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. Docents 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 over 150 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, leading hands-on educational activities and games, answering questions about the exhibits, supporting museum special events, and handling live animals for public presentations. Docents are 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, excited to introduce people to the wonders of the natural world, and able to learn and remember the Desert Museum’s safety procedures and protocols. Docents must be able to get to and from the Desert Museum, as the Museum is unable to provide transportation, and they must able to move around the almost two miles of outdoor trails. During the course of their duties Docents may be exposed to heat, cold, wind, rain, and sun for long periods of time. Docents may also occasionally encounter free-roaming venomous animals during their shifts.

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 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 begin training on Saturday, October 5, 2024. Persons interested in applying for the Docent Program at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum should 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 upon the conclusion of all applicant interviews and no later than Saturday, September 13, 2024.

Please be aware that there is a $45 enrollment fee* for the Docent Program that trainees are responsible for, prior to the beginning of the course; pricing is itemized below:

The Docent uniform consists 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 scholarships are available to applicants for whom this fee presents a financial hardship. Requests for payment plans and scholarships are not shared with the Docent Coordinator, Volunteer Coordinator, or the Docent Selection Committee, and do not play any 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

Docents at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum are always learning, but your initial Docent Training requirement involves attending at least two (2) in-person training cycles, completing at-home study sessions, and partaking in on-grounds practice. A detailed explanation can be found below:

In-Person Trainings:

Starting in 2024, in-person docent trainings will be offered quarterly throughout the year. New docents are required to attend the first training cycle which will take place every Saturday during the month of October 2024. After completing this initial training cycle, new docents must then attend at least one of any of the three remaining elective training cycles. Individuals are welcome, and encouraged, to attend all four cycles if they are able, but a minimum of two are required to earn a place in the Docent Program. The training cycles and topics will be as follows:

Mandatory Training: (All new docents must attend this training cycle)
  • Cycle One: New Docent Training – Saguaro, Earth Sciences & Mountain Woodlands.
    • Saturday, October 5, 2024 from 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
    • Saturday, October 12, 2024 from 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
    • Saturday, October 19, 2024 from 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
    • Saturday, October 26, 2024 from 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Elective Training: (Choose at least one of the below)
  • Cycle Two: Riparian and Gardens
    • Saturday, January 4, 2025 from 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
    • Saturday, January 11, 2025 from 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
    • Saturday, January 25, 2025 from 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
  • Cycle Three: Desert Loop and Grasslands
    • Saturday, April 5, 2025 from 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
    • Saturday, April 12, 2025 from 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
    • Saturday, April 19, 2025 from 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
  • Cycle Four: Pollinators, Aquarium, and Reptiles & Invertebrates
    • Saturday, July 12, 2025 from 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
    • Saturday, July 19, 2025 from 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
    • Saturday, July 26, 2025 from 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Advanced Training: (Must have completed at least two* of the previous Cycles 1-4)
  • Cycle Five: Creating and Leading Tours
    • Saturday, October 4, 2025 from 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
    • Saturday, October 11, 2025 from 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
    • Saturday, October 18, 2025 from 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

All classes noted above will take place at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. When feasible, portions of these classes will be filmed and posted online. Docent Trainees unable to attend in-person will still be able to participate in the program by viewing the training recordings on an internet-connected device at home. Trainees who miss more than one class in a cycle will not be considered to have completed that cycle.

At-Home Study

At-home study will consist of online trainings and videos, as well as self-paced readings and homework. Many of these at-home assignments may be completed at the leisure of the student during their training cycle. Access to an internet-connected device is required for many of these trainings, and students can arrange to use a device at the Museum if they do not have access to one at home.

On-Grounds Practice Sessions

While between training cycles, new docents are required to spend at least 8 hours per month on-grounds practicing their interpretations and reviewing their newly learned material. New docents will be supervised by docent mentors during these practice sessions until they feel comfortable being on their own. New docents will be able to schedule themselves for their on-grounds practice sessions as their schedules allow, and are welcome to complete this portion of their training on any day of the week.

Retrieved from the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum web site on 07-22-2024