Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
I would like to start this presentation by thanking AZADV for the generous grant of $1,000 that the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum received in 2013 to help support our Iniciativas en Espaňol (Initiatives in Spanish) project.
Before talking in detail about the Iniciativas en Espaňol project, I would like to give you a brief introduction on the background and history of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
The Mission Statement of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is to inspire people to live in harmony with the natural world by fostering love, appreciation and understanding of the Sonoran Desert.
The Desert Museum is a medium size, regional museum focused exclusively on interpreting the Sonoran Desert Region.
What is the Sonoran Desert region and where is it? As the map shows, the Sonoran Desert as currently defined covers a land area of approximately 100,000 square miles which includes most of the state of Sonora in Mexico, most of the southern half of Arizona, southeastern California, most of the Baja California peninsula and the islands of the Gulf of California, also known as the Sea of Cortez.
It is also the only desert in the world that includes 100,000 square miles of sea within it and all of the islands in that sea are deserts.
The Desert Museum not only interprets the desert, but also other biomes or biotic communities that are found near the Sonoran Desert. Our ‘region’ includes all of the biotic communities: tundra, coniferous forest, deciduous forest, grassland, chaparral, desert thornscrub and tropical forest.
There are also mountains within the Sonoran Desert that are not deserts. They are called the Sky Islands, where much as in the Galapagos Islands, the flora and fauna of a particular range of mountains can only be found in those mountains.
So we interpret deserts, grasslands, mountain woodlands, riparian areas, and talk about water and creatures that live in fresh and salt water.
The Museum opened its doors on Labor Day 1952.
- The Museum’s property includes 21 acres with 2 miles of walking paths.
- Living collection includes approximately 230 animal species with approximately 2,750 animals representing 320 vertebrate and invertebrate species.
- There are approximately 1,220 plant taxa catalogued, approximately 72,000 plants found on the grounds mostly in the natural desert areas but not accessioned.
- The mineral collection is one of the world’s most comprehensive regional collections with over 14,100 rock and mineral species, including 2,068 fossils.
- More than 175 plants and animals in the collection are of conservation concern in the Sonoran Desert Region.
The first Docent Program class graduated 49 Docents and we currently have approximately 240 active Docents. Of those 240 Docents, at least 2 have contributed over 25,000 volunteer hours to the Museum.
On grounds, our duties include tours, themed tours, biofact cart interpretations, live animal interpretations, special events, and now, Spanish language tours. Off grounds, we assist the Education Specialists with programs at local schools, senior citizen centers, libraries, community centers, and resort hotels.
Iniciativas en Espaňol Project
In keeping with the Museum’s mission to tell the story of the Sonoran Desert region and to promote appreciation for this diverse and beautiful land, the Iniciativas en Espaňol project aims to extend the reach of the Museum to an untapped population – the large Spanish speaking population of Tucson, of Arizona, of the United States, and of the entire Spanish speaking world that visits our area.
In order to accomplish this, docents and staff members developed several ways to attract this population by presenting the vast amount of knowledge in our collective brains, in Spanish, to our Spanish speaking visitors. To do this, we are developed parallel interpretive programs in Spanish.
Our first goal was to develop general grounds tours in Spanish. But as with any pilot project started from ground zero, challenges for which we needed solutions arose almost immediately. We identified the following goals.
- Tours en Español
- Conversational Spanish classes
- Bi-lingual on grounds kit interpretations
- Bi-lingual live animal interpretations
- Bat bridge interpretation
As we started to develop these goals, we encountered the following challenges
- instilling confidence in Docents to conduct interpretations in Spanish
- developing interpretive materials in Spanish
- using traditional vs. local Spanish
- conducting successful on grounds interpretations
- conducting off grounds interpretations
- indentifying the target audience
- avoiding conflict with other programs offered by the Museum
- marketing and advertising to the Spanish speaking communities
- scheduling logistics in regards to docents
- recruiting Spanish speaking docents willing to commit to program
And came up with some solutions
- bilingual natural history data sheets
- vocabulary sheets
- practice tours
- conversational Spanish classes for intermediate to advanced speakers
- ‘Pregúnteme en Espaňol’ buttons
- ‘Pregúnteme en Espaňol’ table signs
- Outreach kit
- Inclusion in Museum’s web page
- Scheduled tours listed on website
- Tours en Español – tours are now regularly scheduled, posted and included in our website.
- Conversational Spanish classes – 10 week course successfully completed and a second 10 week course is being planned.
- Bi-lingual on grounds kit interpretations – as opportunity arises, docents wear ‘Pregúnteme en Español” button and place signs on interpretive sites.
- Bi-lingual live animal interpretations – as above
- Outreach – implemented, but currently not active
- Bat bridge – implemented
- Marketing – dependent on Marketing Department budget and staff availability
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is interested in looking at opportunities to continue to engage and connect with the Spanish speaking communities and visitors to the area.