Journeys of Dr. G at Tyler Arboretum

The sabbatical project continues, exploring all that Tyler Arboretum has to offer

Leave a comment

A Case Study with Toilet Paper Roll Volunteers, Part 2



Left: One of the many festive outdoor decorations at Tyler Arboretum this season.  This snowflake was made of recycled plant labels/tags!

Earlier in the week, I posted Part 1 of this topic, where my campus conducted a paper roll collection drive for a recycled art project at Tyler Arboretum’s Winter Wonderland event on Saturday, December 6 (see blog post).  Today, I was able to see the transformation and clever outcome of all our efforts!  See this slideshow below for the stages of development of the ornament.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

But the Winter Wonderland event was much more than cardboard tubes and glitter!  There were hayrides (yes, even in the rain!).  One visitor shared with me that you haven’t seen Tyler Arboretum until you’ve seen it in the rain (and I agree!).  There were other craft activities, hot chocolate and cookies, and a beautiful sled for people in which people were having their photos taken.  Even Lachford Hall was open for historic tours.

And I could not help but attempt to complete the Reindeer Scavenger Hunt – the photos below document my success in finding all six of the wooden reindeer!  I look forward to more winter fun at Tyler Arboretum real soon.


If you missed Winter Wonderland event, not to worry – you can mark these other Tyler winter events on your calendar!

  • Family Night Hike, Saturday, January 10, 6:30PM – 8PM
  • Maple Surgaring Exploration, Saturday, January 31, 10AM – 11AM, or Sunday, February 1, 1PM – 2PM
  • Winter Nature Hike, Monday, February 16, 10AM – 11:30AM
  • Pancake Breakfast and Maple Sugaring Celebration, Saturday, February 28, 8AM – 1PM (Snow Date: March 7)

To view full details on these and other Tyler events, visit


A Case Study with Toilet Paper Roll Volunteers, Part 1

flowerTyler’s Volunteer Coordinator Julia Lo Ehrhardt sent out via email her Volunteer Newsletter in Late November with a simple request:

We need your toilet paper or paper towel rolls. Our programmers are dreaming up ways to engage children and they came up with this beautiful work of recycled art. Save us your rolls and bring them to the Visitor Center by December 1.

Included in the newsletter was a wonderful photo (displayed to the right) for volunteers to see an example of the clever art that kids will be making at Tyler’s programs, such as the upcoming Woodland Winter Wonderland event on December 6.  I knew that I had some toilet paper rolls that I hadn’t yet recycled, and I knew we would be emptying paper towel rolls with our baking for the Thanksgiving holiday.  I was ready to start my collection to donate to the cause!

But then I started thinking… certainly, I’m not the only person with empty cardboard rolls in the house.  Why not engage my fellow faculty and staff members where I work (Penn State Brandywine) to donate their “empties” from the holidays?  The students were already gone for Thanksgiving break, so it was difficult to get the word out to them.  But I quickly connected with Dr. Lynn Hartle, the coordinator of our campus Laboratory for Civic Engagement, and we decided to do a joint collection drive on campus between the Laboratory and the Environmental Inquiry Minor (an academic program I advise for).  Within minutes, I drafted a flyer (this is a PDF of the flyer), emailed the flyer to the entire campus, and kept my fingers crossed that by December 1st, we would have some rolls to donate.

The “buzz” that this collection drive generated was immediate.  I saw that others printed off the flyer and posted it on bulletin boards and office doors.  An announcement went up on the campus Facebook page and on Twitter:

One of the bags of rolls that came in - and there were many more!

One of the bags of rolls that came in – and there were many more!

And wow, did the rolls come rolling in!  We had a full lawn-and-leaf garbage bag filled with cardboard rolls, and then even more came in today.  I was so pleased to see and hear the enthusiasm from my co-workers for helping Tyler Arboretum.  One interesting side effect was the “visual” of just how many cardboard rolls we generate and go through in such a short time (a possible future environmental project for a student to investigate!).

So here is my take-home message to all volunteers and friends of Tyler – reach out to your family, your friends,  your co-workers, your schools, etc., and get them involved in helping Tyler Arboretum!  I don’t know anyone that has the time or the funds to help to the extent that he/she wishes, but by mobilizing our own little circles of family and friends with these types of collection drives, simple acts of kindness can make a big difference for Tyler (in this case, for the art/nature programs for children).

This makes me want to make some recycled art, too!  My next post, Part 2, will be a full description of what Tyler did with all of these toilet paper and paper towel rolls…



A celebration of volunteering at Tyler Arboretum

President Award logoAlthough it has been some time since I have blogged on this site, it is not because things are “quiet” at Tyler Arboretum!  In transitioning back from sabbatical and then immediately heading out to sea for a 3-week field experience, I finally have my “land legs” back and am getting back “out and about” on the pathways and trails at the Arboretum this November.  One of the events I recently attended was an evening to celebrate and recognize the efforts of Tyler’s volunteers.

The volunteers at Tyler Arboretum are some of the most passionate volunteers I have met, always so generous with their time and energy, and always with a smile on their faces!  Each year, Tyler hosts a lovely reception with excellent food, delightful conversations, and recognition of volunteers that have donated enough hours of their time to earn The President’s Volunteer Service Award (this website will provide more information about the award).  See my previous blog posts about the 2012 and 2013 Volunteer Recognition ceremonies.

Julia Lo Ehrhardt, Tyler’s volunteer coordinator, was an excellent “master of ceremonies,” providing a fascinating overview of the history of volunteering at the Arboretum.  Presidential Volunteer Service Awards were earned at the Silver and Bronze level by six youth and seventeen adults for their work with summer camps, public programs, and the horticulture department.  Below are some photos I took at the event in the Sequoia Room of The Barn, but the photos on the Tyler Arboretum Facebook page are much better (nice job, Laura McPhail, Tyler’s Communications Coordinator!).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 5.36.21 PMThis year, there were no Presidential Lifetime Award winners (volunteers that have contributed 4,000 volunteer hours or more).  But I was thrilled to hear that two volunteers are “banking” their volunteer hours to achieve this recognition!  And I must give a shout-out to the previous Lifetime volunteers and thank them for their time, dedication, and passion for making Tyler Arboretum the gem that it is!  Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do, Joe Cultrara, Nick Greene, Wayne Keller, Michael Lenzi, Jack Nixon, Tom Reeves, Doug Robinson, and Pat Vaul.

Interested in volunteering for Tyler Arboretum? See Tyler’s Volunteer webpage for the range of opportunities available!

Leave a comment

Tyler Volunteers Recognized with the President’s Volunteer Service Award

President Award logoA wonderful event was held at Tyler Arboretum on Saturday, January 25.  For the second time in Tyler’s history, the Arboretum recognized its volunteers with a national honor, the President’s’ Volunteer Service Award.  I act as a certifying agent for the award and have been authorized to administer the award to volunteers such as the outstanding individuals that selfessly donate their time and energy to Tyler Arboretum.

There are four different levels of the award (bronze, silver, gold, lifetime), with each level requiring a different number of volunteer hours earned over a one-year period based upon the age of the volunteer (children, young adults, adults, and families or groups).  For Summer 2012 – Summer 2013, I was pleased to certify 31 awards – 20 at the bronze level, 8 at the silver level, 2 at the gold level, and one lifetime achievement award.  Congratulations to Joe Cultrara for donating over 4,000 volunteer hours to Tyler Arboretum to earn the Lifetime Recognition!  Each volunteer received a lapel pin, award certificate, and a letter signed by the President of the United States of America.

President's Volunteer Service Award

Director of Horticulture Mike Karkowski (far left) and Director of Public Programs Amy Mawby (far right) recognize one of Tyler’s volunteers on January 25.

Previously, 32 volunteers had been recognized with the Presidential Service Award.  In a ceremony held at Tyler in December 2012, seven volunteers received the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award:  Nick Greene, Wayne Keller, Michael Lenzi, Jack Nixon, Tom Reeves, Doug Robinson, and Pat Vaul.

Note that when you volunteer for Tyler Arboretum, your hours are automatically tracked and you will be notified if you qualify for an award.  What an exciting way to be recognized and to celebrate volunteering at Tyler Arboretum!


Leave a comment

Recruiting and Recognizing Volunteers

Tyler Arboretum just hosted back-to-back events focusing on a very special group of people that play such an important role at the Arboretum – the volunteers.  Volunteers really play a critical part in the success of the day-to-day operations and special events at Tyler.  Of course, any and all non-profit organizations can use more volunteers, whether the volunteers can donate their time and talents for a one-time event or for a series of ongoing programs.  One of my colleagues likes to use the phrase, “get in where you can fit in” – wise advice to us all!

Tyler hosts an annual Volunteer Open House, and the description in the Autumn 2013 Tyler Topics issue made the event sound very inviting!

Get involved!  Share your talent and continue learning.  Volunteers play a vital role in the operation of the Arboretum.  Their assistance enables us to expand and enhance all areas of the organization, and helps us to grow as a community resource.  Please join us for coffee and baked goods while learning about the many volunteer opportunities that are available.  Staff and veteran volunteers will be able to share their experiences and answer questions.

DSCN2379Although I read my issues of Tyler Topics cover-to-cover and keep on top of the website announcements and calls for volunteers, I figured I could always learn more about opportunities at Tyler, so I attended the Open House.  When I arrived, I was immediately greeted by a Tyler staff member and welcomed to the event.  The Volunteer Open House was set up like a job fair, where I could go around the room and spend as much time as I wanted speaking with Tyler staff about various areas with volunteer needs – Plant Records & Inventory, North Woods & Chestnut Orchard, Horticulture & Handyman, Vegetable Garden, Butterfly House, Education, Communications, and Special Events.  There was alot of energy in the room, and I was pleased to see the engaging conversations over all volunteer opportunities at the Arboretum.  I saw many people filling out their volunteer application on the spot.  I hope to see some of these new volunteers at events in the future, such as the next big event with a large need for volunteers – Pumpkin Days!

Volunteer Appreciation Reception

A wonderful food buffet and a fun slideshow of volunteers hard at work!

The following week had a really special evening event – the Volunteer Appreciation Reception.  I don’t know the final count, but there were well over 50 of Tyler’s volunteers that came out for hors d’oeuvres, light refreshments, and some great conversations.  I really enjoyed seeing and speaking with people I had met at previous Tyler events, including people I had just volunteered with that morning over at the chestnut tree nursery.

Tyler’s Executive Director and members of the Senior Management Team made remarks to thank all of us for our volunteering time and shared some amazing facts about the Arboretum and the impact of volunteer contributions.  For example, the Arboretum had an incredible summer, shattering attendance records for the past two months, and had a complete sell-out of the summer camp programs for the first time ever.  Record numbers of visitors and attendance at programs certainly needs the help of volunteers for everything to run smoothly!  In the past year, over 13,000 hours of time were contributed by Tyler volunteers, which comes out to the equivalent of 7 full-time staff positions (wow!).  The names were read off for this year’s recipients of the President’s Volunteer Service Award (more information about this in a future post!  See a brief summary of last year’s recognition event), and I even heard someone saying she was going to challenge herself to earn the Bronze Award for Volunteering next year (see Award Eligibility for details).

I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and was sad to see it end.  I think one of the highlights for me was a statement I overheard one volunteer say to another as they left the event – “see you at Pumpkin Days!”

Yes, you will definitely see me there – as a volunteer the day of the event, and with some homemade bake goods at the Pumpkin Days Bake Sale!

Anyone interested in volunteering at Tyler, especially for Pumpkin Days (the largest event of the year!), please contact Tyler’s amazing volunteer coordinator, Melissa Hamblin.  She will absolutely find a way for you to “get in where you fit in!”

Melissa Hamblin, Volunteer Coordinator
Phone: (610) 566-9134, ext 205
Office Hours: MWF, 10 AM – 3 PM

Volunteer Appreciation Reception

Volunteers gathering on the patio behind the barn at Tyler Arboretum.

Volunteer Appreciation Reception

Rick Colbert, Executive Director of Tyler Arboretum, sharing some comments and his thanks to all volunteers for their service to Tyler.

1 Comment

Volunteering at the Butterfly Festival

ongoldenrodWho isn’t fascinated with the beauty of a butterfly?  Each and every time this summer when I have visited Tyler Arboretum, I have been greeted by lots and lots of butterflies, and I have taken so many pictures of these marvelous winged creatures.  It is only fitting that Tyler hosts a festival in honor of the butterfly.  Held on August 24, below is the description Tyler provided of the Butterfly Festival:

Say a fond farewell to the monarch butterflies as they are tagged and released for their southern migration to Mexico! Experts will be on hand with tips on creating a butterfly friendly habitat in home gardens with all their favorite plants. Learn all about butterflies native to our area, transformation from egg to caterpillar, then to chrysalis, and finally to butterfly and hear about butterfly secrets. Discover bugs like never before with amazing live and mounted specimens brought by Jon the Bug Man Insect Educators. Games and make-and-take crafts round out the day.

I figured it was about time for me to “step up” my participation in a Tyler festival.  In the past, I had always attended Tyler’s events.  Except for Pumpkin Days, I had yet to serve as a volunteer to help an event.  Through a simple online form, I was able to sign up to volunteer – it was that easy!  Tyler’s volunteer coordinator, Melissa Hamblin, sent me a reminder email before the event, and I was then on my way to volunteering at the Butterfly Festival.

I arrived at 9:30AM, the start time of my volunteer shift, and immediately jumped to help Director of Public Programs Betsey Ney with whatever was needed.  After helping move some materials from the Barn to behind the Butterfly tent, I was told that my assignment for the day was to be in charge of the “Feed the Hungry Spider” Game.  Betsey provided me with a few educational talking points about spiders and spider webs, and I went off to set up my game to be ready for the official 10AM start to the Festival.

If you have not seen this game before, it is very cute!  A spider web is created from a hula hoop, sticks and string.  Small pieces of cardboard with Velcro on the front are attached to the web to make the web “sticky.”  Small rubber balls had the opposite side of the Velcro attached on one side, with a picture of an insect (a fly, beetle, bee, etc.) taped to the other side.  After my short story of how spiders trap their food, kids then tried to throw the balls to attach to the Velcro pieces on the web to – well, feed the hungry spider!

2013 Butterfly Festival

I hung two “spider webs” from this dogwood tree, and then, I let the game begin!  You can see one of the trapped insects in the upper left corner of the web to the right.

I was busy during the entire festival, which ran 10AM to 2PM.  The kids were so cute and determined in trying to get the insects to stick to the web.  Some of the parents couldn’t hold back from participating in the game, either.  I even had some repeat players, kids that came back to play a second time because they had so much fun.

Being a volunteer meant that did not get a chance to participate in the other activities during the festival.  I did not see Jon the Bug Man (actually, I still remember doing a bug collection in the 7th grade and mounting my own specimens), and I could only glance across the lawn and here a mini-crowd express their oooo’s and ahhh’s each time a tagged Monarch butterfly was released.

2013 Butterfly Festival

Butterfly-attracting plants, and Monarch release crowd

2013 Butterfly Festival

Arts and crafts tent

But, typical of all of my Tyler experiences, I still learned something that was unexpected.  By volunteering, I was able to witness for myself how much fun kids have learning about butterflies, and how they liked to share their knowledge with me.  I learned that families greatly appreciate the range of activities available during Tyler festivals.  And I was able to meet so many interesting people, if even for a brief time.  The last report I heard was that there were over 1,500 people that attended the Butterfly Festival.  Not all of those attendees came and played the Feed the Hungry Spider Game (a missed opportunity, for sure!), but even some adults without children came over and asked how the game was constructed and played.  Two adults thought the spider web was a great idea for a Halloween decoration, and one mother talked with her son about using the hula-hoop web as a way to make his spider Halloween costume.  I even met one woman who was seeing a Monarch butterfly for the first time in her life that very day.

Wow!  There are lots of take-home messages for me from this experience.  I’ve learned that by volunteering just a few hours of my time, I can really make a difference in helping Tyler with its educational and outreach mission.  I’ve learned that an event at Tyler with a defined topic or theme can create an incredible range of takeaways for visitors, ranging from Halloween costume ideas to a first monarch butterfly sighting.  Most of all, I’ve learned how much fun it can be to work with other volunteers and the staff at Tyler Arboretum.  I’m looking forward to volunteering again (the current volunteer opportunities are always listed online, and I’ll definitely be helping with Pumpkin Days in October – both during the event and by baking a food item for their bake sale! (see page 14 of Tyler Topics newsletter for Autumn 2013).

2013 Butterfly Festival

Inside the Butterfly House