Volunteers in Education
Volunteers in the education sector of a botanic garden can be an invaluable resource, able to involve and enthuse visitors and school groups alike, enriching the overall visitor experience and learning outcomes. However, there is a series of costs involved with setting up a volunteer programme, and stringent maintenance and evaluation is required to ensure the volunteers are happy, well-trained and achieving results. Some of the uses and examples of volunteer programmes are given in the articles below.
It seems that environmental education is generally under-funded in many countries and therefore understaffed. Yet there is gathering momentum to the development of EE and EE provision. So the workload of education officers is increasing exponentially and audiences cannot be reached without the help of a team of volunteers. Using volunteers has its pros and cons, but if managed successfully the rewards can be tremendous. The advantages and disadvantages are summarised here – it is important to bear both parties in mind as the programme will only work if it is mutually beneficial. Many of the disadvantages can be overcome by having a few simple strategies in place
In America, volunteers are found working beside paid staff in a very wide variety of positions in botanic gardens and other public institutions. Education volunteers, called docents, give guided tours, visit schools and help to interpret themes or exhibits through static displays, often using artefacts or "biofacts" as visual aids. The recruitment, training and management of large teams of volunteers is handled in a professional way which takes into consideration aspects such as job satisfaction, personal recognition and health and safety issues.
As Sydney prepares for the Olympic Games in the year 2000 the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney is preparing to accommodate the expected increase in tourist numbers. 36 Green Guides are being trained to provide directions, general orientation and on-site interpretation. They join a long standing group of Volunteer Guides who are horticulturally and scientifically trained and take the general public and specialist groups on tours of the Gardens. Green Guides, like Volunteer Guides, are part of the Community Education Unit.