Jennifer Hooven is the childhood education coordinator at The Arboretum at Penn State and she’s making an impact in our organization and in the lives of community members on a daily basis. We recently sat down with her in honor of Women’s History Month. Here’s our talk:
Tell me about your role with Penn State Outreach.
As the childhood education coordinator at The Arboretum at Penn State, I organize and oversee the child and family activities that take place in the gardens. With the support of program partners, staff, students, and generous donors I am able to craft experiential programming with inclusive goals and objectives that build a relationship with nature and place, increase environmental literacy, and engage our audience by utilizing authentic hands-on experiences.
How does your work impact the communities within Penn State Outreach?
I feel that Penn State Outreach is a natural home for the Arboretum. Whether it be active or passive, every day we serve as a place for discovery, education, and public service in support of the University’s values and its land grant mission. Our impact on communities within Penn State Outreach is broad and diverse. We love partnering with other entities within Outreach to deepen our educational reach or share audiences, and I also love hearing stories about how the Arboretum improves our campus community by serving as a place for relaxation and renewal.
How do you hope to see your position grow during your time with Penn State?
My position and the Arboretum, in general, are growing at an exponential rate right now, but my hope for the future is that our growth is measured, meaningful, and sustainable. As a team, we are committed to excellence in all we do, and child and family education is no exception. Currently, we are developing a field trip program designed to increase environmental literacy within the five surrounding districts, and it is my goal to make that program accessible to all schools regardless of their economic ability to participate.
What about your work makes you most proud?
I am most proud when I can foster a relationship between a child and the natural world. When children are supported to engage with nature, they discover its marvels and mysteries as well as their own interconnectedness. Engaging a whole family in this way is even more meaningful because research shows that when children spend time in nature with a trusted adult, they are more likely to grow into ecological citizens who value and protect our natural resources. A relationship with nature improves the quality of our lives, and just I love sharing that gift with people as well as knowing that I’m working toward preserving it for generations yet to come.
What advice would you offer to individuals who are interested in making a greater impact in their respective fields?
Get in touch with what you love or what truly motivates you and start there. Working with children my whole career has been such a gift because I’ve learned so much from them. One thing I’ve learned is how to take a big idea or goal and distill it down to its very essence to identify what’s really important about it. Once you’ve figured that out, and you know what kind of impact feels important for you to make, putting effort and energy into reaching that goal is really fulfilling because you are intrinsically motivated to succeed.