Museum tour guides are vital elements of any guided museum education programme. Many are volunteers while others are paid. In order to deliver effective education programmes guides must be trained, supported and managed. The aim of this blog is to briefly look at two ways you can support these very important people to deliver the best education programme possible.
Before any museum guide is let loose with a bunch of inquisitive school children it is important that they are trained. One way the Pine Rivers Heritage Museum does this is by scheduling time for guides in training to shadow other guides. They first watch, then assist before finally running the tour themselves. Museum guides are trained to run a number of tours. This is important to ensure any guide can deliver any tour and enables guides to be rotated which in turn helps alleviate the monotony of delivering the same tour.
It is a good idea to prepare guide kits. These kits or booklets can be used by the guides in training and after. They include resources, a script, clearly stated aims and objectives which align with the curriculum and extensive background information relating to the tour. The guide kits list resources which are used during each tour. Guides can use this as a checklist when preparing for the day. This way nothing gets missed. Children always ask lots of questions. The background information prepares guides for this barrage by providing them with the information they need to answer them. The script can be used by guides in training and as a reference resource after. The idea is that they are not to be used verbatim but are a reference point for what concepts the guides should be covering during the tour. The tour script, aims and objectives also help keep tour guides on track. It is easy when working with inquisitive children to go off on a tangent but if you know what targets you should be hitting then you are more likely not to stray too far. This also helps in keeping everyone on the same page. Sticking to the plan is vitally important for many reasons; timing for one but also to ensure that key points are addressed. When teachers or museum educators are preparing school based post-visit activities it is important to know exactly what the students will be covering during their museum visit. If a guide does not cover a topic which is used as a platform for post-visit activities then the ability to form a learning bridge between the school and the museum is made that much more difficult. In my next blog I will be looking at ways to manage student behaviour during school visits and attempt to address the question, whose job is it to do so?