Education Program Guide
What is your favorite season at the Arboretum and why?
Without a doubt, fall is John’s favorite season anywhere he goes. As the summer heat rises, John gets used to the green trees and colors of summer, but when fall hits and the temperature drops, and he sees the change of colors, it is all very inspiring for him.
What is the best part of your job?
John’s primary job is to work with school-age kids ranging from kindergarten to high school. Even after many years of teaching, the best part of his job is working with kids. He appreciates the opportunity to get them excited about nature and trees and just being outdoors in general. John also conducts some family programs and he enjoys that interaction as well, seeing entire families excited about being at the Arboretum, taking in information, and learning.
Do you have a favorite location on the grounds or a favorite tree?
John is partial to many locations because his job has him exploring many areas of the Arboretum, but the Schulenberg Prairie in the fall is a favorite spot, especially when he is leading a school program. Many students haven’t had a chance to experience a prairie, and they think it is just a bunch of weeds.
John enjoys talking about plants that students haven’t had a lot of exposure to and educating them on this important ecosystem. His favorite tree is definitely the bur oak. John thinks oaks in general are beautiful trees, but he especially appreciates the hardiness of the bur oak.
What do you want guests to know about The Morton Arboretum and its mission?
John takes every opportunity he can to tell his students, teacher groups, and families that there is more to the Arboretum outside of the Visitor Center or Illumination. He encourages them to get out and visit the entire Arboretum. By doing so, he brings to light that the Arboretum is a research facility, and promoting the health and importance of trees is really the goal and core to the Arboretum’s mission. He hopes that guests take away from their visit all the wonderful things, like Illumination, but that they also understand the bigger picture; that the Arboretum is really invested in the health of trees and the planet in general.
When thinking of the Arboretum’s Employee Core Values, which one resonates with you and why?
While all of them have significance, John feels strongly about the Employee Core Value to Make the Arboretum Exceptional, because he sees that attitude with everyone he comes across, no matter the department in which they work. He sees a place of high-quality staff members, very interested in what they are doing and supportive of the Arboretum’s mission. John refers to the Arboretum as “top-notch.”
What’s an insider tip that you’d like to share with guests?
Most guests tend to focus in and around the main visitor area. John recommends going under the bridge and hitting the trails on the West Side and seeing the great woodlands, Lake Marmo, and the prairie. The West Side isn’t visited as much as it could be. By working over there, John sees so many things that are special and unique to the Arboretum.
Share an interesting fun fact about you:
When most people meet John, they may find that he mostly listens and may come across a little shy, but particularly when he’s teaching, John is very outgoing and has a great sense of humor that everyone may not always see. He incorporates humor into his teaching to tell stories to put a group at ease. This may be the reason that John’s wife refers to him as a charming little boy. John strives to keep a youthful attitude and considers himself a lifelong learner.