Phipps is well-known for our beautiful gardens, seasonal flower shows, pioneering sustainability initiatives, informative educational programs and community outreach. None of our work, however, would be possible without the knowledge and dedication of our volunteers.

Call for Teen Volunteers!

Do you know a teen with a passion for nature, learning and working with children? Phipps offers a Teen Volunteer program to give volunteers ages 16 – 18 the opportunity to gain experience in education while assisting with our on-site programs. Interested applicants should fill out a Teen Volunteer Application and send the completed form to dknorr@phipps.conservatory.org or fill our our online application by Thurs., May 30, 2024.

Volunteer Mission Statement
To empower volunteers to contribute to the mission of Phipps while providing a rewarding and engaging experience in an environment where all contributions are valued and appreciated.

Q: How do I become a volunteer at Phipps?
A: The first step is to fill out an application. Because we strive to ensure that volunteers are placed in positions that best match their skills, interests and abilities, all accepted applicants are required to participate in interview, orientation and placement meetings. 

Q: Do I need to have any special skills or training?
A: On the job training is provided for most positions. Docents are required to attend a multi-week training program, while Master Gardeners must complete an intensive two semester training program.

Q: Do I need to bring any tools or equipment?
A: All volunteers are required to wear closed-toe shoes and are strongly encouraged to bring a reusable water bottle. Volunteers who work with our horticulture department should bring their own gloves. Other equipment and all tools are provided.

Q: Where can I park while volunteering?
A: Onsite parking is based on availability.

Q: What opportunities do you have for groups?
A: Occasionally, throughout the year and during special events, we are able to accommodate groups for a one-time volunteer experience. Please contact our volunteer coordinator to learn more.

Volunteer Opportunities

Master Gardener

Master Gardeners assist Phipps with a broad array of horticulture-related projects and activities, with an emphasis on Phipps education and outreach programs. Upon selection, applicants participate in an intensive 2 semester training program which has an admission fee. They earn the title of Master Gardener while volunteering in such a capacity for Phipps after completing all classes and required volunteer hours, and successfully passing an exam. Duties and responsibilities may include:

  • Answering Ask Dr. Phipps questions on the phone, by email or as part of in-person outreach events
  • Performing garden maintenance at Phipps Garden Center and on community sites in conjunction with Phipps' Homegrown program
  • Assist with education department special events and programs, such as Phipps greens sale and annual conferences
  • Supporting educational programs as an instructor's aide
  • Share horticultural information to the public through tabling, teaching classes, writing or other outlets 

The Master Gardener program is now open for registration. To learn more about our program, please contact our education team at edu@phipps.conservatory.org.

Download our application to get started!

Applications are due by Thurs., Oct. 12, 2023.

Discovery Program Volunteers
Discovery volunteers engage visitors of all ages, particularly children, through hands-on learning stations located throughout the Conservatory, including the Discovery and Edible Gardens. They interact with guests to enhance visits and answer general questions.
Requirements: Must enjoy interacting with the public.

Volunteers greet guests as they enter the Conservatory. Greeters answer general questions about Phipps and the surrounding areas and engage visitors in conversations about sustainability, providing interesting green points to look out for while touring Phipps.
Requirements: Must be outgoing and friendly, with an interest in both the history of Phipps and sustainability, plus be able to stand for up to three hours at a time.

Conservatory Docents
Conservatory docents lead guided tours for all ages and may be asked to emphasize certain areas of Phipps, such as Butterfly Forest or Tropical Forest. These volunteers may also take 3-hour stationed docent shifts to greet and engage guests, answer questions and point out special features. 
Requirements: Must enjoy interacting with the public and participate in a multi-week training program, which costs $65. Partial reimbursement is available after completing 12 docent led tours within six months of training completion. 

Sustainability Docents
Sustainability docents give tours highlighting Phipps' green buildings and landscapes — the Welcome Center, Tropical Forest Conservatory, Production Greenhouse, Special Events hall, Nature Lab, Exhibit Staging Center and the Center for Sustainable Landscapes — as well as our many sustainability initiatives and outreach programs. Docents may also take stationed shifts to greet and engage guests and answer questions.
Requirements: Must enjoy interacting with the public, have an interest in sustainability and green architecture and participate in multi-week training program, which costs $65.

Summer Camp Volunteers
Volunteers assist instructors by helping design and prepare crafts, interacting with children ages 2 – 12, and cleaning up after all daily activities for summer camps held June – August. Camp themes change each year, but all focus on connecting children to nature, science and healthy living.
Requirements: Must enjoy working with children and be able to obtain Act 33/34 clearances (fees will be reimbursed). Teenage volunteers ages 14 – 18 encouraged. 

Horticulture Volunteers
Volunteers help create and maintain gardens and exhibits and work in the following areas:

Production work is done under the guidance of Phipps staff and includes seeding, planting, potting, pruning and weeding plants in the greenhouses, plus other related tasks.
Requirements: Must be able to stand for longer periods of time, possess manual dexterity and tolerate warmer temperatures.

Outdoor landscapes
Under the guidance of Phipps staff, volunteers help plant and maintain outdoor gardens and engage in tasks such as weeding, pruning, raking, watering, planting and mulching.
Requirements: On-the-job training is provided but some gardening experience is helpful. Must be able to engage in physical activities, including stooping, kneeling, lifting and carrying objects of varying weights.

Indoor Display
Under the guidance of Phipps staff, volunteers help maintain display areas, removing yellow leaves from plants and the floor, deadheading flowers, mulching and trimming, as well as pruning and planting as needed.
Requirements: On the job training is provided but some gardening experience is helpful. Must be able to work amid dense plantings, bend over repeatedly, wield a wheelbarrow loaded with mulch, and engage in activities such as stooping, kneeling, lifting, and carrying objects of varying weights.

Botany Hall Demonstration Kitchen Culinary Classes
Phipps offers a variety of culinary classes to members and the public. Classes take place in the beautifully designed demonstration kitchen at Botany Hall. Volunteers will assist with prep, cleanup and actively assist the instructor during class. 
Requirements: An interest in cooking, a friendly personality, ability to follow direction, be hands-on and attentive to class participants. 

Phipps' Homegrown program is an edible gardening outreach program whose mission is to increase access to fresh produce, promote healthy eating and improve overall health in Pittsburgh neighborhoods with limited resources. Homegrown accomplishes this by installing household raised bed vegetable gardens and providing garden mentorship and educational resources. Homegrown works with residents of Homewood, Larimer, Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar and East Hills. Volunteers help with raised bed installation and garden planting, and they are also available as support and to answer questions.
Requirements: Experience growing vegetables, able to provide guidance to first-time gardeners, comfortable working in an outreach position in low-income neighborhoods, interest in healthy eating and nutrition.

Special Events Volunteers
Volunteers assist with various tasks for events held at the Conservatory and Phipps Garden Center throughout the year. Examples of these special occasions are as follows:

  • Discovery Garden Day
  • Family Fun Days
  • Gifts and Greens Sale
  • May Market
  • Members-Only Events
  • New Year's Eve Celebration
  • Used Bulb Sales

Requirement: Must enjoy interacting with the public. 

Photo © Paul g. Wiegman