Schedules and Stations
Every Thursday for the past 22 years I’ve spent all morning at the Monterey Bay Aquarium as a volunteer guide, interpreting for guests the wonders and challenges of the ocean. Even when I was working full time in ministry, this was my sacred morning of retreat and continuing education and outreach.
We 25 or so members of the intrepid Thursday First shift (one of 19 different weekly shifts) arrive an hour and a half before opening (8:30) for education, inspiration, food and sharing. I call it small group ministry – as much as we are committed to the mission of the Aquarium, which is “to inspire conservation of the ocean,” I am weekly inspired “to conserve the deep ocean of these special friendships.”
Our fabulous shift captains prepare our schedule, pictured. It’s different every week. There are over 20 possible guide stations. Our shift is bigger than many, so we can staff a lot of places.
We start at 10 and move every half hour to a different station. Our extensive training and continuing ed teaches us about every part of the Aquarium. You can see this past week I began at the Touch Pool (TP), then to Baja (great exhibit), Tiny Drifters (TD) - cool microscope with camera to interpret plankton and climate change. Next, Open Sea (OS) - million gallon tank as if you were 50 miles offshore. Finally the ACT cart - Animals, Climate, Tales - interesting quick videos of how Mother Nature is the best engineer and how she is inspiring more fuel efficient designs of trains, boats, cars.
You can also see that I take notes on my schedule as staff updates us. I wrote “Monty, Poppy, Bixby – other facilities, genetic diversity.” Those are three of our baby penguins who were born here as part of the international “Species Survival Plan,” in case their native South African population is wiped out by an oil spill. Having a bad memory, I write notes like this on my schedule so I can tell guests about the SSP and where the babies have gone.
(An interesting educational point that MBA has taught us - people learn more from other people than from text on a sign. Staff researchers look at guests and notice they don’t look much at signs. So to have volunteers who know stuff – we teach, they learn, we are all inspired.)
Some stations are “hard” – you must stay til you are replaced by the next person, eg Touch Pool. Others are “soft” – wander and seek out visitors. Over the years we have been encouraged and trained more and more to interpret climate change issues with guests – a fun, important challenge.
Since I am a long-time volunteer/old lady and a teacher I have been for some years a “mentor” to new guides, as I was mentored by the fabulous George, now retired and moved away. These days apprentices Sheila and Mark sometimes shadow me. The Aquarium takes education very seriously, not just of visitors and kids (80,000 students admitted free every year, curriculum all on line,) but also training us 1000+ volunteers.
For you church types, I realized after a year or so as a volunteer here that when I was a local church pastor I was essentially a volunteer coordinator, and from the Aquarium I have learned a lot about how I could have done that job better. I’ll write about that in coming weeks.
Come see me on Thursdays! I can get a few friends in free and I am an unabashed Aquarium evangelist!
Our Blue Theology pilgrimages along the Monterey Bay include a spiritual visit to the Aquarium. Bluetheology.com. I post these Wednesday ocean devotionals here and on Facebook.