Volunteering allows people of all ages and backgrounds to inspire and engage others. It's a wonderful way to develop skills, explore another career, enhance personal growth, connect with others, strengthen communities, improve lives and have meaningful impact in today's world.
As a SERC Education volunteer, you can be part of a family of educators that provides high quality, hands-on, inquiry-based science learning rooted in Smithsonian Science. This requires that all volunteers maintain a high level of knowledge, skills and proficiency. To do this we provide a variety of support and training for our volunteers, including an active volunteer mentorship program.
There are five main volunteer areas: Education Program Leaders, Education Program Helpers, Education Volunteer Trainers, Visitor Center Support and Other Opportunities which include aquarium and animal care, general office work and trail maintenance. Volunteers have the opportunity to work in more than one area. For example, a Education Program Leader may act as a Program Trainer or mentor. While we have no minimum number of volunteer hours, we suggest 6-10 hours per month. Click on the accordion tabs below to view our volunteer descriptions and requirements.
Five Volunteering Areas:
- Help lead and conduct educational programs (Grades K-8)
- Help prep and maintain educational materials
- Supervise Education Programs Helpers
New Program Leaders are required to attend two trainings, a safety training and content training (3 hours each) and one other annual training (2 hours). Returning volunteers are required to attend one annual meeting a year and are encouraged to attend content refresher seminars.
Provide assistance to education volunteers and staff that are leading programs. This may be in the form of setting up and taking down materials, assisting with teaching content, or providing lunch breaks and relief for rotation stations.
New Program Helpers are required to attend two trainings, a safety training and content training (3 hours each) and one other annual training (2 hours). Returning volunteers are required to attend one annual meeting a year and are encouraged to attend content refresher seminars.
There are a variety of jobs available, both in the front of the house and behind the scenes that use Visitor Center Support.
- Providing front desk assistance
- Being a point of contact for school groups and visitors
- Maintaining kiosk brochures
- Maintaining educational databases
- Creating and maintaining brochures, handout and materials
- Researching information for education staff
- Communicating with other groups and organizations
- Cleaning, organizing and maintaining volunteer center
- Maintaining trails
- Maintaining and repairing microscopes, waders, nets and educational supplies
New Visitor Center Support volunteers are required to attend one safety training (3 hours) and one annual training (2 hours) a year. Returning volunteers are required to attend one annual meeting a year.
Volunteer trainers assist with a variety of tasks and programs.
- Assisting with volunteer support materials
- Training volunteers and assisting with programs
- Acting as a liaison for volunteers and outside organizations
- Assisting with organizing talks, field trips and other activities
- Building and maintaining a virtual and physical library of educational materials
- Mentoring new and returning volunteers
New Volunteer Trainers are required to attend the same programs at the Program Leaders, which include two trainings, a safety training and content training (3 hours each) and one annual training (2 hours). You must also be considered “proficient as a Program Leader” and attend one additional training class before taking on the role of Volunteer Trainer. You can receive this proficiency certification by having Education Staff observe you leading at least two education program stations.
There are many other opportunities not listed here, that can be addressed on a case-by-case basis, and focused on the needs of the education center as well as the interest of the volunteer.
- Caring for aquaria and animals (no experience required)
- Designing brochures (some experience required)
- Maintaining education portion of the website (previous experience required)
- Writing curricula (previous experience required)
- Illustrating (previous experience required)
- Producing educational videos (previous experience required)
Visitor center support volunteers are required to attend one safety training (3 hours) and one annual training (2 hours) a year.
Benefits of Volunteering at SERC:
- Participate in a high quality education program designed to engage students with Smithsonian Science, hands-on inquiry-based learning
- Attend fun hands-on trainings and meet world class scientists
- Use of staff food facilities Monday through Friday at the Castle and Natural History Museum (NMNH) cafeterias
- Receive 20% off at Smithsonian stores, catalogs and restaurants in museums and galleries
- Receive complementary tickets to select museum shows, events and features
- Park for free on weekdays (after 3pm) and weekends at select Smithsonian museums and galleries