Docents / Volunteers

Docents / Volunteers

education programs

Turtle Back Zoo Docent Volunteers

Essex County Turtle Back Zoo has a wonderful Docent program.  Docents are specially trained volunteers who give educational talks, act as guides and are stationed throughout the Zoo to provide information to visitors about the Zoo and its animal collection.  Being a TBZ docent is an enriching, rewarding and social experience. These are highly selective and prestigious positions.  Training is offered once a year.  The next training begins Sunday, February 4, 2018 and continues, on Sundays, through March 18, 2018.

Being a docent requires you to:

  • be at least 18 years old
  • complete an interview
  • complete a  specialized 7-day training course, with instruction provided by experienced TBZ staff. The next dates for training are on Sundays, February 4, 11, 18, 25 and March 4, 11 and 18, 2018.
  • pay a one-time fee of $30 to cover training materials
  • commit to volunteer a designated number of hours/events. Hours are gained from attending a set day (i.e.; 1st and 3rd or 2nd and 4th Saturdays) each month throughout the year. Docents are also expected to staff special events, such as Safe Howl-o-ween, as they occur throughout the year.
  • wear the docent uniform when working with the public (blue docent shirt & khaki pants or blue jeans and appropriate footwear)
  • be a good representative and guide/educator to the visiting public

Applicants must submit an application, accessible below, by January 12, and come for an interview to be held on Sunday, January 21, 2018.

Docent Application

For more information, please contact the Zoo’s Volunteer Coordinator at

Summer VolunTEEN Program

Our summer VolunTEEN program is open to teens from 14-17 years of age.  This program has very limited space with the ability to accommodate a maximum of 14 teens each year. Because of the limited space, this program is in high demand and will fill up quickly. The application for the program will be posted here soon.   The deadline to apply for the 2017 program is April 1, 2017.

To be a VolunTEEN:  You must be at least 14 years old (or entering 9th grade in the fall of 2017) to 17 years old, and willing to dedicate to working a full week at a time, Monday through Friday.  You may choose to work as many weeks as you like, but a minimum of 2 weeks is required. You are required to work full day shifts 8:30am to 4:30pm (8 hours). Our summer camp sessions run from late June through late August each year.  VolunTEENS work with our summer Zoo Camps ONLY.  Teens will not be working with keepers or animals.

Teens will be assisting Education staff with the Zoo’s Summer Camp program. They will help prepare for the daily camp sessions, assist children with crafts and activities, and help keep children together and safe while on Zoo grounds. Working as a VolunTEEN is a great way to learn about animals in all areas of the zoo and a way to share your love and enthusiasm of wildlife with younger peers. Not only is it a fun way to spend part of the summer, it will also help you get those much needed volunteer hours for upcoming college applications.

We do not have enough opportunities at this time to accommodate all those who want to volunteer at the Zoo, so please do not be discouraged if you are not initially selected for the VolunTeen Program. We keep a waiting list, and sometimes those on the waiting list are brought into the program later because others are unable to fulfill their commitment.

Applicants that meet all the requirements will be interviewed and, if accepted, will be given their volunteer assignments by June 2017.  ALL teens who are applying for the VolunTeen Program must submit all paperwork at the same time and by the application deadline to be considered eligible.

Please submit all of the following in ONE envelope, by April 1, 2017:

The 2017 VolunTEEN application

VolunTEEN Application

Two (2) Short Essay Questions: Why do Zoos matter? — AND — Why do you want to be a Zoo Camp Aide?

Two (2) letters of recommendation from adults who know you well, such as a teacher or scout leader (not friends or family). Your recommendations should address the following: dependability, leadership abilities, ability to work with others, willingness to learn, and self motivation.

Turtle Back Zoo