Volunteer the natural way at area environmental museums and attractions
Southwest Florida has a plethora of opportunities to volunteer with environmental attractions, whether it’s a retiree with lots of time and a bunch of skills to offer or a high schooler with little time and experience. , but with enthusiasm to give time during the summer holidays .
Connecting with nature is at the heart of these opportunities and volunteers can help children grow vegetables, pilot a boat for guided water tours of the area’s environmental treasures, greet guests or clean up the beaches. There are many other ways to help the many nature-focused museums and galleries.
With school outings for the summer, many places welcome teenagers. Whether volunteering is a way to earn summer school credit or just something fun to do, places like the Conservancy of Southwest Florida in Naples welcome kids 16 and up. The Bailey-Matthews National Seashell Museum in Sanibel welcomes 13-year-old volunteers as long as there is a parent or guardian there to watch new teens while they help.
Those who need volunteers will take what they can get in terms of time commitment. Some people help out for a few hours a month while others commit to what amounts to a week’s worth of work.
The benefits of volunteering can be as valuable to the individual as the time donated itself. Volunteering gives meaning to purpose and community, helps find new like-minded friends, improves social skills, and can build self-esteem as well as teach valuable skills. Plus, more often than not, it’s fun.
Volunteers are kept in touch with others who can help form a strong support system, which in turn helps stave off not only boredom, but also stress and depression for those going through difficult times.
The famous Martin Luther King, Jr. once spoke of the value of volunteerism and community service: “Everyone can be great because everyone can serve. You don’t need to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You don’t need to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a gracious heart. A soul begotten by love.
Here is a list of just a few of the many environmental education attractions that can use the help of volunteers.
Southwest Florida Conservatory
1495 Smith Preserve Way
Naples, Florida 34102
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida has a mission that involved a multitude of environmental activities, and many of them rely on volunteers to help staff create the best possible educational experience for visitors. Some of the volunteer opportunities are ‘open to the public’, such as guided tours – some by boat; some on foot – from some of the most fascinating places in the region, while others are “out the back”, like keeping the campus clean and caring for sick or injured wildlife.
Clam Pass Educators
Teach visitors about the particular flora and fauna that dominate in this unusual environment.
Deliver, place and monitor collateral and promotional material at various hotels, hospitality centers and other locations in Southwest Florida.
Conservancy Nature Center Guest Services
Greet visitors, collect admission fees, sell memberships, answer phones and provide information to visitors.
Good Fortune II Naturalist
Offering educational guided cruises aboard the Good Fortune II pontoon boat through Rookery Bay.
Dalton Discovery Center Tour Leaders
Organize guided tours of the Dalton Discovery Center and participate in environmental education programs throughout the nature center. Training is provided.
Check in visitors for boat rides, help dock boats, and answer general questions about the Conservancy and what’s happening on campus. The best candidates are friendly and outgoing, and able to maintain decorum during busy times on the dock.
Offering educational guided cruises on the Gordon River aboard an electric boat. Our boat captains fulfill the dual role of piloting the boat and telling stories. Top candidates not only love boating, but also care deeply about the mission of the Conservancy. Navigation experience is preferred, but not required (training provided).
Work with facilities staff to provide support in campus cleaning, equipment repair, woodworking and other general maintenance.
Fairs and festivals
Attend select community events to promote the work of the Conservancy, interact with attendees, distribute Conservancy publications, and promote the importance and benefits of Conservancy membership and volunteerism.
Welcome members and visitors to the Conservancy Nature Center.
Mith Reserve Maintenance Team
Assist in the upkeep of the Smith Preserve by removing exotic plants and preserving the natural habitat of the gopher turtle preserve.
Deliver “Conservancy Story” presentations to civic associations, homeowners associations, and other community organizations, promoting the work of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida and the benefits and importance of Conservancy membership and volunteerism .
Von Arx Wildlife Hospital – animal carers
Help care for injured animals, prepare food, clean enclosures and do laundry.
Von Arx Animal Hospital – critter couriers
Conservancy Critter couriers pick up injured wildlife and deliver them to Von Arx Wildlife Hospital when the person who informed hospital staff about the animal is unable to do so.
JN ‘Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Reserve
1 Wildlife Route
The JN “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is supported by over 300 volunteers, but more is needed. Refuge volunteers help conserve and protect wildlife and teach thousands of visitors that their actions today determine the conservation legacy of tomorrow.
Reception of the reception and education center
Front desk volunteers represent the Refuge to the public, answer questions, and help visitors find things around the Visitor Center and Nature Store.
Work with school groups and offer interpretive programs.
Answer incoming phone calls and perform minor administrative tasks.
Interact with visitors on the Wildlife Drive and trails. Provide information on other recreational activities available on the refuge and its surroundings.
Maintain refuge lands, trails, facilities and equipment.
Remove monofilament line, hooks, lures and floats from refuge vegetation by land and water.
Bailey-Matthews National Seashell Museum
3075 Sanibel Road Captiva
Sanibel, Florida 33957
Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum volunteers have a unique opportunity to share their passion for shells and molluscs with others.
A seashell lover is not necessary as this is a museum with tons of volunteer opportunities in a place dedicated to educating the public on environmental issues. This year, they particularly need help.
Here is an overview of some of the volunteer opportunities at the Seashell Museum.
Adopt a Docent class
Lead a station in the Adopt-A-Class Fourth Grade Field Trip program
Interact with guests in “Beyond Shells: Living Gallery”. Educate guests about animals and exhibits, facilitate guest engagement, and improve the guest experience.
Aquarium Breeding Volunteer
Help our expert aquarium staff care for our unique animals.
Great Hall Guide
Help guests participate in scavenger hunts, educate them about exhibits, facilitate guest engagement, and enhance their experience.
Group tour guide
Help lead ‘Scholars of the Road’ groups or other museum tours. Adult and child groups available.
Molluscs in motion
Travel with a museum educator to a school, community center, learning center, or hospital to educate the community about living shellfish.
Assist store staff with customer service, stocking shelves, dusting, labeling and other duties as needed.
Teach Sanibel sunbathers about seashells, molluscs and other beach finds. A free eight-hour training is required.
Touch pool guide
Assist guests, educate and supervise guests touching shellfish at Touch Pools. Create a unique and memorable experience for customers and help foster lifelong learning.
Environmental Reporting for WGCU is funded in part by the VoLo Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to accelerate global change and impact by supporting science-based climate solutions, improving education and improving health.
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