The Arboretum at Penn State


Education is a key element of the Arboretum’s mission. The Arboretum serves public education through its signage, informational brochures, and interpretive tours, and also through children’s educational programs designed and coordinated by one of our staff members. We play both active and passive roles in the University’s resident education programs, and dozens of instructors use the resources of the Arboretum each year.

Open-top chambers in which ozone levels are lower than in ambient air demonstrate the effects of pollutants.

Open-top chambers have less ozone than ambient air.

The Air Quality Learning and Demonstration Center, located in the northwestern section of the Arboretum, about a 20-minute walk from the Overlook Pavilion, offers educational programs and public outreach about air pollution’s effects on plants of the farm, garden, and field in Pennsylvania. Visitors may conduct a self-guided tour by reading display panels and by viewing research gardens and plant exhibits that demonstrate the effect of ozone on sensitive plant species. There is an air quality monitoring station on site, and a teaching pavilion equipped with audio-visual and Internet capabilities. For more information about the center, or to schedule tours for small groups, please contact:

Dr. Dennis Decoteau, Professor of Horticulture
Phone: 814-865-5587

Students learning proper way to fill planting hole

Students learning proper way to fill planting hole

On Arbor Day each year, the Arboretum hosts a day-long educational event and celebration for fourth graders in the State College Area School District. Volunteer educators from campus and community provide hands-on, environmentally-themed activities at over 20 stations throughout the Arboretum. Other volunteers guide students between activity stations and coordinate the day’s programming. The culmination of the event is a tree-planting activity and group photo.

Arbor Day 2015 

The fifth annual celebration of Arbor Day for fourth graders in the State College Area School District was enjoyed by approximately 400 students and their teachers, and more than 100 presenters, staff, and volunteers. The sponsors of Arbor Day 2015 are The Village at Penn State, Liberty Lutheran, and Percy Pierce, The Village at Penn State Resident.

All students had the opportunity to climb one of the Arboretum’s huge white oaks, with help from professional arborists.

Tree Climbing - Arbor Day 2015

Arboretum volunteer Chris Igo digs into a bin of “red wiggler” composting worms with students from Houserville Elementary School.

Worm Composting

Northern mockingbird - Photo by Nick Kerlin

Northern mockingbird – Photo by Nick Kerlin

The Avian Education Program was endowed by an anonymous donor for the purpose of increasing awareness and appreciation of birds and promoting the conservation and creation of bird-friendly habitat. Members of an advisory committee help to develop bird-related programs for people of all ages and to coordinate educational efforts with environmental agencies and organizations throughout the community.

Activities include bird walks, seasonal bird-banding surveys, and indoor and outdoor lectures and workshops. The dates for these activities are available on our Events Calendar. The program has also produced the Arboretum Bird Checklist brochure, which is available at the Overlook Pavilion literature rack. Outdoor activities are staged in the H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens and in the more distant portions of the Arboretum near Sunset Park. Indoor activities are conducted in the Forest Resources Building.

2015 Spring Bird Banding Report

2015 Fall Bird Walks

For more information about the Avian Education Program, please contact:

Dr. Margaret Brittingham
Professor of Wildlife Resources
Phone: 814-863-8442

Learning how to identify trees during Arbor Day event

Learning how to identify trees during Arbor Day event

The Childhood’s Gate Children’s Garden opened on July 7, 2014, and the theme of our children’s education program in its first two seasons is “Getting to Know OUR Garden.” The design of the garden affords a landscape that is rich in educational content and one that rewards exploration and discovery. Our adult garden guides will be available to welcome and greet children and families and we will be offering informal garden interpretation activities and tours throughout the summer and early fall. Our activities will be designed to encourage inquiry-based learning about the beauty and diversity of our regional landscape, native plants, and creatures.

View a calendar of activities in Childhood’s Gate Children’s Garden this season!

Childhood’s Gate Children’s Garden Friday Activities in the Fall