Kim Murphy: Cultivating the next generation of conservationists

April 08, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- State College native Kim (Pedersen) Murphy was destined to be an educator. Her mom, a first-grade teacher, and her dad, a professor of speech communication at Penn State, were positive role models who embraced the profession. Although her parents taught primarily in classroom settings, Murphy has spent much of her career in less traditional spaces.

Kim Murphy

Penn State College of Education alumna Kim Murphy is president of Berks Nature. 

IMAGE: Provided

After graduating from Penn State with her bachelor’s degree in elementary and kindergarten education, Murphy taught preschool for nine months and kindergarten for two and a half years in the Harrisburg area. While she enjoyed putting the classroom skills she learned at Penn State into practice, she decided to shift her career focus and found her niche in various fundraising, alumni relations, and public relations roles at a Catholic high school, the Hemlock Girl Scout Council, and at Penn State Berks. After 13 years at the Berks campus, Murphy decided to tie all her experiences together and pursue nonprofit management. A Penn State alum connected her with the Berks County Conservancy, and Murphy immediately saw it as a natural fit.

“The conservancy was a traditional land trust whose goal was to protect, conserve and steward various types of land,” Murphy said. “Their vision aligned with my beliefs, so I just knew I would enjoy taking on a role there.”

In 2004, Murphy became president of the organization, working with staff to improve and protect land and water resources, educate the community about land use and its implications, and connect people to nature. Part of her programming included inviting special guest speakers to the conservancy, and one in particular, Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods,” would unexpectedly pivot the organization in a new direction.

“The most important lesson we learned from his talk was that children are experiencing Nature Deficit Disorder,” Murphy said. “On average, they spend less than 1% of their time outdoors in unstructured free play. That message was very impactful to our staff and board of directors, and from that point on we felt a responsibility to grow the next generation of conservationists.”

Under Murphy’s leadership, the Berks County Conservancy, now known as Berks Nature, has raised more than $4 million for “The Nature Place,” which opened in September 2017. Sitting among 100 acres in Reading’s Angelica Creek Park, The Nature Place is home to Berks Nature’s headquarters; Eco-Camp, a summer day camp that teaches children how to live “green” and protect the environment; and the new Nature Preschool.

“At Nature Preschool, children spend 75% of their day outside,” said Murphy. “It’s so important to a child’s development. They need time to lead and be led, and to negotiate how they play with each other. It’s amazing to see how comfortable children are spending time in nature.”

Murphy said she is constantly energized by the beautiful setting in which she works, as well as the community’s reactions to The Nature Place.

“Children often say this is the best playground they’ve ever seen,” Murphy said. “It’s inspiring to play a role in conserving Berks County’s environmental resources for those children and for future generations.”

Murphy lives in Bernville with her husband, Kevin, a 1984 alumnus of the College of the Liberal Arts. Their twin sons, Carver and McQuillin, also are proud Penn State graduates.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 08, 2020