Volunteers are critical to all the Bell’s mission to ignite curiosity and wonder, explore our connections to nature and the universe, and create a better future for our evolving world. Our mission depends on dedicated volunteers to engage visitors as docents, gallery cart assistants, and in our astronomy programs.
For Global Volunteer Month this April, we highlighted 10 Bell volunteers who go above-and-beyond to make the Bell a place of curiosity and wonder for all. We cannot thank you all enough for your time and energy spent at the Bell!
Bonnie Kloos enjoys volunteering at our gallery activity carts because she gets a chance to interact with people from all over the globe. She feels it’s important to come together as a community and do something good for each other, which is why she became a Bell volunteer. She’s concerned about the environment and sustainability, and knows it is important to educate people about the natural processes of this planet. Originally a student of the arts, she is finishing her degree in art and environmental studies at the University of Minnesota. In her words,
“I feel that if the beauty of nature is shown through art, then people will want to protect it and be willing to embrace the science [of conservation and sustainability] all that much more.”
Her love of nature is also evident in her appreciation for some of our dioramas. If given the choice, she’d live inside the Big Woods at Clear Lake since it looks so peaceful and cozy.
Dan Burbank has been an astronomy nerd since he was a kid in the 1950s. He brought that love to the Bell Museum in 2018 because he wanted to present traditional ideas of natural history alongside our place in the universe, as the Bell does. His favorite part of volunteering is sharing his interests with our visitors, and Dan appreciates their curiosity. One particular Star Party stands out to him:
“As is typical, my job was tending a telescope aimed at the Moon. I pointed out to our visitors that if they noted where the Moon was in relation to nearby background stars they could actually see the Moon moving along its orbital path around the Earth. Many of our visitors found this idea pretty captivating, and several were lucky enough to see background stars pop into view, or be eclipsed by Moon while they were watching!” Thanks for being a great volunteer, Dan!
Bell volunteer Deena Strohman joins us as a docent, at gallery activity carts, and at special events! She lives close by and walks to her shifts, even in winter. She became a Bell volunteer because she likes learning and places where “people can enjoy things in their own way, without having one set way of learning.” Her own background is in biochemistry, psychology, and food science (she loved Our Global Kitchen). Deena didn’t know a lot about natural history and astronomy when she started volunteering but loves the new experiences she gets at the Bell, like dissecting owl pellets. She had never considered dissecting owl pellets before, but recently gave it a try with a student and was fascinated by all the little skulls they found. In her own words “There is always more for me to learn.”
Chris Klejbuk and Ed Heimel
Chris Klejbuk and Ed Heimel began volunteering together as docents during our opening weekend in July 2018. The pair retired by the end of 2012 and began extensive travels around the United States and Canada. This photo is from Denali National Park, which they visited last August! Ed and Chris choose to travel to places that reflect our environment: from natural history museums to parks to gardens to wildlife refuges, they find these spots both interesting and informative. As they began to travel less, the new Bell Museum seemed like an excellent fit for volunteering an supporting Minnesota’s natural history. Chris especially enjoys pointing out some of the hidden gems within our galleries, like the many types of birds within the Big Woods diorama.
Together they’ve done a lot of “on-the-job” training about the natural world as Bell volunteers; Ed likes the opportunities to continue learning as a volunteer through our volunteer bevies. Bevies, a term used for a large gatherings of birds, are social functions and continued learning opportunities for volunteers. We bring in curators and field experts to talk about their research, our museum exhibits, and other fascinating topics. The pair both make great connections with our visitors from all walks of life. Thanks for being a part of the Bell, Chris and Ed!
Elizabeth Heeren chose to be a docent at the Bell Museum because she loved visiting the museum as a student at the University of Minnesota. She’s now a Minnesota master naturalist, volunteers for the National Park Service, state and local park services, and is active in many citizen science projects. Her favorite part of volunteering is sparking interest in the natural world around us, and she loves creating that lightbulb-turns-on, “oh, really!” moment for our visitors. She also likes when our visitors teach her new things and offer new perspectives. We asked her what she would do if she could live inside a diorama for a day. Ever inquisitive, Elizabeth would set up a trail camera to find out if a woodchuck lives inside the big ground burrow in the Big Woods at Clear Lake diorama. She’s been a docent for a year and a half. Thanks for being a great volunteer, Elizabeth!
Jeff Holmes is one of our most active docent volunteers—you can see him nearly every Tuesday and Thursday at the top of our stairs! He was actually a student guide at the Bell in the mid-1970s while studying at the U. Jeff is very outdoor oriented, and wants people to understand the natural world as much as possible. He directed an environmental education program in the Catskill Mountains after his time as a student guide.
He came back as a volunteer in 2018 just as the new building opened, and has really enjoyed connecting with the other docents and staff who are as excited as he is about the work we do at the Bell. He loves watching young people open up their minds to wonder and curiosity; it’s his “best reward of the day.” Jeff also has a great sense of humor! When asked, he’s up for the “challenge” of living inside the wolves diorama for a day!
Trish and Jerry Hartlaub
Trish and Jerry Hartlaub both volunteer at the Bell, often together. They’ve been with us since opening weekend, and Trish has fond memories of the “classic Bell” from her time as a student at the University of Minnesota. She doesn’t have a science background, but the Bell offered the chance to explore new horizons while contributing her time and energy to the community. Her favorite part of volunteering is greeting visitors. She’s even been able to use her French language skills on occasion to add an “extra layer of welcome” to their visit. Jerry’s favorite way to volunteer is at special events, like our Year of Apollo and Museum of the Moon programs last summer. He’s worked as a bioengineer, served on the Springbrook Nature Center board of directors for 11 years, and has written and published two books of poetry on nature! One great moment he’s had as a volunteer was a lengthy discussion with Jim Brandenburg about his work and world travel. Jerry also loved our City Stardust micrometeorite exhibit this past summer. Thanks for being great volunteers, Trish and Jerry!