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Get Ready: Give Back to the Garden


By Bethany Powers '11

Published Apr 1, 2009 8:00 AM

If you are passionate about the outdoors and want to share your enthusiasm with others, the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden at UCLA is looking for volunteers to serve as docents for the university's famed "living museum."

An extensive background in botany is not required to work at the garden — one of the most important living botanical collections in the United States, with about 5,000 species of plants from all over the world. All that's needed is a willingness to learn and the desire to share information with eager visitors.

Volunteers are taught botanical knowledge by the director of the garden, Art Gibson, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. Everything from the types of plants that grow in the garden to the life of Mildred E. Mathias will be covered in his five-week training program, which meets weekly for an hour and a half.

Many of the docents are Bruin alumni looking for an exciting and unique way to give back to their alma mater. In addition, notes Carol Felixson, the garden's docent and communications director, one of the nicest perks about volunteering at the botanical garden is the sense of camaraderie and friendship that builds between docents.

And the work itself is fun and fascinating. Docents give tours to a wide variety of groups, from elementary school children to adult gardening groups. Most give two to three tours per month, but the number of tours often depends on the season. Different groups require different strategies for tour-giving, depending on the age or purpose of the visitors. And new volunteers are mentored by senior docents to learn how to give an outstanding tour.

Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden docent training. Training begins Monday, April 27, 11 a.m. Applications due Thursday, April 23. For more information, call (310) 206-3887, or e-mail Carol Felixson.