The Desert Museum Docents

Photo credit ASDM/Bob Henderlong

Who are Docents?

Docents are trained volunteers who engage Museum guests through the sharing of natural history and conservation stories to foster a better understanding and appreciation of the Sonoran Desert region and empower people to live in better harmony with the natural world. Docents are adults of all ages, walks of life and educational backgrounds. There are currently close to 200 Docents who volunteer twice a month or more at the Museum.

Docent Duties

A Docent’s primary responsibility is interpretation on the Museum grounds. Such interpretation consists of leading tours, presenting the materials at education carts around grounds, answering questions about the exhibits, supporting museum special events, and handling live animals for public presentations. Docents are also expected to provide excellent customer service to all guests, volunteers and employees of the Desert Museum. A successful Docent is friendly, adaptable, comfortable interacting with diverse groups of people, comfortable interacting with children, and excited to introduce people to the wonders of the natural world. Docents make a two-year commitment to volunteer for at least 144 hours per calendar year. This equates to volunteering two (2) days a month for six (6) hours each day, however many Docents choose to volunteer more frequently. Docents are also required to attend monthly continuing education classes from September-May. Docents may not exceed 64 volunteer hours in one month.

How can you get involved?

We are not currently accepting applications for a new Docent Class. Please check back with us in 2024.

When we are ready to accept a new Docent Class, persons interested in applying for the Docent Program at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum will need to complete an online application form. After the applications are reviewed, selected candidates will be asked to partake in a brief interview with the Docent and Volunteer Coordinators, to be scheduled at the Applicant’s convenience. Applicants will be notified of all final selection decisions in a timely manner upon the conclusion of all applicant interviews.

Please be aware that there is an enrollment fee* for the Docent Program that trainees are responsible for, prior to the beginning of the course; pricing is itemized below:

Uniforms are worn by Docents after they graduate and consist of khaki pants and a white shirt. Docents are responsible for furnishing their own pants and shirts. Patches for the shirts are included in the enrollment fees detailed above.

*Payment plans and need-based discounts are available to applicants for whom this fee presents a financial hardship.

Note: Requests for payment plans and need-based discounts are not shared with the Docent Coordinator, Volunteer Coordinator, or the Docent Selection Committee, and do not play a role in the decision to accept or deny an applicant to the Docent Program.

Need-based Discount Application Request Form

What is Docent training like?

Photo credit ASDM/Bob Henderlong

While we are not currently accepting applications for a new Docent Class, it is important to understand that the training process for becoming a docent is quite rigorous. For your reference we have included below a summary of the training procedures from our latest Docent Class:

The 2022-2023 Docent Training Class consisted of two mandatory classes per week on Wednesdays and Saturdays and began on October 22, 2022 and ended on January 21, 2023. Classes were not held during the week of Thanksgiving (November 20-26, 2022) nor the last two weeks of December (18-31, 2022). However, Docent Trainees were welcomed and encouraged to spend time at the Museum during these weeks to advance their training through individualized study and practice with a Docent Mentor.

Classes on Wednesdays took place at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and lasted approximately 3-4 hours. These classes were filmed and posted online so Docent Trainees unable to attend the Wednesday classes in-person were still able to participate in the program by viewing the trainings on an internet-connected device at home. Trainees watching the videos of the Wednesday trainings were expected to have completed their viewing by the Saturday of that same week.

Saturday classes took place at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and lasted 5 hours (on average). There were three, all-day classes (8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.) which took place on 10/22/22, 11/19/22, and 1/14/22. There were no at-home alternatives to the Saturday classes and Trainees were not allowed to miss more than three (3) of the Saturday sessions. Missing a Saturday session would require that time to be made up with mentoring at the Museum on a future date.

In addition to the time spent in class, Docent Trainees were expected to complete homework assignments which included mandatory readings, preparing presentations, and writing sample tours and interpretations. Docent Trainees were also required to complete at least 24 hours of apprenticeship under the guidance of Docent Mentors by March 1, 2023. These apprenticeship hours were scheduled on the days and times that worked best for each Trainee. At the conclusion of their apprenticeships, each Docent Trainee presented a “final project” which consisted of leading a 30-min. tour on Museum grounds following a theme of their choosing and development.

While future training class dates, times and expectations may differ from this previous class, we hope that this helps you to better understand what is required of our Docent Trainees. We will post updated information about training dates, etc. when we are ready to accept new docents.

Retrieved from the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum web site on 04-24-2024