Volunteering at the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo

The Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo (JMZ) has an exciting new Volunteer Program, which launched when the JMZ reopened last fall. The new program caters to all ages, including high-school and college students who are seeking community-service hours and would like to gain experience in communication, visitor services, and science-based learning. Volunteers are also educated in the JMZ’s “learn through play” model and in how to facilitate STEM and STEAM programs.

Read on to learn more about volunteering at the JMZ. This is the latest installment in our newsletter series with news about the new Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo!
Volunteer experiences at the new JMZ offer volunteers many rich opportunities. Volunteers can help children learn about buoyancy and problem solving while also encouraging social interaction among the children, fine-motor development, and risk taking at the JMZ's water-play area and gravel pit. Volunteers also facilitate open-ended play in the Exhibits Hall as volunteers play directly with children and families and foster experimentation through block play as well as the ball exhibits. Children and families use the ball exhibits to problem solve and to learn about gravitational pull and cooperative play.

Visitors can journey alongside a volunteer and have a scavenger hunt as they explore the JMZ's treasure trove of historical items in the Collections Corner. Each day is filled with opportunities for everyone to learn through the joy of curiosity and play. Feedback thus far from new, onboarded volunteers has been extremely positive. “I’ve already learned so much,” states Palo Alto High School student Risha Survana. “This is just the most perfect way to spend a Friday morning,” wrote retired elementary school teacher “Bobbie” Riedel.
Playing with the JMZ Ball Machine.png
“Volunteering should be educational, rewarding, and fun for everyone,” says new JMZ Volunteer Coordinator Ronnie Bogle. With over 25 years of experience working at children’s museums across the United States, Mr. Bogle is in the process of fully launching a new and expanded Volunteer Program for the JMZ.  

Programming is specifically designed to help volunteers learn more about museum engagement in ways that can be applied to their future career goals while providing a richer experience for JMZ guests. Students interested in early childhood education, as well as retired teachers who wish to spend some time being an educator once again, are all a part of the new program. The JMZ also offers highly rewarding opportunities for adults of all ages and backgrounds who wish to facilitate fun and engaging experiences in the zoo by inviting open-ended conversations about the animals and their habitats and sharing interesting facts about each of them.
Mom and child playing with an exhibit at the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo.
The program is designed to create "win/win" opportunities where the JMZ utilizes the talents of volunteers across our entire community while also providing enriching experiences for volunteers in which they can gain learning experiences that allow each person to learn and grow. High school and college students can view these opportunities as "first job" experiences, including learning experiences that are valuable to college and work resumes. Each volunteer is fully trained and supported on a daily basis by their mentor. Trainings include observation and reflection times, which provide discussion on how families engaged with the exhibits and how facilitation methods helped with those educational experiences.

Inclusion and accessibility are also key factors in the program. It is very important to offer a program that reaches out and connects to all the cultures and communities in the Santa Clara Valley region and offers opportunities for everyone to feel included and a part of the engagement, learning and fun.
Volunteers benefit from ongoing training courses that directly support their volunteering. These trainings include “Learning through Play in the Exhibit Areas,” “Cultural Inclusion,” “Story Time,” and “Creating a Five-Star Visitor Experience.” Soon the JMZ's Volunteer Program will also provide a working manual for each volunteer to use as a learning diary to document their journey of discovery through volunteering in the program. The manual is a highly unique training opportunity that provides ongoing and long-term growth for each volunteer working at the JMZ. 

In conclusion, the JMZ’s new Volunteer Program will develop new partnerships in the surrounding community with retirement villages, high schools, businesses, and corporations with individuals who wish to volunteer at the JMZ. This also includes a new Family Volunteer Program where families can give back to the community by volunteering at the JMZ as a family.
For more information about the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo’s Volunteer Program, please contact Ronnie Bogle, Volunteer Coordinator at JMZ, at [email protected] or 650-617–3529.
Friends of the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo