The Teen Docents spent the day practicing an important skill they’ll need when leading their final tours: public speaking. As a jumping-off point, they each received two cards that were printed with questions for personal connection, such as: “Find an artwork that feels like home,” or “Find an artwork that seems quiet.” After perusing the galleries for a few minutes in order to choose the images that they felt best answered their questions, they presented their choices to the group.
After each student presented, they gave each other feedback about what was successful and what could be improved. Some students needed to speak louder, or with more confidence, but they quickly rose to the challenge. Because several of the Teen Docents come from performing arts backgrounds, they were able to draw on their drama skills to help position their bodies to address the audience and to embody confidence. From the beginning, they exuded warmth and passion about their chosen subjects.
Hilary, the American Folk Art Museum’s education intern, led the second activity of the day. She created a diverse playlist that included classical music, folk songs, rap parodies, and a bombastic Meatloaf selection, and assigned each Teen Docent a song. Armed with their songs, the students spread out through the museum to select a work they felt somehow connected with the music. Because they were so far out of their comfort zones, and were being asked to think so creatively, the Teen Docents were able to lead even livelier, looser, more engaging conversations than before. They saw that when discussing a work of art, they can expand the conversation beyond facts and straightforward observations.