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.

If you are interested in being one of the first to know about future programs and events at the Arboretum, please consider signing up for our programs and events mailing list at

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.

Program participants can learn how to spot resident and migrant species on our bird walks led by members of the Arboretum’s Avian Education Program Committee. Walks are held periodically throughout the year, with more frequent walks during spring and fall migration. For more information, please keep an eye on our events calendar and our Facebook page.

Activities also include 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.

Avian Education Program 5 Year Summary – 2010 – 2015

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

Dr. Margaret Brittingham
Professor Emerita Wildlife Resources
Chair, Arboretum Avian Education Committee

The Childhood’s Gate Children’s Garden. The design of the garden affords a landscape that is rich in educational content and one that rewards exploration and discovery. During the summer and early fall our adult garden guides welcome and greet children and families and we offer informal garden interpretation activities and tours. Our activities are designed to encourage inquiry-based learning about the beauty and diversity of our regional landscape, native plants, and creatures.

Kaleidoscope in Childhood's Gate Children's Garden (April 2016)

Kaleidoscope in Childhood’s Gate Children’s Garden (April 2016)

A kaleidoscope by Robert Anderson and donated by David and Linda Witmer, delights visitors. One can spin the bowl and twist any of the three eyepieces to change the shapes and patterns.

Childhood’s Gate Children’s Garden Interactive Story Map



We hope you can visit Childhood’s Gate Children’s Garden often to enjoy the outdoors, learn together, and discover the natural world. Throughout the garden, native Pennsylvania plantings and natural limestone and sandstone boulders and walls evoke the local landscape and tell our region’s geological story. Animal sculptures depict many familiar (and a few unfamiliar) native species. Spotting the real live wildlife visitors in our garden makes every visit an adventure!

Listed below are some of the on-site activities and educational resources that can help guide your exploration and help everyone have fun while learning. Several of them were designed to complement each other or to stand alone.

Please note: The garden may be visited from dawn until dusk.


Bird Checklist

— This checklist includes all birds that have been known to occur within the Arboretum and when they are likely to occur within the Arboretum at various times of the year. Visitors are encouraged to participate in citizen science by entering their checklist information at

Animal Sculpture Scavenger Hunt

–Visitors can use the table in this document to identify all 16 animal sculptures in our garden.

Geology Scavenger Hunt

–There are many interesting rocks in the botanic gardens. This one-page document contains photos to help find them.

Explore Pennsylvania’s Wild Rabbits!

–Read facts about the two species of wild rabbit in Pennsylvania, and enjoy some rabbit-themed activities for children and families (pp. 6–7)

Arboretum Tree Walk Book
–Take a self-guided tour about ten noteworthy trees, nine of which are in the children’s garden. This book includes our state tree (eastern hemlock), the most common tree encountered in Pennsylvania’s forests (red maple), our most abundant conifer (eastern white pine), and one of the state’s most picturesque species (white oak). Each page explores how the different parts of each tree contribute to its environmental importance, historic and modern value, and aesthetic appeal.


Artists Profile Pages – See individual links below.

–In addition to biographical information about nine artists whose works are in or near the children’s garden, these individual profiles provide insight and inspiration for ways that love of nature can be communicated through art. The Animal Sculpture Scavenger Hunt can be used in conjunction with these profiles of the sculptors to enrich your discovery walk.

Bob Anderson – Kaleidoscope

Becky Ault – Bat sculptures and animal faces

J. Clayton Bright – Bison sculpture

April Dodson – Cave, Discovery Tree

Phil Hawk – Time Spiral, Watershed Map stone-mason

Stacy Levy – Watershed sculpture

Mark Mennin – Joel N. Myers Sundial

Jeanne Stevens-Sollman – 12 Bronze animals

Christine Stangel – Fairy Houses

Creature Features – See individual links below.

–These colorful, two-sided documents present both scientific facts and fun facts about thirteen of the animal sculptures in the children’s garden. They also complement the Animal Sculpture Scavenger Hunt because they provide information about the real animals represented by the sculptures.

Creature Feature – American Bison

Creature Feature – American Bullfrog

Creature Feature – Barred Owl

Creature Feature – Big Brown Bat

Creature Feature – Black Rat Snake

Creature Feature – Eastern Cottontail

Creature Feature – Eastern Hellbender

Creature Feature – Eastern Screech Owl

Creature Feature – Great Blue Heron

Creature Feature – Northern Raccoon

Creature Feature – Red Fox

Creature Feature – Spotted Salamander

Creature Feature – Timber Rattlesnake

Garden Wonderings

This is an informal educational video series that we have put together during the COVID-19 pandemic to entertain and inform the public during these unusual times. You can access the playlist of all Arboretum educational videos at

Watershed Resources at The Arboretum at Penn State: A Guide for Educators

–This guide for high school students and adults presents resources for teaching about local and regional water issues by using the water-related features in The Arboretum at Penn State. Key concepts are highlighted (page 11). Included are case studies that show the impact of pollution on local waterways. Suggestions for activities to help students understand what they have learned in the Arboretum are provided (pp. 12–13).

For more information and educational resources about our watershed, visit The Spring Creek Watershed Atlas, a public outreach and educational service of the The Spring Creek Watershed Commission:

Exploring Nature and Garden Topics via Webinars

Check our What’s New? page and Facebook page frequently to read about upcoming webinars.