, one of two ELC programmes which are designed to complement a visit to Space Place.
This programme makes real-world links to our seasons. Tamariki will learn why we seasonally plant different things by taking part in some hands-on relevant mahi in the Discovery Garden based on the maramataka.
This second space related programme is designed for years 5-8.
Plants in space looks at how we depend heavily on Earth’s natural resources and how we need alternative ways to grow productive, healthy plants in space. Tamariki will develop an understanding of how experimentation here on Earth and in the International Space Station continues to develop and refine how we grow strong plants without relying purely on soil as the substrate. One activity is planting seeds in different growing medium and learning how well they grow inside a growing tent with artificial light, a similar process to that used in the space station. Hydroponics and aquaponics are other alternative growing methods introduced during this programme.
Adaptation is the evolutionary process where an organism becomes better suited to its habitat. This process takes place over many generations. Tamariki will explore a range of plant collections at one of our Wellington Gardens to learn how and why adaptations have been made.
At the Wellington Botanic Garden, they may have a close encounter at the Succulent Garden home to some spectacular cacti then compare these plants to the Fernery where our iconic ponga resides.
At Ōtari-Wilton's Bush we may visit the Alpine Garden as well as the Rockery where the lizards hide in adapted tangled shrubs. This programme links well to the Science Curriculum and is levelled to suit your class.
Your tamariki will explore the mauri or life force of some very old trees on site at Ōtari-Wilton's Bush. Using science capabilities, they will learn about the role of trees not only for our survival but for the many other communities which rely on them and who we share this amazing planet Earth with. While we can level the programme to suit the younger ages, this programme will be best suited to years 3 and up.
This programme celebrates ‘Be with a Tree’ week particularly but is available any time throughout the year. 'Be with a Tree' is a celebration of our natural environment promoted by Forest & Bird to the younger generation via their children’s department Kiwi Conservation Club.
To ensure you have the best possible visit, please book your school visit to Ōtari-Wilton's Bush with us to make sure that only one school attends at a time.
The Ōtari-Wilton's Bush Nature Trail / Te Ara o te Ngahere environmental education kit is an excellent downloadable tool for teachers to use independently with self guided school groups at Ōtari.
The kit is designed for use with students aged 8 - 12 years.
We want to make sure your group is aware of any of the risks involved around visiting Ōtari-Wilton's Bush. Download our Risk Register before your visit.
A briefing for teachers about Ōtari-Wilton's Bush. This includes important health and safety information for school trips, links to the NZ Curriculum and some engaging pre-trip starter activities to get the class excited before their visit.
Information for the teacher on the waharoa carved gateway at the entrance and a map of the paths and trails to explore. There is also further information on the lookout, viewing platform and boardwalk.
Print and prepare some activities for the tamariki to complete during their visit like a 'My Trip' record book, and a map of the bush.
Follow up with the class with some post visit activities to refresh their learnings with these actions for students and a brief resource list.
Join our educators for an hour-long session at just $5 per child to experience both the wider garden and the Discovery Garden. Tamariki will learn about plants with fun activities that cater to your group’s needs (minimum of 10 children).
Depending on when you visit our knowledgeable team will deliver an engaging, informative and age appropriate session for your tamariki focussed on learning about the season at the time of your visit. Using an inquiry led approach the children will take part in a variety of activities.