Volunteer in Peninsula & South Bay Schools

Volunteer in Peninsula & South Bay Schools

Are you passionate about science and nature? Do you enjoy inspiring children and working as part of a team? Then Environmental Volunteers has the role for you!

We’re looking for reliable, friendly people who are committed to inspiring a love of science and nature in future generations. Our School Programs Volunteers share their love of the natural world with local elementary school kids. Working in teams of 3 or 4, School Programs Volunteers engage with small groups of children directly in a classroom setting, involving them in hands-on, discovery-based learning.

Skills needed

  • Friendly disposition
  • Ability to work with children
  • Passion for science, nature, teaching, and environmental stewardship
  • Support for the EV’s mission to promote the understanding of and responsibility for the environment through hands-on science education.

This role is perfect for someone who is available during the school day, and has a passion for children and education. No previous experience is needed for this role and training will be provided for all successful applicants.

Our training courses ensure that all volunteers have the teaching or interpretation skills necessary for working with their audience, and are confident in the material they are teaching.

You will always be supported in the classroom by other volunteers, and a teacher will always be present. We offer flexible hours, locations and subject matters, so you can select the opportunities that best fit your lifestyle.

To take the next step in joining our team, fill in a Volunteer Information Form!


What is a School Programs Volunteer?
Our School Programs Volunteers deliver our hands-on teaching materials directly to children in their classrooms. In the classroom, you and the other volunteers will share your station with the class in groups of 8 kids or fewer. This is repeated through 3 or 4 rotations so that each child in the class will visit your station during the service.

How old do I have to be?
To be a School Programs Volunteer, you must be at least 18 years old. If you are not yet 18, why not check out our EcoCenter Docent opportunities?

What is involved in training?
We hold training courses four times per year: two in the spring and two in the fall. These courses run one morning a week for 7 weeks and cover everything from background knowledge in the subject matters you might be teaching, to best-practice teaching techniques. During training, you will have the opportunity to practice teaching kits to your peers in a safe and supportive environment. At the end of training, you will be invited to attend a “supported service” where you will join an experienced EV in the classroom for side-by-side instruction. You are only required to attend one training course. Continuing education is also available throughout the year.

I don’t know much about science and nature. Can I still volunteer?
Yes! Our training course provides you with background information on our teaching subjects, and you are always welcome to take materials home to study before a classroom service.

What if I don’t know anything about teaching?
Don’t worry! Many of our volunteers have no previous teaching experience. Our training course covers everything from group management to best teaching practices so that you will be confident going into the classroom.

I’m interested in working in schools, and at the EcoCenter. Can I do both?
Yes! Many of our School Programs volunteers also help out as EcoCenter Docents.

Which training do I need to take in order to lead field trips?
Field trips are an integral part of our school programs education and, in order to ensure that our volunteers can best connect field trip education with classroom learning, EVs wishing to lead field trips must be active School Program Volunteers in addition to taking site-specific field trip training.

Where are you based? Do you have opportunities for people outside of the Bay Area?
We visit schools the following cities in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties: Redwood City, East Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Atherton, Woodside, San Carlos, Palo Alto, Los Altos, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, San Jose, and Santa Clara. We do not currently have opportunities outside of these areas.

What benefits would I get from volunteering?
Not only will you gain new skills, learn about local environments, and experience the satisfaction of doing something that makes a difference, we also offer a few perks along the way! From picnics to potlucks, we hold several social events throughout the year. Our weekly digest and monthly newsletters keep you up to date with everything happening at the EV, and during the summer we have Summer Camp for Docents, a series of events and day trips arranged exclusively for EV volunteers, and we have a Yahoo group where our EV community shares interesting stories, upcoming events, and relevant information.

What is the time commitment required to volunteer?
Our volunteers commit to a minimum of two volunteer shifts (approximately 3 hours each) a month, however we encourage you to volunteer for at least one shift per week.

Is it flexible?
Yes. Our shift hours vary from week to week, so there is bound to be something to suit your schedule. We also understand that you may prefer to volunteer close to home. At the EV you can opt to volunteer at schools local to you. Our volunteers lead busy lives and we are happy to make accommodating arrangements for vacations, exams, or other life events.

Is there a cost involved with volunteering?
We offer our volunteers a subsidized course fee of $75 to help cover the cost of our expert lecturers during training. Scholarships are available. California Law requires all volunteers entering schools to provide evidence of a clear TB Test. You are also asked to cover the cost of your background check. Our fingerprinting locations in Palo Alto and Campbell offer a fixed price of $40, payable directly to the Environmental Volunteers. You may request reimbursement of this cost after fulfilling 6 months of your minimum service requriement.

Do you perform a background check on volunteers?
Yes, a background check is required on all volunteers over 18 years of age. This ensures that our volunteers and students are well cared for and that we operate with the highest levels of safety and security. Further information regarding background checks will be provided at training.

What does a typical School Service look like?
Before signing up for a service, you will be able to see what time, school and subject area the service is for. Approximately a week before a service you have signed up for, you will receive an email from your Team Coordinator (another EV who has offered to take on this role) to coordinate who will be doing which teaching kits. Once the kits have been assigned, you will have the opportunity to review the materials for your kit, either using the online Wiki, or by visiting an EV office.

On the day of the service, you will meet the other EVs at the school office to sign in before going to the classroom. Once you have arrived at the classroom, you and the other EVs will set up your respective stations. There are usually 3 or 4 EVs per service, depending on the classroom size. Once the class is assembled, one EV will do a short introduction, before the teacher splits the class into groups of approximately 8 students. You will have each group for approximately 15-20 minutes, after which the groups will rotate while you stay at your station. Once all rotations are complete, each group will have been through each station, and you will have shared your station with every child in the class. After a short conclusion with the whole group, you will pack up and leave, ensuring that you sign out at the office on your way out.

How do I get started?
Just fill in a Volunteer Information Form and we'll be in touch about the next steps for joining our team! We hope you will join us and help inspire a love science and nature in others!