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Ron Hartman has logged more than 1,000 hours as a volunteer in the Explore More Collections and Explore More Life labs.

The little girl’s eyes widened and a grin spread on her face as she watched the deceptively small, smooth surface of a rock transform into a vibrant pattern of color and texture beneath the microscope in Explore More Collections.

“This one makes it bigger and this one makes it clearer,” said Ron Hartman, turning the dials on the microscope.

And there it was: Ron’s favorite part of the day.

The moment when a child smiles, their face lighting up as they discover something new — that’s the most rewarding part of his job as a Discovery Place volunteer, Ron said.

Moments like these have kept him coming back three days a week since August 2010. In early January, he logged his 1,000th hour as a volunteer.

Ron was a high school teacher for 33 years and a park ranger in Arizona for five years before retiring to Charlotte. He was looking for ways to keep busy when he learned about volunteer opportunities at the Museum from his daughter, who is a member of The Guild of Discovery Place & Charlotte Nature Museum.

“It’s something to do that I really enjoy,” Ron said. “I like working with kids.”

His interest in science education, particularly fossils, paleontology and geology, made him a natural fit for the Explore More Collections and Explore More Life labs.

“Ron has been a great addition to our amazing team of volunteers,” said Juliann Chavez, Lab Manager, Explore More Life and Collections. “He has a great passion for geology and paleontology and shares his knowledge with the visitors, utilizing his own personal collections. He is known as the trilobite guy because he is often seen on Fossil Day with a table full of his own incredible collection of trilobites.”

“I like letting the kids pick through the fossils and telling them what they are,” Ron said.

In the Explore More Life lab, Ron said he especially enjoys working with the animals.

“There’s one snake that is so calm and friendly, he just has a calming effect on me.”

The contributions of Ron and other volunteers are invaluable to the Museum, Juliann said.

“With their help we are able to create new lab units. We are also able to include more daily dissections, animal interactions, and guided activities in Explore More Collections and Explore More Life labs,” she said. “We are very lucky to have such a dedicated group of lab volunteers.”

Interested in volunteering? Click here for more information.


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