Natural History Museum seeking volunteer educators
The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History is hosting an online open house via Zoom for people of all ages and backgrounds with a passion for science from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Sept. 13.
The museum invites you to turn your curiosity about the natural world into a productive use of your free time by joining its corps of volunteer educators, who help share science literacy and empower the next generation of Earth’s stewards by facilitating school programs, leading tours and interpreting interactive exhibits, according to a press release.
“When I’m here, I feel that I make a difference,” said Glenn Grayson. “I think everybody here feels that way.”
He has been educating at the museum for five years, experiencing the wide range of training and duties available to docents. He observed firsthand how the challenges of educating during the pandemic forced the museum and its volunteers to adapt.
“I think the museum is very resilient. We’ve opened and closed and opened and closed, and still, the integrity of the museum is there because of the people,” Mr. Grayson said. “The museum and its versatile educators invested in technology and skills that carried their messages about science, nature and culture far from the Mission Canyon campus.”
Select educators can volunteer from home and reach students all over the world by leading the museum’s virtual field trips, but the core of docent work remains interacting in person with guests and students.
There is no cost to participate, and docents receive free passes to the museum. New docents commit to attending training classes from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Mondays from Sept. 20 through June 13.
In addition to the Monday training for new docents, the commitment for all education volunteers working with school programs is one weekday morning per week from 9:30 a.m. to noon. Scheduling is flexible.
“If you just get one person to find out something they didn’t know — sometimes it’s simple, like the fact that there’s scientific equipment on Mars or that we had mammoths here — it’s worth it for that ‘aha moment.’ That’s why we’re here,” said Mr. Grayson.
In addition to interpreting science, docents raise public awareness of the Chumash cultural heritage of the region and how living Chumash descendants are carrying their culture into the future.
Becoming a docent requires no prior experience, although volunteers who are proficient in more than one language (especially bilingual English/Spanish) come with bonus communication skills that are greatly appreciated by the museum’s guests.
With training opportunities like workshops with curators and other experts, docents can deepen their understanding and appreciation of the region, the planet and the universe, according to the release.
“If you’ve always liked the natural world and wanted to know more about it, being a docent is a great experience,” said Mr. Grayson.