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Public Programs Volunteers are the Academy’s front-line educators, and one of the many important, public faces of this institution. Scroll down to read about maximizing your experience!

Mission Statement

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The mission of the Academy Volunteer Program is to directly support the Academy’s bold mission to regenerate the natural world through science, learning, and collaboration. This is our call to action! Volunteers accomplish this by:

  • Leading informal and interactive educational engagements with Academy guests that inspire curiosity, learning, and action based on scientific knowledge. Utilizing conversation and hands-on experiences guests discover the wonder of science and nature, using authentic scientific information consistent with Academy main messages and goals.


  • Assisting with educational programs by facilitating conversation and hands-on experiences that connect students K-12 with science concepts and the natural world.


  • Orienting guests to maximize their enjoyment and engagement with Academy exhibits and mission.


  • Supporting learning and biodiversity science through work with Academy scientists and collections


  • Assisting the Academy in maintaining live exhibits, and caring for the plants and animals that call the Academy home. This volunteer service is crucial in building stronger connections between guests and the natural world.


  • Supporting many departments/areas around the Academy, such as Philanthropy and Horticulture, in achieving Academy goals.

Academy Volunteer Program Handbook

The Academy Volunteer Program Volunteer Handbook has been updated for 2022! This handbook is designed to be a “one-stop shop” for all information about the Academy Volunteer Program, a program formed in 2021 via the unification of Volunteer Services and the Public Programs Volunteers.


Volunteer Perks

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  • Onsite Discounts: Present your Academy badge to take advantage of the following benefits:
    • 25% discount on all purchases in the Academy stores

    • 20% discount of food purchases at the Academy Café and The Terrace


  • Discounts on Academy Tickets: Academy volunteers are able to take advantage of a flat $5 discount per admission ticket! Click here for instructions on how to access this benefit.


  • Discounts on Academy Membership: Academy volunteers are eligible to receive a substantial discount on new Academy memberships and renewals! Click here for instructions on how to access this benefit.


  • Insurance for Volunteers: The Academy maintains an insurance policy that covers injuries sustained while volunteering. This coverage is secondary to any medical insurance the volunteer may carry.
    • Please report any accident or injuries sustained onsite to Security ASAP. Security folks are trained to administer first aid, if needed, and can advise on next steps or referrals.
    • For more details, please refer to the Health and Safety section of the volunteer handbook.
  • Miscellaneous perks, discounts, and benefits. We will update this document periodically as we receive new information.

These perks and benefits are intended for use by Academy staff and volunteers ONLY. Please do not share listed discount/sales code with anyone not affiliated with the Academy, including friends and family.


Community: DTLs


The Academy's reopening in 2021 was accompanied by many changes, including the discontinuance of the Tide Pool and the Live Animal Program, and introduction of new protocols and systems. This necessitated a shift in DTL's responsibilities and scope. DTLs continues to be an important part of the Docent Program, and we hope to revisit the DTL role descriptions in the future. Stay tuned! The following are the pre-pandemic details of the DTL role:

Daily Team Leaders (DTLs) have many jobs: organize shifts, coordinate pre-shift, mentor, arrange shadow sessions, and communicate. Any docent with one year of experience can become a DTL. 

Important DTL Documents:


Community: Volunteer Leadership Teams

Interested in volunteering behind-the-scenes in Public Programs? We have 12 Volunteer Leadership Teams that work on a variety of projects such as volunteer recruitment, training, on-boarding, community building, education, effective communication, and taking care of our materials and props.

Volunteer Teams:

*Please note that several volunteer teams may be inactive or on indefinite hiatus at this time.

  • Communications
    • Provide supplementary avenues of volunteer-to-volunteer communication 
  • Daily Team Leaders (DTLs)
    • Enhance the functioning of DTLs as shift planners and public floor leaders
    • Provide opportunities to address DTL issues through semi-annual meetings
    • Goals: Keep DTL morale high; provide a reliable communication channel to staff
  • Engagement Materials 
    • Promote the use of materials in public floor engagements
    • Offer guidance to docents, special event volunteers, and others on using materials
  • Enrichment 
    • Provide volunteers with enrichment opportunities (presentations, field trips, special opportunities) both at the Academy and off-site
  • Hospitality 
    • Develop social activities that foster camaraderie and strengthen morale
  • IT 
    • Develop uses for iPads, and explore other ways that technology can assist in moving our mission forward
  • Live Animal Program 
    • To support the Live Animal Program by assisting the Volunteer Operations Coordinator in providing Live Animal training, peer to peer support, administrative assistance, mentoring, and other assistance as requested, that helps ensure AZA best practice in our Live Animal Program
  • Mentors and Advisers 
    • Provide knowledgeable, friendly, and professional mentors and advisors to all new docent volunteers
  • Public Programs Members At Large 
    • Peer to peer communication about the Leadership team, and to act as a voice for smaller volunteer groups within public programs
  • Recruiting Projects 
    • Recognize personal and professional contributions of volunteers
  • Recognition 
    • Support Public Programs Volunteers staff in identifying recruiting opportunities, and planning and supporting recruitment efforts
  • Training
    • Assisting the Training and Education Coordinator in developing and reviewing training materials, and other training related needs as requested

If you are a veteran docent and are interested in joining one of these teams, email us at volunteers@calacademy.org!