High School Explainers
The High School Explainer Program is a workforce and youth development program that serves youths ages 15-21.
High School Explainers, the Exploratorium’s youngest employees, are a diverse group of students who engage visitors at exhibits, lead demonstrations, and run many museum operations. Some are interested in science; all have a spark for learning new things. In keeping with the Exploratorium’s philosophy, they build their own skills while learning to help others.
Two cohorts of High School Explainers - a summer cohort and a schoolyear cohort - fill over 130 paid positions a year. More than 3,500 students have participated in the program since its inception in 1969, when the Exploratorium first opened.
High School Explainers receive more than 60 hours of specialized training, including 20 hours of training before beginning their work with visitors on the museum floor. Their training is focused on science content, exhibit facilitation, career readiness, and youth development and mentorship.
Explainer diversity is a crucial part of the program and one of its greatest strengths. Each group of Explainers is comprised of teens who are very different from each other. They come from a variety of cultures, sexual orientations, and ethnic, socioeconomic, and religious backgrounds, reflecting the population of the Bay Area. This diversity offers an enriched learning environment where teens can explore science, gain job skills, and learn how to work with people they might not otherwise meet. For many Explainers, this work-based learning program is a first-time work experience.
History and Alumni
Exploratorium founder Frank Oppenheimer created the Exploratorium as a place where visitors could comfortably explore exhibits and phenomena. Frank didn’t want to staff the floor with scientists who would tell visitors the “right” answers. Instead, he wanted enthusiastic young guides who could encourage visitors to play with the exhibits and discover their own questions and answers. Explainers are constantly learning themselves, so they authentically model this type of learning in the museum.
When the Exploratorium opened in 1969 with a handful of exhibits, there was one high school student to help visitors explore them. By 2009, when the museum turned forty, about 3,500 High School Explainers have been part of the program, helping visitors to interact with exhibits in a variety of ways. The Exploratorium’s Explainer programs (there is also a Field Trip Explainer program for young adult educators) have become models for museums and science centers worldwide.
Are you a former Explainer?
Become a High School Explainer
Students who are accepted come from a variety of cultures, backgrounds, and interests. The Explainer hiring team carefully considers each applicant's strengths and areas of potential growth, working to achieve a balance of interests and capabilities across the cohort so that each student can benefit from the group's dynamic.
- Candidates must be high school aged students (including students in traditional and alternate post-high school programs – between the ages of 15 and 18 for first time Explainers, and up to the age of 20 for returning Explainers.)
- Must be able to obtain a valid work permit
- Must be able to attend all basic training dates
- Must be able to work the entirety of the schoolyear or summer session
- A background in science is not required
How to Apply
Applications for the school year High School Explainer program are typically available in July. Applications for the summer High School Explainer program are typically available in March. When the application is open, you will find it on the Exploratorium's Current Openings page under the job title "High School Explainer."
High School Explainer Program
Pier 17 Suite 100, Embarcadero
San Francisco, CA 94111
The Exploratorium is a nonprofit equal opportunity museum of science, art, and human perception.
In their own words
What do they do?
Explainers help visitors engage with the Exploratorium’s exhibits, lead daily demonstrations, and help run the museum’s operations. Increasingly, Explainers also provide multilingual explanations and support for visitors. Sometimes, experienced Explainers participate in specialized internships, and some work in study groups.
Listen in as the Explainers talk about leading demonstrations.
Hear their stories
What's it like to be a High School Explainer? What's a typical semester like? Meet Ariana, Mey, Julian, Kate, Clare, and others. They'll tell you what it means to be an Explainer.