Volunteer FAQ


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Volunteer in Schools
Volunteer at the EcoCenter

General Information

What is an EcoCenter Docent?

Our EcoCenter Docents are the public face of the EV at our nature center in the Palo Alto Baylands. Our Docents greet the public, share hands-on learning activities including interactive touchscreen displays, and answer any questions visitors may have about the EcoCenter or surrounding Baylands. During quiet times, our Docents might be working on office projects or helping to keep our teaching materials in tip-top condition.

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.

I’m interested in working at the EcoCenter, and in schools. Can I do both?

Yes! Many of our EcoCenter Docents also train as School Programs Volunteers.

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.

Where are you based? Do you have opportunities for people outside of the Bay Area?

Our EcoCenter is based in the Palo Alto Baylands. We do not currently have opportunities outside of the Bay Area.

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. There’s also 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 (2.5 hours each) a month, however we encourage you to volunteer for at least one shift per week.

Is it flexible?

Yes. You can choose to volunteer for fixed shifts or change week by week. Our volunteers lead busy lives and we are happy to make accommodating arrangements for vacations, exams, or other life events.

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 visitors 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.

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!

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Volunteer in Schools

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 School Programs 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 using our teaching materials with 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.

What if I don’t know anything about teaching?

Don’t worry! Many of our volunteers have no prior teaching experience. Our training course covers everything from group management to best teaching practices so that you will be confident going into the classroom.

Is there a cost involved with volunteering?

We offer our School Programs 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 requirement.

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!


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Volunteer at the EcoCenter

How old do I have to be?

To be an EcoCenter docent, you must be at least 14 years of age.

What is involved in EcoCenter Docent training?

We hold several half-day training sessions during the year, and all docents are required to attend a minimum of one training session. At training you will learn about the day-to-day workings of the EcoCenter, customer service techniques, and information about the Baylands. Continuing education is also available throughout the year.

Is there a cost involved with EcoCenter volunteering?

Our half-day training course costs $25.00. This subsidized course fee helps cover the cost of our training materials. Scholarships are available. Parking at the EcoCenter is always free. If you are over the age of 18, 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 requirement.

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 of science and nature in others!

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