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 currently accepting applications for a new Docent Class which will run from Saturday, October 22, 2022 until Saturday, January 21, 2023.

Persons interested in applying for the Docent Program at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum should complete the 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 by Saturday, October 10, 2022.

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

This year’s Docent Training Class will consist of two mandatory classes per week on Wednesdays and Saturdays beginning October 22, 2022 and ending January 21, 2023. Classes will not be held November 20-26, 2022 nor December 18-31, 2022. However, Docent Trainees will be welcome (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 will take place at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and will last approximately 3-4 hours. These classes will be filmed and posted online, so Docent Trainees unable to attend the Wednesday classes in-person will still be 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 will be expected to have completed their viewing by the Saturday of that same week.

Saturday classes will take place at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and will last 5 hours (on average). There will be three, all-day classes (8:00 AM – 4:00 PM) on the following days: October 22nd, November 19th and January 14th. There are no at-home alternatives to the Saturday classes and Trainees may not miss more than three (3) Saturday sessions (to be made up at a later time).

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

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