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  • 1.  Junior Docents

    Posted 01-22-2019 01:10 PM
    Hi All,

    My museum is considering starting a "Junior Docents" program where students come in over the course of a few sessions and learn how to be docents and present the materials to their friends and family. Once their training is complete, we invited parents, grandparents, and friends to come to the museum and get a tour from their Junior Docent.

    Has anyone done a similar program? Does anyone have any suggestions of length of training time, etc.?


    Shelby Miller
    Curator/Dr. of Education and Outreach
    Galena History Museum
    Galena IL

  • 2.  RE: Junior Docents

    Posted 01-23-2019 05:50 AM
    We have a Junior Docent programme for kids between the ages of 14 and 18 (still in high school). It requires a two-year commitment and the participants must complete 15 hours of training, plus 75% of the continuing education workshops that are offered. The kids do a great job with all the visitors but are particularly good with younger kids and Family Day activities. Sadly, most of our regular docents have reached an age that is not cool to 12 and unders; the Junior Docents are and that really inspires the young ones. Good luck.

    Susan Day
    Director of Education
    Dar Al-Athar Al-Islamiyyah Museum
    Director of EducationDirector of Education

  • 3.  RE: Junior Docents

    Posted 01-23-2019 07:24 AM
    Dear Shelby - as one of two museums in the country that are departments of high schools, the Slater Memorial Museum "should" be the obvious choice for a "junior" docent program.  But we have attempted this with poor results.  Here are some pitfalls and suggestions:
    1. Consider that teenagers have strong preferences.  Limit their "training" to elements of your content that they are interested in... on an individual basis.  Don't expect them to learn all of your story(ies).  Have each specialize.

    2. Be prepared to invest in training and then lose them fairly quickly by comparison to your adult docents.  They graduate, lose interest, get too busy, etc.

    3. Have only one work at a time or have them pair with a parent.  At another museum, we had a few parent/child (mostly mother & daughter) teams that worked really well and the moms were beyond thrilled that it was something their daughters actually wanted to do with them (and be seen with them!) Two (or g-d forbid three) together get too silly and giggly... distracting one another.

    4. For some, consider costumed interpretation.  It makes it more engaging for the docent and the audience.

    5.  We have had much better luck with high school student interns and volunteers who help in the gift shop, front desk/reception/visitor services, running campus errands, assisting with limited tasks in collections storage.  Here, too, we get them to a level of "expertise" and do the damnable thing - they graduate!

    Vivian F. Zoë, Director
    Slater Memorial Museum
    108 Crescent Street, Norwich CT 06360
    860-425-5560 vox
    860-885-0379 fax

    "Inspiration is for amateurs - the rest of us just show up and get to work," Chuck Close, 2003

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  • 4.  RE: Junior Docents

    Posted 01-23-2019 12:01 PM
    Hi Shelby,

    You may want to look into the Explainer programs at a number of museums around the country. The Natural History Museum of Utah is currently piloting a Teen Explainers program, and there are programs at museums like the Exploratorium, AMNH, and NYSci that have existed for decades.  It sounds as though you may be envisioning a smaller scale program, as these Explainer programs last several months or more and involve engaging general visitors; but I think the framework would be helpful.
    I would be happy to tell you more about NHMU's Teen Explainers program if you are interested.


    Linda Aaron
    Youth Development Programs Coordinator
    Natural History Museum of Utah - University of Utah
    Salt Lake City UT

  • 5.  RE: Junior Docents

    Posted 01-23-2019 01:37 PM
    Hi, Shelby--Andrew Jackson's Hermitage has been doing Junior Docents for over 25 years. It is available as a field trip option for students in grades 4 & 5. We sometimes make exception for 3rd or 6th graders, depending on our knowledge of that particular school or teacher. We have script for 30 stations across the property, which the teacher assigns to the kids. Stations are also developed with varying learning and communication abilities in mind. Children prepare ahead of their visit according to our prep materials. The day of the program, we dress them in period-appropriate costume and review our scripts, behavior, and talking tips before getting them out to their locations. It is a tremendously successful program for us, in that we are now seeing a new generation of Junior Docents take on roles their parents did. Families in our area highly value this experience. Of course, it's not perfect, and I'm worried it's starting to show its age a bit. We have some adaptations in place for the coming semester.

    Happy to discuss mrore. Feel free to call me! 615-277-4954.


    Marsha Mullin
    Vice President of Museum Servi
    Andrew Jackson's Hermitage - Home of the People's President
    Hermitage TN