When Students Visit: Preparing for School Group Tours at the Museum


School tour requests have been pouring in since the end of the last school year. The Museum has over a dozen tours booked, just through November! Here’s how the Education Department has been preparing for tours this year:

Summer School
The Education Department was busy this summer with Family Days, Summer Art Camps, and tours offered to local organizations. These programs let us continue to do what we love, by engaging the community with art while school was not in session. Behind the scenes, the Gallery Guides participate in regular training sessions so we can stay current with Museum Education trends. We get together to discuss topics we find interesting and pertinent to our field, such as student learning behaviors in museums, the role of museums in a community, and how to turn a museum visit into an experience.


Tour Updates
Last year the Museum saw an exciting growth of 32% in school group attendance from 1,402 to 1,855. For the upcoming school year, we’ve decided to expand our tours to serve K-12. For us, this means learning new ways to communicate ideas and engage older audiences. Hours of training, research, and discussion about the art goes into preparing a school tour experience. What do we want these children to remember about their time here at the museum? That Armin Hansen was born in 1886, or that they could imagine they were in one of his paintings sailing through sea monster infested waters, or is that blue splotch a whale? We aim to teach students how to look and engage with art in different ways so that they may create a meaningful connection.


Museum Manners
We love to have fun, and we want our visitors to consider the Museum to be a comfortable space. One of the challenges we face with school groups is keeping the art safe while we have fun in the galleries. Several of our young visitors have never been to a museum before and are unfamiliar with museum etiquette. Teaching children appropriate behavior while maintaining a positive and exploratory atmosphere is part of the normal routine for school groups. Each of our Gallery Guides is equipped with tried and true methods of keeping the art safe and everyone happy. Sometimes you just need a three-second dance party to get the wiggles out!  It is our hope that students take these manners with them when they go to other museums, and visit us again with their families.


New Supplies
There’s nothing better than new school supplies, or in our case, new art supplies. The last few months of programming at the Museum has taken a toll on our Education Center supplies. We did the math, and if you lined up all the paper used last school year it would equal the length of a soccer field plus one penalty kick! We went shopping and now anxiously await our fresh new watercolors and sun print paper. One of our favorite moments is to see students’ faces light up when they walk into the classroom and see art supplies on the tables. Art projects are designed to reinforce what students learn in the galleries, and also to boost their creativity and self-confidence. Quality materials help them take pride in the artwork they take home.

It’s wonderful to see teachers bringing their students year after year. We begin to recognize some of the students, who are eager to share what they remember from their last Museum visit. This is why we work so hard. For students to think of our Museum as a place in their community where they can learn and be creative in a positive environment.


img_6786_detailAbout the Author
Roxanne O’Weger has been teaching kids and adults about art for the past five years, and has been working in museums since 2012. Roxanne is dedicated to reaching the community through art education.