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.  We are currently accepting applications for 2019; the next training course will begin in February 2019.

    Being a docent requires you to:

    • be at least 18 years old
    • complete and submit an application; the application can be downloaded here (please print double-sided if possible)  2019 TBZ Docent Application
    • complete an interview to be held on Saturday, January 19, 2019
    • complete a specialized 7-day training course; instruction provided by experienced TBZ staff.  The classes are held on Sundays, from 12pm to 5pm.  The 2019 training dates are:  February 10, 17, and 24; March 3, 10, 17, and 24.  March 31 is the snow date, if needed.
    • 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 (e.g. 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

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

    Summer VolunTEEN Program

    The 2018 VolunTEEN application deadline has passed; no new applications are being accepted.  The next application cycle will begin in the winter of 2019.


    About the VolunTEEN Program

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

    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 20 teens each year. Because of the limited space, this program is in high demand and will fill up quickly. The application for the program is now online and may be submitted electronically.

    To be a VolunTEEN: You must be 14 (or entering 9th grade in the fall of 2018) to 17 years old, and able to volunteer a full week at a time, Monday through Friday. You may be able to work more than 2 weeks, but a minimum of 2 weeks is required. VolunTEENS are required to report by 8:30am and will leave by 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.

    For 2018 Applicants

    Applicants that meet all the requirements will be interviewed and, if accepted, will be given their volunteer assignments by June 2018. There are also two mandatory training days: Sunday, May 20 (9am to 4pm) and Sunday, June 3 (9am to 4pm). 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.

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

    Please note that the final page will require an electronic signature from the your Parent/Guardian.


    Snail mail applications and recommendations will be accepted, but are not preferred:

    Turtle Back Zoo VolunTEEN Program
    Attention: Randy Laxer, Volunteer Coordinator
    560 Northfield Avenue
    West Orange, NJ 07052


    Turtle Back Zoo