Sharon Sullivan
Grand Junction CO Colorado

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February 5, 2008
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Grand Junction museum seeks docents, provides training

Margaret Strange started volunteering at the Museum of Western Colorado by gardening at Cross Orchards Historic Farm.

"Then I got hooked on the history," Strange said.

The retired teacher spends one full day a week, from April through October, weeding and tending the herb garden, giving impromptu tours whenever groups stop by, and helping out with special events.

"I enjoy being around children still, and it's an opportunity to go back in history," Strange said.

The Museum of Western Colorado is looking for volunteers of all ages to be docents at their three Grand Valley museums.

Docents interpret the history, and guide visitors on tours at Cross Orchards, 3073 F Road, Museum of the West in downtown Grand Junction, and Dinosaur Journey in Fruita.

The Museum of the West explores how the west was built and how different cultural communities " American Indian, Spanish explorers and settlers came together.

Cross Orchards is a working orchard where you can see what life was like at the turn of the 20th century.

Dinosaur Journey contains fossil treasures from western Colorado, robotic dinosaurs, hands-on exhibits, an earthquake machine, and a working fossil laboratory.

A training starts Feb. 26 for the museum's new docent program. The training will take place at each of the museums to give an overview of the programs, which also include outdoor sites like Mygatt-Moore quarry, a fossil-laden trail near the quarry called "Trail through Time," and the Fruita Paleontological Area.

"Then we will place people where they will likely fit and want to be," said Amy Ashman, curator of education.

The twice weekly four-hour training will last six weeks.

"After that, we're open to what people can donate (time-wise). We're very flexible," Ashman said.

Trainees will get a look behind the scenes at each of the sites.

"One of the perks is people will work directly with the curators," Ashman said.

Volunteers do not have to have a lot of background knowledge, Ashman said. The training provides the background plus materials that guides can use to give tours.

All a person needs is an enthusiasm for working with people, said Ashman, who will provide the training along with the curator staff.

"We have a lot of sites which is why we need assistance," Ashman said. "We have a lot of people who call for tours."

Those calls have come from Canada, New Zealand and Nebraska, as well as from local school teachers.

"You get to meet people from all over the world when you do this," Ashman said.

The museum has a new educational program where volunteers can also help out. Kids learn about navigation and compasses, GPS systems, and camping and survival in the wilderness in museum classes taught during teacher work days, parent-teacher conferences and during the summer.

Strange has volunteered at Cross Orchards since 1993. Still, she plans to attend as much of the docent training as she can, she said. Strange said she'd like to start giving tours at the Museum of the West.

"There's so much to be done. I hope we can get new volunteers because we sorely need them," Strange said. "It keeps you young; it also keeps you healthy."

For more information or to register for the training, call Ashman at 242-0971, ext. 220.

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The Post Independent Updated Feb 5, 2008 07:49PM Published Feb 5, 2008 07:49PM Copyright 2008 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.