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minds in motion ' \ \ ' .* 

Vol.2, No. 4 

The Quarterly Journal for Dedicated Docents 

Special Audiences 

Summer 1993 

Inside: Reaching All Audiences ▲ ESL Classes ▲ 
▲ Foreign Visitors a Nursing Home Residents a DBAE Students a 
A Deaf Audiences a Skeptical Visitors a 



Alan Gartenhaus 

Associate Editor 

Jackie Littleton 

Graphic Design 

Shelly Baldwin 

minds in motion 
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Cover: This Philadelphia Museum of Art 
docent demonstrates consideration and an 
effective teaching skill by positioning herself 
at the eye level of a visitor who is sitting in 
a wheelchair. 

photo: Kelly & Massa Photography 

standing the axiom 
that all audiences are special, 
and the truism that every 
individual deserves your 
best teaching efforts, there are segments 
of your community that require special 
attention. The reasons for this may be 
related to the purpose of their visit, their 
level of awareness or understanding, the 
preparation they received before 
arriving, the language they speak, or 
their physical or mental abilities. 

In this issue of The Docent 
Educator, we present information about 
a wide range of "special audiences." 
Regardless of the reason that this rather 
ambiguous label is prescribed to a 
particular group, the need to employ 
good teaching practices is paramount. 
As Jan Majewski, author of Part of Your 
General Public is Disabled, often 
reminded me when we worked together 
at the Smithsonian, many of the so- 
called "accommodations" made for 
disabled visitors are just good teaching 
practices, and would enhance tours for 
all visitors. 

The extra thought or planning given 
to "special audiences" may, indeed, be 
the best way to teach and tour all 
audiences visiting such auxiliary 
educational institutions as museums, 
historic homes, zoos, parks, and 
botanical gardens. For purposes of 
illustration, consider how primary 
educational institutions — such as 
public schools — teach a special 
population of students identified as 
"gifted and/or talented." 

Most schools having special 
programs for gifted and talented students 
use an instructional model developed by 
educator Joseph RenzuUi. Dr. Renzulli 
called his method of teaching The 
Enrichment Triad. As its name implies, 
The Enrichment Triad has three levels. 
The first level consists of general 
exploratory experiences designed to 

minds in motion 

Attending t 

expose students to new and exciting 
topics, ideas, and fields of knowledge not 
ordinarily covered in the regular 
curriculum. The second level consists of 
exposure to methods, materials, and 
instructional techniques specifically 
designed to encourage higher level 
thinking processes, such as creativity 
(the ability to generate ideas, insights, 
alternatives, and consequences). The 
third level consists of active 
involvement, or the expression of 
students' interests and creative abilities 
resulting in a project, report, or 
something else tangible. 

Doesn't the richness of experiences 
inherent in this model sound like a better, 
more exciting, and more effective way to 
learn? Shouldn't this form of instruction 
be available to all students, rather than 
only to those who are already motivated 
and interested? 

Many educators think so! Among 
them is Dr. Renzulli, himself, who writes 
in his text The Schoolwide Enrichment 
Model (Creative Learning Press, 
Mansfield Center, CT, 1985), 
"development of gifted behaviors should 
be viewed as the goal of a schoolwide 
enrichment program rather than a pre- 
existing condition." 

This model has had an impact upon 
museum education, whether museum 
educators are conscious of employing it 
or not. Most museum educators hope 
that classroom teachers will conduct pre- 
visit activities designed to expose 
students to the ideas and concepts they 
will encounter on their visit to the 
museum (level one); and they also urge 
classroom teachers to follow-up their 
visits by conducting post-visit activities 
that make use of what was learned while 
on site (level three). 

An increasing number of us who 
teach with collections believe that the 
audiences visiting our institution should 
be exposed to methods, materials, and 


Special Audiences 

instructional techniques that encourage 
active learning and that engage higher- 
order thinking skills (a level two 
experience using Renzulli's model), as 
opposed to simply listening and 
remembering. In other words, many 
museum instructors recognize that they 
should encourage visitors to think 
creatively and participate when viewing 
institutional collections. 

Just as I truly believe all children 
have gifts and talents, I recognize that all 
visitors have special needs. And, just as 
I believe that all students would benefit 
from the richness of experiences 
provided to those considered to be gifted 
or talented, I recognize that all visitors, 
regardless of needs, deserve 
accommodation and consideration. 

Attending to our visitors' special 
needs, regardless of type, does not, and 
should not, mean altering or lowering our 

educational sights for any particular 
group. Rather, it requires that we refine 
and attune our methods of teaching and 
communicating. Our instructional goal, 
that of challenging visitors to strive, 
think, respond, learn, and gain 
appreciation for our collections, should 
remain the same for all. 

For this reason, I strongly recommend 
that docents receive training in teaching 
methodology, questioning strategies, and 
learning styles, in addition to academic 
content. As Joseph Renzulli states, again 
in his text The Schoolwide Enrichment 
Model, "Although a comprehensive 
knowledge about the content of any field 
is considered to be a major part of the 
overall training of professionals, the 
ability to apply one's knowledge in 
practical [teaching] situations represents 
the real payoff so far as effective training 
is concerned." 

As you read this issue and 
contemplate appropriate strategies for 
teaching special audiences of every or 
any variety, it is useful to remember that 
we must not program ourselves to 
respond in mechanical ways to the 
variety of people, learning styles, and 
needs we confront. Nor should we 
stereotype those people whose needs are 
more apparent than others. As educators, 
we must be knowledgeable and flexible 
enough to find and adapt to that which 
works best for each visitor we meet, 
ensuring that all our "special" audiences 
have experiences that appropriately 
challenge them to think, learn, and grow. 

Akin Gartenhaus 
Publishing Editor 

For docents hoping to better 
serve visitors who have 
disabilities or specific physical 
needs, 1 know of no better 
resource to recommend than Part of 
Your General Public is Disabled, by 
Janice Majewski. Ms. Majewski, who is 
responsible for ensuring that every 
facility under the Smithsonian "umbrella" 
is accessible to all visitors, has developed 
a text and accompanying video that 
ought to be seen by every docent and be 
among the reference materials in all 
institutional libraries. 

Part of Your General Public is 
Disabled consists of a 93-page manual 
and 23-minute videotape. Both offer 
practical suggestions on how to 
effectively assist disabled visitors in 
museums, zoos, and historic homes. The 
package provides step-by-step 
procedures for working with people who 
have: mental retardation, learning 
disabilities, hearing impairments, visual 

handicaps, mobihty impairments, 
cerebral palsy, mental illness, severe 
communication disabilities, and sensory 
and motor changes that nearly all older 
adults experience. 

In a clear, easy-to-follow forniat, 
the manual presents suggestions for: 
planning museum tours that are 
accessible to wider audiences; using 
museum materials and audio-visual 
equipment to disabled visitors' best 
advantage; handling emergency 
situations involving disabled people; 
and recognizing and working with the 
various aids disabled people use. 

The videotape introduces you to 
five disabilities that are not readily 
identifiable, either because of their 
nature or the degree of impairment. 
You will view tours involving a hard of 
hearing man in a history museum; a 
visually impaired man in an art gallery; a 
woman with cerebral palsy in an historic 
house; a man and a woman with mental 

retardation in a modern art museum; and 
learning disabled students at a zoo. You 
learn of ways to detect problems, to ask 
questions of the disabled visitors, and to 
accommodate your entire tour group 
easily and effectively. 

This training package is available 
for sale through the Smithsonian 
Institution only. The entire package may 
be purchased for $80. Individually, the 
manual (available in print, audio cassette, 
and Braille formats) sells for $8 and the 
open-captioned videotape (in VHS and 3/ 
4" formats) for $75. To purchase part or 
all of the package contact: 

The Office of the Assistant Secretary 

for the Arts and Humanities 
Arts and Industries Building, Room 1410 
Smithsonian Institution 
'Washington, D.C. 20560 
(202) 786-2492 (voice) 
(202) 786-2414 (TDD) 
(202) 786-2210 (fax) 


Reaching All of Your Audiences 

At the Hiiladelphia Museum 
of Art, thousands of aduks 
with special needs 
participate in educational 
programs through tours and full-day, 
hands-on workshops. These visitors 
come from rehabilitation hospitals and 
mental health settings, group homes, 
halfway houses, drug recovery centers, 
and more recently, community service 
centers for those who have AIDS. They 
have found their trips to the museum to 
be not only a social outing but a place 
where personal discovery, healing, spiritual 
renewal, and learning can happen. 

All docents at the Philadelphia 
Museum receive training that prepares 
them to assist the individual disabled 
child or adult who arrives unannounced 
on a tour, or the group that participates in 
specialized programming. Over time, a 
group of docents who focus their 
energies on working with the Office of 
Special Audiences has evolved. The 
twenty-five energetic and dedicated men 
and women, about 15% of the total 
docent program, enjoy the challenge of 
working with the disabled communities. 
They say these special tours challenge 
their perceptions and offer opportunities 
to sharpen their abilities to create new 
approaches to standard tour material. 

The following suggestions are 
gleaned from their experiences and from 
my own years as a social worker and 
museum educator. Though this article 
focuses on adult visitors, most of the 
suggestions are also applicable to children. 

General Guidelines 

Because language tends to reflect 
our perceptions of other people it is 
helpful to become familiar with the 
acceptable terminology for people with 
disabilities. No matter what the current 
preferred definition is, it is important not 
to lump people into categories such as 
"the disabled," "the blind," or "the deaf," 
which confuses individual people with 

their disability. "People with disabilities," 
"blind people," or "people who are deaf 
are reminders that you are dealing with 
the people, not with the disabilities. 

Being only human, we sometimes 
make unconscious assumptions about 
people with disabilities. The most 
common assumption is thinking that if 
one thing is wrong with an individual 
then other things must be wrong as well. 
Remember that if a person is in a 
wheelchair this does not mean he can't 
communicate. The person who is 
visually impaired will often notice that 
people are speaking loudly to them, 
although they are not deaf! This 
tendency to assume is called the theory 
of negative spread. Being sensitive to it 
will help you avoid it. Offer assistance 
to push a wheelchair or assist a blind 
person as you would to anyone else, and 
respect the person's decision should he 
choose to decline your help. It is 
considerate, however, to warn someone 
of a danger such as a steep ramp, a 
protruding object, or an approaching 
vehicle or push cart! 

Tour Guidelines 

Groups of visitors with special 
needs, no matter what their disability, are 
not always able to arrive or leave exactly 
at the appointed time, for a variety of 
reasons such as transportation, illness, or 
mobility problems. Allow extra time in 
your tour schedule. Plan time to greet 
your visitors in a relaxed manner, and, if 
possible, have everyone wear a name tag 
(we all enjoy being addressed by name). 
Shaking hands and having lots of eye 
contact is always a plus. If possible, 
groups should be arranged into small, 
manageable numbers with a docent 
assigned to each group in order to further 
facilitate personal interaction. 

At the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 
our seasoned docents plan the first stop 
in the museum to ask questions that help 
them "size-up" their group. By asking 


questions that require more than a yes or 
no answer, and that solicit personal 
views or general information, the docent 
is able to make some quick decisions 
about the audience's level of art 
exposure and understanding, as well as 
the extent and manifestations of their 
disabilities. This "warm-up" phase also 
allows docents to dispel any fears they 
may have about dealing 
with the unknown. 
Addressing first the 
person who presents the 
most discomfort to you 
is one way to abate this 
fear! Most people find 
this technique melts all 

Many docents note 
that body language 
plays an important part 
in communicating with 
people who have 
special needs. 
Pantomime and 
gesturing help to keep 
the attention of those 
who have difficulty 
concentrating or have 
short attention spans, 
such as people with 
certain mental illnesses 
or developmental disabilities. Those 
with hearing impairments or deafness 
also benefit from emphatic gestures as 
well as by watching the lips of the speaker. 

Sign-Language Interpreted Tours 

Tours interpreted in American Sign 
Language for deaf visitors should not run 
longer than an hour. Because it is not 
possible for the hearing impaired person 
to watch an interpreter and look at the 
object at the same time, you must build 
extra time into your tour for the visitor to 
look after you are finished speaking. It is 
important, therefore, to shorten the tour 
by covering less material. The 
interpreter should stand so that the 

[Special audiences] 
have found their trips to 
the museum to be ... 
a place where personal 

discovery, healing, 
spiritual renewal, and 
learning can happen. 

A museum volunteer and mobility impaired visitor establish a rapport 


painting, animal, or object you are 
looking at is between you and the 
interpreter. While most professional 
interpreters are able to interpret at a 
fairly quick pace, it is helpful to them if 
you speak in a regular cadence. It is 
most important to never address the 
interpreter — always speak directly with 
the hearing impaired person! 

Mobility Impaired Visitors 

When a person in a wheelchair is 
part of a group of able bodied people it is 
important to allow this individual to stay 
in front of the group. Often it will be 
difficult for them to keep up with the 
tour so be sure to remember to invite 

by Carol Wisker 

them to the front of the group at each 
stop. If you are touring a group of 
people in wheelchairs, it is helpful to 
bring a portable stool for you to sit on so 
that you will be on eye level with your 
audience. It is really tiring for a person 
to look up for a long period of time. 

Always plan a barrier-free route in 
advance of touring, using elevators and 
avoiding rough floor 
terrain or thick 
carpeting whenever 
possible. Also, 
remember that the 
wheelchair is part of a 
person's bodyspace. 
Do not hold onto a 
person's wheelchair or 
move it without 
warning. It is also an 
invasion to move or 
take away a walker or 
crutches without asking. 

Visually Impaired 

Due to a 
commitment on the part 
of the Philadelphia 
in the gallery. Museum of Art to serve 
Kelly & Massa members of its 

community, there are 
extensive programs for visually limited 
and blind people that include "touch 
tours," studio workshops, and 
internships. Touch tours of objects in 
our permanent collection happen on a 
regular basis. Guides have expressed 
enthusiasm for offering tours that focus 
heavily on the materials and methods of 
the artist, offering lots of comparisons 
about surfaces of objects and getting into 
discussions about form, texture, and 
temperature that normally do not arise 
with the sighted public. 

As people may have varying 
degrees of visual impairment it can be 
useful to provide assistive devices such 


(Continued from page 5) 
as flashlights, magnifying glasses, or 
large black and white photographs of 
objects to assist those visitors who are 
partially sighted. And, by the way, it is 
okay to mention colors or use the words 
"see" and "look" when speaking with 
blind or visually impaired people. 


Using touchable objects is also 
helpful for teaching children and adults 
who have learning or developmental 
disabilities. If circumstances do not 
permit touching, a less precious, but 
related, object can be introduced, such as 
samples of structural materials like stone, 
wood, or other samples, painting 
materials, canvas, and so forth. During a 
recent special exhibition of the anatomy 
drawings of Leonardo da Vinci, for 
example, a local chiropractor lent the 
museum a life-sized model of the spine 
to pass around for visitors to touch so 
they could better understand the forms in 
the drawings. 


Repetition of questions, key ideas, 
or phrases is important reinforcement for 
people with learning and developmental 
disabilities. This technique is also 
helpful sometimes for those who have 
communication disorders. 

People with aphasia due to strokes 
have difficulty responding to questions 
not because they do not understand the 
information but because they have a 

speech disorder that interferes with 
relaying their thoughts. Tours offer 
opportunities for eliciting simple answers 
but require a great deal of time and 
patience. People who come from 
rehabilitation hospitals generally come 
with an escort or therapist who is skilled 
in assisting with communication. One 
therapist explained that "they don't need 
language skills to appreciate a painting - 
- because of their diminished verbal 
skills, stroke patients respond with deep 
pleasure to nonverbal expression." 

Visitors from Mental Health 

Clients of mental health centers who 
may be depressed, schizophrenic, or have 
other psychiatric problems present 
unique challenges for docents. These 
clients are sometimes harder to reach 
than most other special audiences 
because they may be withdrawn, 
cautious, or distanced as a symptom of 
their illness or as a result of medication. 
Docents who tour these groups regularly 
strive to establish rapport, use a lot of 
reinforcement and encouragement, and 
find it worth the extra effort. 

People with AIDS 

Groups of people with AIDS who 
come to our museum usually contain 
extremes in abilities. Physically, some 
require wheelchairs in order to conserve 
their energy, or need to leave the group 
early because of fatigue. It is important 
to plan several rest stops in your tour or 

use portable stools. Mentally, some are 
understandably depressed, but most have 
been in a supportive system and respond 
quickly to encouragement from their 
peers. Docents have notice that, in 
general, they are quite in touch with their 
emotions, respond to art with intensity, 
and are eager to express how they feel. 
One person with AIDS who had never 
been to the museum before has now 
returned on several occasions because, 
she says, the art is giving her answers. 

It is my hope that all docents will be 
able to give tours that accommodate 
people with special needs, and that these 
audiences will enjoy increased access to 
museums and other community 
resources. Kudos to all docents who 
provide tours for people with special 


Carol Wisker. M.A.. has been the 
Coordinator of Audiences with Special Needs 
at the Philadelphia Museum of Art since 
1987. Prior to joining the museum world she 
was an administrative social worker and 
therapist in a variety of medical and mental 
health settings. In addition, she is also a 
professional artist. Ms. Wisker has 
presented numerous lectures on accessibility 
and educational programming for special 
audiences at museum and Americans with 
Disabilities Act (ADA) conferences. 

Back issues of The Docent Educator are now available! 

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(Sorry, we do not accept purchase orders, nor do we bill or invoice.) 

Sharpening Communication Skills - Vol. 1 , No. 2 
Inquiry and Teaching - Vol. 1 , No. 3 
Specialized Teaching - Vol .1, No. 4 
Understanding Audiences - Vol. 2, No. 1 
Interdisciplinary Approaches - Vol. 2, No. 2 
Tough Topics - Vol. 2, No. 3 


Speaking with an E.S.L. Class 

by Louanna Emery 

W hen working with English 
as a Second Language 
(E.S.L.) students, there 
are different techniques 
that research shows will help these 
students understand the English 
language. Of these techniques, three that 
docents might find useful when touring 
ESL students are: Total Physical 
Response (TPR), Roles and Drama, and 
Fun and Games. 

In TPR, the instructor asks students 
to be silent and listen carefully to a 
command or modeled behavior, such as 
"smiling." Then, the students are to 
carry out or repeat the command/ 
behavior. Flash cards are sometimes 
used as a visual stimulus reinforcing the 
spoken word. 

Extrapolating from this technique, 
docents might employ pictures on flash 
cards and model behaviors to aid the 
ESL students in expressing themselves. 
Prior to touring the cards and behaviors 
could be presented to the class. Then, 
while on tour, students could view 
pictures and identify the smiling, sad, or 
tired people using the expressions on 
their faces or with cards. Or, the 
students could be asked to use the cards 
or behaviors to describe how the pictures 
make them feel. To aid in the acquisition 
of English, docents could repeat the word 
out loud each time students use a card or 
behavior for descriptive purposes. 

Roles and Drama is a group activity 
where a few students act out a scene in a 
picture, or take the stance of a sculpture 
while the others observe. The docent 
may need to guide students or help 
model the poses. Props or costumes 
could be used should you want to get 
more elaborate or descriptive. This 
activity can be lots of fun and the 
students' actual participation brings 
images to life for them. The scene could 
be repeated quickly with new students 
from the class. Repetition is good for 
ESL students, and this total body and 

emotional involvement helps make 
meaning and intention clear. 

Fun and Games can also be effective 
and enjoyable. Seek 
and search could be 
played using different 
textures, such as 
sandpaper, silk, fur, 
and cotton-balls. 
Different textures 
would be passed 
around the group, then 
students would be 
asked to look for things 
in the picture that 
might have similar 
textures. In a similar 
manner, a variety of 
sounds could be made 
and then students could 
look for items that 
might make those 
sounds. Treasure hunts 
can be played by 
holding up a detail 
from a picture, artifact, 
or natural history 
object and asking the 
class to find that work, 
artifact, or object. 
Such games add to the 
enjoyment of a museum visit and teach 
students at the same time. 

Another technique employed in 
Fun and Games uses the five senses to 
communicate. What might they see, or 
imagine they could hear, taste, smell, or 
touch in a work of art. 

The techniques used in TPR, Roles 
and Drama, and Fun and Games are just 
three of several ways to help ESL 
students gain understanding in the 
museum. Learning a second language 
can be exhausting mental work. These 
activities can help a docent adjust the 
pace of learning and lighten up the 

Increasing numbers of students for whom English is a 
second language are visiting museums like the Houston 
Museum of Natural Sciences. 

Louanna Emery is a second grade 
ESL teacher at Herbert Marcus School in 
the Dallas (TX) Independent School District. 
She earned her B.A. at William Jewell 
College and her M.Ed, from Texas 
Woman 's University. 


Students Prepared by DBAE 

Imagine that you are leading a 
group of fourth grade students to 
the gallery where you will begin 
your tour. Listen to tlieir comments: 
"Oh, look! It's much bigger than I 
thought it would be! And the blue- 
green is brighter than the print we saw." 

"There's the picture with "peace' as 
its main idea!" 

"This museum has decorative arts 
in it. Remember when we talked about 
whether they belong in an art museum?" 

"Look how many cowrie shells are 
on that African figure — it must have 
been valuable to the people who made it." 

The children are making 
connections. The comments you hear 
reveal their familiarity with formal 
qualities of works of art as well as their 
meanings. ^Beyond that, there are 
references to language arts, aesthetics, 
and social sciences. There is a good 
chance that these children are students 
of discipline-based art education 
(DBAE), and that the teachers in 
their school use works of art to 
communicate key issues in many 
other disciplines as well. What 
must art museum docents know 
about DBAE, its teaching methods, 
and their own collections in order 
to make the right connections? 

Discipuned-Based Art Edvca tion 

DBAE is an approach to 
teaching art as a subject with lesson 
content drawn from the four basic 
art disciplines: art production, art 
history, art criticism, and aesthetics. 
Because it is a theoretical method 
and not a curriculum, DBAE can be 
adapted to the specific needs and 
structures of individual schools and 

In their art classes, DBAE 
students not only find creative self- 
expression in art production, but 
explore works of art from the 
points of view of the three other 
disciplines. In art history, students 
discover stylistic qualities 
characteristic of individual artists 

and schools of art, as well as meanings 
and values communicated by works of 
art across space, tiine, and cultural 
boundaries. Art criticism enables 
students to talk and write about works of 
art, using critical inquiry to describe, 
analyze, interpret, and make informed 
value judgments. Aesthetic issues are 
discussed in questions about the nature, 
definition, and significance of art. 

Ideally, children in DBAE programs 
learn about applied, craft, and folk art as 
well as drawing, painting, sculpture, 
photography, and architecture. The art 
that is studied should be representative of 
many cultures, styles, and periods. 

DBAE AND Interdisciplinary Studies 
DBAE's broad-based definition of 
art and its inquiry-based approach 
suggest applications in interdisciplinary 
units of study. These are developed in 
collaborations between art specialists and 
classroom teachers. Such is the case in 

Stark County, Ohio, where teachers plan 
units based on the theme of "Discovery- 
Recovery." Fourth grade teacher Janice 
Hamilton's unit on cultural exchanges 
between the Spanish and Native 
Americans in 1492 is an example. 

At the Florida State University 
School, science, social studies, math, and 
English teachers collaborated with art 
specialist Debi Barrett-Hayes to teach a 
middle school unit on "Energy." A final 
project produced a mural, 8' x 40', on 
the history of human use of energy. 

Columbus (Ohio) Public Schools are 
placing a city-wide emphasis on 
interdisciplinary teaching strategies, 
drawing on the DBAE process as an 
exemplar. Interdisciplinary models for 
art, language arts, social studies, science, 
and health were being piloted during the 
1992-93 school year. 

Piano, Texas, art specialist Ruth 
Tice worked with classroom teacher Kim 
Gill to design a course of study for Gill's 
second grade class based on two 
works of art from the Dallas 
Museum of Art. Using a poster 
reproduction of Edward Hick's The 
Peaceable Kingdom, Ms. Gill 
involved the children in language 
arts (identifying words for parts of 
speech, looking for synonyms and 
antonyms); literary devices (main 
idea, personification, narration); 
science (animals, natural habitats, 
sounds); and history (William Pitt's 
treaty with the Indians). In music 
class, the children learned the song 
"Simple Gifts." Art specialist Tice 
appeared in their classroom dressed 
as the artist Edward Hicks and led 
the children in taking poses to 
become a "living painting." After a 
similarly interdisciplinary study of 
Frederic Church's The Icebergs, and 
comparing and contrasting the two 
American paintings, the class visited 
the DMA to see the works in person. 

Visual Arts and Whole Language 
Courses of study frequently are 
based on the relationship between 

photo: Nancy Walkup Reynolds 



by Nancy Berry 

methods schools are now using to 
photo: Nancy Walkup Reynolds 

The Getty-promoted DBAE is one of several 
teach young people about the visual arts. 

the visual arts and whole language as it 
relates to art criticism. Beginning with a 
visual examination of works of art, 
elementary children next progress to 
verbalization about them, and work up to 
written criticism. 

At Burton Hills Elementary in Fort 
Worth, art specialist Carolyn Sherbum 
involved every child, special education 
through fifth grade, in producing art 
work and accompanying written work 
based on the theme of "Dreams." She 
taught her art students to look at a picture 
in the same way they would look at a 
book. To implement Fort Worth 
Independent School District curriculum 
goals, the children learned to use 
reproductions and original works of art 
to develop a point of view, to sequence, 
to generalize, and to summarize. At their 
winter 1992 PTA meeting. Burton Hills 
children produced and presented four 
different "living paintings," first studying 
about the artists, then writing scripts, 
painting backdrops, designing and making 
costumes, and acting out their roles. 

Carole Arnold, art teacher at 
Riverside Elementary School in Dublin, 
Ohio, stresses the importance of reading 
about art and artists in developing 
writing skills in visual arts. She cites the 
example of two fourth-grade students 
who read the book Van Gogh by Mike 
Venzia and The World of Art reading 
comprehension card on Van Gogh in art 
class. A few days later, they appeared in 
Mrs. Arnold's room with the Time/Life 

Library of Art book. The World of Van 
Gogh. They had read more about Van 
Gogh and his art, and wanted to discuss 
the artist in depth. 

DBAE AND Multicultural Education 

To an increasing degree, 
multicultural studies are infused into 
DBAE programs to ensure that art is 
studied contextually as well as 
historically. The shift in curriculum is 
from "What is Art?" to the equally big 
aesthetic question "What is Art For?" 
The result is that art is seen as 
fundamental to societies worldwide and 
throughout time. Students study how art 
functions as an agent of transmission of 
culture and discover that there are many 
art worlds, none more important than 
another. For DBAE students, the 
concept of art changes and widens. 

Grade-level themes and subjects 
such as animals, environments, families, 
seasonal changes, and patterns can be 
studied in artistic expressions by people, 
both ancient and modem, from parts of 
the world like Africa, Latin America, 
Indonesia, China, and Alaska. The result 
is deeper insight into students' own 
cultural backgrounds and those of others. 
To paraphrase multicultural educator 
Carl Grant, instead of viewing our 
country as a "melting pot" where all 
cultures blend together, individual 
cultural differences are celebrated as 
essential ingredients in its "tossed salad" 

DBAE's Impact on Museum Education 
What does this approach to the art 
education of our young people mean to 
art museum education programs and their 
docents? Art museums have long been 
recognized as flexible learning 
environments where thematic and 
interdisciplinary approaches like those 
mentioned above can flourish. But to 
serve DBA-educated audiences 
successfully, decent training must 
address DBAE approaches and content. 
The ideal solution is for docents to attend 
one of the DBAE institutes held at 
several U.S. sites during the summers. 
With or without the training, certain 
components for touring DBAE-trained 
audiences can be addressed. 

Inquiry-based Touring 

Because art criticism is a basic 
component of their art education, DBAE 
students are accustomed to discussing 
art, rather than listening to talks about it. 
Asking the right questions is essential to 
the interactive atmosphere in which 
DBAE students learn best. In school, 
they learn about artistic choices and 
contexts for works of art. Only hearing 
about art's formal quahties will not 
satisfy their curiosity about why a piece 
looks the way it does, or how it 
functioned in the culture that produced it. 
Docents' questions should be formulated 
to guide critical analysis and 

More questions should link works 
on tours, creating threads of comparison 
to enliven discussions. Why is a certain 
material used in sculpture from one 
country and not in another? Why is 
intense color more evident in one place 
or time and not in another? Why does an 
artist paint a portrait of a certain subject, 
and why is the subject presented in a 
particular way? 

Contextual Training 

Successful inquiry-based touring 
results in a lively give-and-take of 
questions from both the docent and the 


tour group. This points up the need to be 
thoroughly grounded in the cultural 
contexts for objects in the museum's 
collections. When dealing with cultures 
other than our own, whether in a school 
or a museum, it is essential to know what 
questions should be asked about each 
culture's art, since no single aesthetic can 
be applied to all. In the best training 
programs, native speakers serve as 
translators for their cultures. 
Aesthetician Marcia Eaton calls this 
native knowledge "fluency" in a 
language [of art], and says that 
"translators" for art of other cultures 
need to be "bilingual." Experts in their 
fields can provide the authenticity and 
inspire the passion necessary to equip 
docents to "translate" their art. 

School/Museum Communications 

Interaction on inquiry-based tours is 
more productive when docents are 
familiar with school curriculum. When 
interdisciplinary connections made at 
school are repeated on the museum tour, 
real enrichment occurs. This is possible 
only when significant communication 
occurs between docents and teachers. 
It also presupposes that docents are 
familiar enough with content from the 
other disciplines to make the right 
connection with their collections. 

Making the Right Connections 

To prepare for DBAE-trained 
groups, art museum docents as groups 
and individuals are encouraged to engage 
in a self-study. Who are your audiences? 
Do you know when a school group is 
DBAE-trained? What does that mean in 
terms of interdisciplinary and cross- 
cultural connection to the art included on 
your tour? Who are the experts on your 
collections? How should your tour be 
organized, and what questions should 
you ask? Finding the answers to these 
questions can help you make the right 

Nancy W. Beny is Assistant Professor 
of Art at the University of North Texas, wliere 
she also seiyes as a faculty member of the 
North Texas Institute for Educators in the 
Visual Arts. Her career includes teaching art 
in grades K-12. and art and museum 
education at the university level. She has 
served as head of education at the Meadows 
Museum of Southern Methodist University 
and the Dallas Museum of Art. She was 
national director of the Museum Education 
Division of the National Art Education 
Association cmd named national Museum 
Educator of the Year by that organizalion 
in 1990. 

Publications about DBAE 

The Getty Center has produced 
many publications about DBAE, which 
are available at nominal cost and several are 

For more information, contact 
Getty Center for Education in the Arts, 
401 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 950, 9th 
Floor, Santa Monica, CA 90401 ; and/or 
Getty Center Publications Distribution 
Center, P.O. Box 2112, Santa Monica, 
CA 90407. 


Regional Institutes - 

Getty Centers for Education in the Arts 

Want to learn more about DBAE and whether it has a presence in your area's 

schools? Try contacting the Getty regional institute nearest you. 

The Nebraska Consortium for Discipline- 

Central California Institute for Educators 

Based Art Education 

on the Visual Arts 

Head of Gifted and Fine Arts 

Fresno County Office of Education 

Nebraska Department of Education 

2314 Maraposa 

Box 94987 

Fresno, CA 93721 

Lincoln, NE 68509 

The Southeast Institute for Education in 

The North Texas Institute for Educators 

the Visual Arts 

on the Visual Arts 

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga 

University of North Texas 

615 McCaliie Avenue 

Box 5098 

Chattanooga, TN 37403 

Denton. TX 76203-5098 

Florida Institute for Art Education 

The Minnesota DBAE Consortium 

Department for Art Education B-171A 

University of Minnesota 

Florida State University 

Dept. of Curriculum and Instruction, Art 

Tallahassee, FL 32306-3014 

Education Program 

135 Wuling Hall 

The Ohio Partnership for the Visual Arts 

86 Pleasant Street, S.E. 

Department of Art Education 

Minneapolis, MN 55455 

Ohio State University 

340 Hopkins Hall 

Southern California Institute for 

128 North Oval Mall 

Educators on the Visual Arts 

Columbus, OH 43210-1363 

Getty Institute for Educators in the 

Visual Arts 

Sacramento Visual Arts Education 

942 Second Street 


Manhattan Beach. CA 90266 

Sacramento County Village Drive 

9738 Lincoln Village Drive 

Sacramento, CA 95827 



For Your Consideration 

A Resource to Help Enfranchise 
People with Disabilities 

The N.E.A. guide to making arts 
programming accessible to people with 
disabilities is available through the 
Government Printing Office. The 1992 
revised edition of The Arts and 504 is 
available from the Government Printing 
Office, Superintendent of Documents, 
Washington, D.C. 20402 for $6.50. 
When ordering, request by title and stock 
number 036-000-00055-4. 

Science Museums and 
School Change 

A report resulting from a conference 
sponsored by the U.S. Department of 
Education, the National Eisenhower 
Program for Mathematics and Science, 
the Association of Science-Technology 
Centers, and the Franklin Institute 
Science Museum, entitled "Science 
Museums and School Change: Making 
the Connection, " has been published. 

The conference brought educators 
together to explore the role of museums 
and science-technology centers in 
achieving meaningful reform of science, 
mathematics, and technology education. 
To receive the report, contact 
Publications Department, ASTC, 
1025 Vermont Avenue, NW #500, 
Washington, D.C. 20005. 

Art Museums Win Grants to 
Diversify their Audiences 

The Indianapolis Museum of Art, 
University Art Museum at U.C. Berkeley, 
Newark Museum, Museum of Fine Arts - 
Houston, Michael C. Carlos Museum at 
Emory University, Heard Museum, and 
Hood Museum at Dartmouth College have 
received grants totalling $50 million over 
the next five years to "shed their elitist 
image and attract previously underserved 
and diverse audiences." The grant was 
awarded by the Lila Wallace - Reader's 
Digest Fund. 

Multiculturalism and Children's Literature 

To heighten interest and enthusiasm for viewing cultural artifacts or art from other 
nations, or to enfranchise visitors of various cultural backgrounds, try incoiporating 
stories into your teaching. Folktales and children's stories illustrate both the 
differences and similarities among peoples throughout the world. In addition, they are 
entertaining. Here are several suggested titles: 


• The Spring of Butterflies and Other 
Chinese Folk Tales. Trans. He Liyi. 
Illus. by Pan Aiqing and Li Zhao. 
Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1985. (all ages) 

• City Kids in China. Peggy Thomson. 
Photographs by Paul S. Conklin. 
HarperCollins, 1991. (grades 4 & up) 

• Folktales from Asia for Children 
Everywhere. Asian Cultural Centre for 
UNESCO. Three vols. Weatherhill, 
1977. (grades 3 & up) 


• Brothers. Florence B. Freedman. Dlus. 
by Robert Andrew Parker. Harper & Row, 
1985. (pre-school through grade 3) 

• An Ancient Heritage: The Arab- 
American Minority. Brent Ashabranner. 
Photographs by Paul S. Conklin. 
HarperCollins, 1991. (grades 4 & up) 

• Count Your Way Through Israel. 
Jim Haskins. Dlus. by Rick Hanson. 
Carolrhoda Books, 1990. (grades 1 & up) 

• Jerusalem, Shining Still. 

Karla Kuskin. Illus. by David Frampton. 
Harper & Row, 1987. (all ages) 


• Anasi the Spider. A Tale from the 
Ashanti. Gerald McDermott. Holt, 
Rinehart & Winston, 1972. (grades 4 & up) 

• Brother to the Wind. Mildred Pitt 
Walter. Illus. by Diane and Leo Dillon. 
Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1985. (all ages) 

• Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions. 
Margaret Musgrove. Illus. by Leo and 
Diane DUlon. Dial, 1976. (grades 6 & up) 


• The King of the Mountains: A 
Treasury of Latin American Folk Stories. 
M.A. Jagendorf and R. S. Boggs. Illus. by 
Carybe. Vanguard. 1960. (grades 3 & up) 

• Black Rainbow: Legends of the Incas 
and Myths of Ancient Peru. John 
Bierhorst, ed. Fanai-, Straus and Giroux, 
1976. (all ages) 

• The Flame of Peace: A Tale of the 
Aztecs. Deborah Nourse Lattimore. 
nius. by the author. Harper & Row, 
1987. (grades K& up) 

• Why There Is No Arguing in Heaven: 
A Mayan Myth. Deborah N. Lattimore. 
Harper & Row, 1989. (grades K & up) 

• Hector Lives in the United States Now. 
Joan Hewett. Photographs by Richard 
Hewett. Lippincott, 1990. (grades 2 - 4) 


• Where the Buffaloes Begin. 

Olaf Baker. Illus. by Stephen Gammell. 
Wame, 1981. (all ages) 

• And It Is Still That Way: Legends told 
by Arizona Indian Children. 

Byrd Baylor. Scribner's, 1976. (all ages) 

• The Girl Who Married a Ghost and 
Other Tales from the North American 
Indian. Edward S. Curtis. Edited by 
John Bierhorst. Four Winds, 1978. 
(grades 4 & up) 

• Raven the Trickster: Legends of the 
North American Indians. Gail 
Robinson. Illus. by Joanna Troughton. 
Atheneum, 1982. (grades 6 & up) 

• Many Smokes, Many Moons. Jamake 
Highwater Lippincott, 1978 (all grades). 



Spricht Hier Jemand English?* 

Providing for Foreign Visitors 

Travel can be entertaining, 
educational, and ... when you 
don't speak the language ... 
frustrating. During a recent 
vacation in Germany and Austria, I 
encountered a variety of ways museums 
communicate information about their 
collections to non-German speaking 
visitors. I became curious. Do European 
museums do a better job serving their 
foreign visitors than museums in the 
United States? 

At the simplest level, many 
collections are accessible to the visitor 
without explanation. The 
scientific and technological 
displays and models of the 
Deutsches Museum in 
Munich, for example, are 
delightfully self-explanatory. 
Full-size machines and 
systems are reproduced in 
miniature inside dioramas 
that put them in context. 
There was little textual 
material in any language in 
this museum where the most 
complex of scientific 
marvels are presented as 
overgrown toys for the 
visitor to play with. It is 
possible to enjoy a zoo or art 
museum, too, on a purely 
visual basis without a guide. 
Most museum-goers, 
however, are eager to know 
more than they can perceive 
without language. 

The most common way 
of communicating with 
foreign visitors is via print. 
Some small museums such 
as the Heimatmuseum (Folklore 
Museum) in Berchtesgarden offered a 
room-by-room general description of the 
artifacts with some contextual 
background. Other museums provided 
floorplans in several languages, but little 

additional information. Each room in the 
museum of the Benedictine Abbey in 
Melk, Austria, contained written 
information about the exhibition's theme 
in both German and English. Here, as in 
all the museums visited, label copy was 
written only in German. Most small 
museums and museums outside the 
tourist centers offered no non-German 
information about their collections. 

Large museums and those in the 
more heavily visited cities spoke to their 
foreign visitors in a variety of ways. A 
rather innovative communication method 
was installed in the Hohensalzburg 
Fortress in Salzburg, Austria. At key 
locations throughout the castle buildings 
and grounds, "Phonomat" offered a brief 
description of the immediate 
surroundings in exchange for a few 
schillings. The aesthetic shock of what 
appeared to be a bright yellow pay phone 
in a medieval castle was somewhat offset 
by the pleasant voice and instructive 
message. Recorded tours were available 
in Spanish, French, and English in a few 
of the larger museums and were very 

Still, the most satisfactory viewing 
of a museum's collection should be 
accompanied by a real, live person with 
whom the viewer can interact. English- 
speaking guides were available at 
prearranged times. In most cases, 
however, the guides were not native 
English speakers, and their tours varied 
in quality. They were frequently merely 
memorized recitations of the histories of 
various Hapsburg or Bavarian 
monarchies, mcluding endless repetitions 
of the number of candles in successive 
chandeliers. Rarely did any interaction 
take place between guide and tour group; 
often, the guide was unable or unwilling 
to answer questions. 

Therefore, it was with enormous 
delight that I encountered Christopher 
Clouter in the Kunsthistorisches Museum 



Does Anyone Here Speak English? 

in Vienna. He and three others 
volunteered to conduct English tours for 
the Kunst; he claims to teach English at 
the American Institute to "support my 
vocation — art history." 

He began our tour in the 
magnificent main hall of the ground floor 
of the 100-year-old art museum. After 
pointing out the tools of the architect 
painted over the museum's entrance and 
Michaelangelo's name and the tools of 
the sculptor over the entrance to the 
sculpture wing, he let us discover the 
intent of the other two wings. When he 
asked, "What do you see in this section 
over Raphael's name that tells us he was 
a painter?" I began to suspect I had 
found a real docent — a teacher — not 
just another tour guide. 

We moved to the "Krumau 
Madonna" and all marched around the 
statue while he asked us, "Sculpture is 
made to be seen on all sides, so why did 
they make pieces like this to go on the 
altar where no one would ever see the 
back?" When we moved to a small ivory 
carving of "St. Gregory with the 
Scribes," he led us into a discussion of 
why books were so valuable during the 

Middle Ages and reminded us that we 
still remember the "magic" of the written 
language when we "spell" a word. 

"When you look at any painting, 
think how you would have painted the 
subject," he urged and then helped us see 
how Titian leads the viewer to a thematic 
center of "Ecce Homo," the figure of Christ 
at the outermost edge of the huge canvas. 

Our tour continued in this vein for 
more than an hour. The group was very 
large — more than 30 adults. We saw 
only a fraction of the vast Kunst collection, 
but we were treated to an entertaining, 
enlightening, and enabling introduction. 
The Kunst became accessible, and we 
spent 5 more of our precious tourist 
hours exploring on our own the paths 
that had been opened for us. 

Do European museums do a better 
job for their foreign visitors than 
museums in the United States? The 
question is moot. Far better questions, 
however, concern your own museum. 
Do non-English speaking visitors have 
access to your collection? Has your 
museum gone beyond print, tape, or 
guides to provide docent tours for 
foreign visitors? As a docent, have you 

made it known to your education director 
that you are available to give tours in 
languages other than English? Have you 
helped recruit into your museum's docent 
program volunteers who speak languages 
other than English? These are the more 
important questions to consider when 
providing for these special audiences. 


Jackie Littleton 
Associate Editor 

Use local demographic information 
(available from Regional Planning 
Commissions or Census depositories in 
most communities) and your museum 's guest 
register to assess the need for non-English 
information. Certainly, if your museum is 
located in a key tourist area, or if there are 
significant ethnic populations in your 
community, non-English tours should be 

Submit an Article! 

Publish Your Teaching Ideas and Techniques 

The Docent Educator invites you to submit articles, questions, techniques, comments, and announcements for possible 
publication. Interested? Please consider addressing the themes of our upcoming issues. 

little Ones: Teaching our Youngest Visitors 
Winter 1993 

submission deadline: Sept. 1, 1993 

Program Mechanics: Recruitment, Training, 
Orientation, and Evaluation 
Spring 1994 

submission deadhne - Dec. 1, 1993 

Blockbusters: Teaching with Temporary Exhibitions 
Summer 1994 

Submission deadline - March 1, 1994 

Back-to-School: Programming for School-Aged 
Audiences and their Teachers 
Autumn 1994 

Submission deadhne - June 1, 1994 

Have an article, technique, or activity in mind that does not conform to the themes above? You are still invited to submit it 
for consideration. Send your ideas and manuscripts to The Docent Educator 201 1 Eleventh Avenue East, Seattle, WA 98 102. 


Interpreting with Deaf Audiences 

by Amanda Park 

I could feel the air charged 
with their excitement and 
anticipation as the small 
group of thirty children 
and their teachers approached 
the museum center. I stood 
waiting to greet them. Young 
eyes looked up at me filled with 
curiosity. The children's 
eagerness and enthusiasm 
engulfed me. I felt myself 
seeing things the way they do, 
not only as a child would, but as 
a child who hears no sounds. 

I am an historical interpreter 
and an interpreter for the deaf at 
Conner Prairie, a living history 
museum north of Indianapolis, 
Indiana. Conner Prairie focuses 
on life in the early 1800"s. The 
museum consists of three areas: 
Prairietown. a re-created 1836 
village where costumed staff role 
play residents living in a small 
town; the Pioneer Adventure 
Area, where visitors can do 
hands-on activities related to 
19th century life; and an historic 
house built by early settler 
William Conner in 1823. 

The staff who work these 
areas is used to meeting the 
needs of visitors and finding the 
best way to reach each individual in 
order to impart pieces of history to all. 

On this day, I was meeting children 
and teachers from the Indiana School for 
the Deaf. I would be translating the 
spoken word into sign as we toured the 
historic areas. Here is what I saw my 
fellow interpreters of history do to totally 
involve the children to the point where 
many times my presence as an interpreter 
for the deaf was not needed. 

i. Maintained Constant Eye Contact 

Eye contact with the children made 
them feel a part of what was taking 

place. In general eye contact establishes 
a link to the audience. In an interpretive 
situation it is important to remember to 
establish eye contact with the audience 
and speak to them (rather than the 
interpreter). To maintain this 
communication link, remember not to 
turn away from your audience when 
doing an activity or referring to an 
object. This is especially important 
because some of the audience may be 
reading your lips and so need to see your 
face at all times. Also, facing the 
audience provides the greatest volume of 
your voice for those with some hearing. 

2. Convey Feelings and 
Meaning Through Body 
Language and Facial 

People with hearing 
impairments focus on visual 
images. When speaking to 
persons with hearing 
impairments, body language and 
facial expressions can 
communicate meanings without 
the voice being heard. 

3. Use Writing or Drawing To 

With older students and 
adults, this is a personal way to 
communicate on a one-to-one basis. 

4. Add Visual Activities to 
Their Presentations 

When possible, demonstrating 
how objects are used can replace 
the need for verbal explanation. 

5. Use Basic Sign Language 
Some interpreters used basic 

sign language. This ranged from 
as simple as signing a greeting to 
signing the whole presentation. 
Staff at Conner Prairie learn basic 
sign language from a variety of 
sources. Some have taken classes 
previously. Some have attended classes 
offered at the museum and taught by my 
husband and me. Some have studied 
books or videos. 

In addition to the above 
considerations, here are some other 
thoughts to keep in mind when 
addressing an audience that includes 
persons with hearing impairments. 

❖ Enunciate, but do not over- 
exaggerate, your words. Do not yell. 

❖ Speak clearly. Slow down slightly. 
Remember your visitor is most likely an 
intelligent person. 


It Works for Me ... 

Docents share techniques they find successful. 

❖ Be patient. Let the visitor help you. 
Use the visitor's lead when determining 
the way he or she feels most comfortable 
communicating. Not all persons with 
hearing impairments read lips or use sign 

❖ Make sure your words say the 
message you really mean. Idioms such 
as, "What's wrong, has the cat got your 
tongue?," are difficult to understand. 

❖ Pointing is not considered rude in 
deaf culture. Pointing to objects, 
pointing directions or pointing to a 
person are effective ways to 
communicate and direct attention. 

On the day I toured with the 
students from the Indiana School for the 
Deaf, my fellow interpreters 
demonstrated their communication skills, 
especially their ability to treat each 
visitor in a way that made their 
experience a positive one. I knew a 
positive, uplifting experience had taken 
place. How did I know this? The looks 
on the children's faces showed that spark 
to know more about history had been 

After spending the day with these 
children, I knew why I love my work as 
an interpreter of history. The rewards of 
my job are to see smiles that reach from 
ear-to-ear, to see the eyes wide with 
wonder and amazement, and to hear the 
never-ending questions that the children 

Sometimes we don't see what kind 
of experience our visitors have had. 
With good communication and 
understanding, hopefully we can 
transcend all cultures, ages, and groups. 
It takes far more effort, patience, and 
hard work, but it is all worth it when you 
can see the faces of smiling children 
even if when they "hear" with their eyes. 

Amanda Park serves as a docent at 
Conner Prairie in Nobiesville. Indiana 

In a previous issue of The Docent 
Educator, you discussed some tough 
topics. I would like to share with you 
what works for us when we deal with our 
own "tough topic," partial nudity in an 
exhibition on the Mississippian Indians. 

Our exhibition consists of several 
objects, including bowls, scrapers, and 
projectile points, as well as a mural of 
what Mississippian Indian life might 
have been like in our area. In the mural, 
the women and men wear only a "loin 
cloth." Children ALWAYS notice that 
the "women have no tops on" and there 
are usually quiet giggles and lots of 
finger pointing. 

Our docents do not ignore this or try 
to stop it ... at least they have noticed 
something! We address the issue by 
talking about the weather. Our questions 
begin with a description of the mural. 
What are the people doing? What are 
their houses like? What season do you 
think it is? How are the people dressed? 

When we talk about the season, we 
ask what clues they've seen that tell them 
it's summer time. They will invariably 
mention the trees in full flower, the 
people working on crops, and eventually 
will mention that "the women have no 
tops on." 

Finally, the magic sentence! Now 
we can get to the reasons they have no 
tops on. We ask the children to consider 
what summertime is like here in 

Clarksville, Tennessee. Is it hot? How 
do you keep cool? Their answers range 
from swimming pools and air 
conditioning, to going to malls and 
movies. Then, we have them look again 
at the mural and identify ways the 
Mississippian Indians might have kept 
cool in the summer, without air 
conditioning, movies, swimming pools, 
and so on. The children mention the 
creek in the painting, shade, and finally 
the magic words . . . their clothes. 

We have had only one problem with 
a school group at this particular 
exhibition, and that was before I arrived 
at the Museum. When we have had 
religious schools call for tours we 
mention the mural and let them know 
that it is part of the tour, but that if they 
felt it would be inappropriate we could 
skip it. We have never had a school 
decide to skip it, but they have said that 
they were pleased that we brought it to 
their attention beforehand, so that they 
were not suiprised upon arrival. 

If you can use this, please do. I 
enjoy reading The Docent Educator, as 
do our docents. Keep up the good work! 


Anne Berry 
Curator of Education 
Clarksville-Montgome}-}' Count}' Museum 
Clarksville, TN 

Your participation is requested! 

The Docent Educator is looking for activities, ideas, techniques, and 
comments to share in its "It Works for Me" column. Help others be 
more effective. Jot your thoughts or ideas down and send them in! 


Touring Nursing Home Residents 

Raymond M. Leinbach. Ph.D., is 
an associate professor in the School of 
Community Health Professionals and 
Physical Therapy at the College of Health 
Sciences: and is the director of the Center 
for Gerontology at Old Dominion Universit\, 
in Norfolk. VA. 

Betsy Gough-DiJulio is director of 
education at the Virginia Beach Center for 
the Arts in Virginia Beach, VA. Ms. Gough- 
DiJulio received her M.A. in art history from 
Vanderbilt University. 

Dr. Leinbach and Ms. Gough-DiJidio 
collaborated on the article "Touring with 
Older Adults, " which appeared in the 
Autumn 1992 issue of The Docent Educator. 

I "W" n the Autumn 1^92 issue of The 
I Docent Educator, we discussed 
I touring with older adults. This 
-A- article departs from that one by 
focusing on a specific segment of older 
adults — residents of long-term care, 
nursing facilities. 

In the previous article, one of our 
main points was that, even though there 
are differences between younger and 
older adults that should be taken into 
consideration, the attitudinal starting 
point for touring older adults was to treat 
them as adults first. Is it necessary for us 
to alter this dictum when discussing 
nursing home residents? Absolutely not. 
Even though the differences between 
most adults and those in nursing homes 
can be substantial, we argue that the 
starting point is to recognize these people 
as adults. The all too often heard, "I just 
love working with old people. I treat 
them like my children." has no place in 
senior citizen centers, in hospitals, or in 

While residents of long-term nursing 
homes tend to be, on average, older and to 
have lower levels of physical and 
cognitive ability than other adults does not 
suggest that you should significantly alter 
the approach you take. Treating these 
visitors as adults who happen to be older 
respects their dignity and should help to 
reduce any anxiety present in the docent 
who provides the tour. 

Docents should understand that 
nursing facility residents with greater 
functional and mental difficulties are not 
going to be members of a touring group. 
It is highly unlikely that nursing homes 
would include anyone at risk of 
developing problems in a tour group. If 
nothing else, their potential liability 
would discourage it. In addition, the 
planning and implementation of an 
activity such as a tour is far more time 
consuming for the facility than just 
keeping the residents in-house. Simply 
put, nursing homes do not organize 
tours to get their problem residents out of 
the facility. 

Advanced Pianning 

Conscientious docents gather 
information about their tour groups prior 
to providing tours. In most institutions, 
reservations are not accepted from 
schools without knowing something 
about the group of youngsters and their 
chaperones. Likewise, it is paramount 
that you learn about the nursing home 
group and about the staff who will 
accompany them. 

You have every right to ask about 
the general physical and mental 
condition of those to be toured. For 
example, you will want to know how 
many of the tour members will be in 
wheelchairs. Some docents may have 
experienced a reticence or refusal on the 
part of a nursing home to discuss these 
issues on the grounds of confidentiality. 
If you experience such hesitance when 
working with the home's activities 
personnel, ask to speak to the director of 
nursing, or, as a last resort, the 
administrator. Make it clear that you are 
not asking for confidential information 
but that you simply want to be prepared 
so that everyone will have a successful 
tour. Knowing what medications 
someone is taking or their medical 
diagnosis, which are confidential, will 
probably not mean much to you anyway. 
But, you certainly should know about 
general physical and mental capacities. 
We suggest that if you cannot secure the 
information needed to help you properly 
plan for the event, consider not giving 
the tour. It is inconceivable that a 
reputable nursing home would refuse to 
share the necessary information. 

You should also be very specific 
about transportation arrangements and 
necessary escorts. Will the nursing 
facility supply enough individuals to 
assist in transferring participants from 
the vehicle to your facility and back, or 
are they expecting you to arrange for 
this? How many nursing facility staff 
will accompany the group on tour; what 
are their qualifications; and what are 
their responsibilities in case of some 
emergency? Will the group be 


by Raymond M. Leinbach and Betsy Gough-Dijulio 

accompanied by a registered nurse, a 
licensed practical nurse, and/or a 
certified nursing assistant? Will there be 
nursing home volunteers accompanying 
the group? Will you need to recruit 
volunteers to assist with the group? 

Circumstances of Residents 

It is instructive to remember the 
general environment of such facilities. 
With few exceptions, the lives of 
residents in long-term care nursing 
facilities are controlled by the rules of 
the institution, not by the personal 
wishes of the residents. Nursing home 
residents may find such decisions as 
when to go to bed, when to arise from 
bed, when to bathe, when to dress, when 
to eat, when to receive visitors, with 
whom to share a room are all governed 
by institutional regulations. 

Suggestions for Docents 

The circumstances described above 
suggest that you keep in mind that 
nursing residents have suffered not only 
the loss of functional and/or mental 
capacity (prompting nursing home 
placement), but also loss of the freedom 
to make many of life's decisions. An 
approach that comes across as paternalistic 
and emphasizes what the residents cannot do 
will simply reinforce the negatives many 
of them feel very acutely already. Most 
nursing home residents do not need 
reminders that they are different, but 
instead could benefit greatly from an 
approach that recognizes their humanness 
and worth, not their disabilities. 

For example, plan the tour so as to 
de-emphasize the need for mobility. If 
possible bring items to a central location, 
obviating the need to move from room to 
room. This will be especially useful for 
a group that has a large number of 
individuals who are in wheelchairs, 
because it takes time just to move from 
one room to another. This also 
reinforces their lack of mobility. 

Do not presume the presence of 
disabilities. Even if the nursing home 
staff indicates that the cognitive abilities 

or attentiveness of a group will be low, 
remember that they see the residents in 
an entirely different environment than 
you. Do not rule out the possibility that 
the stimulation of your interest in them 
and of the new environment will spark a 
response that the staff is not likely to see 
in the nursing facility. 

We know of a situation where a 
docent was touring a group from a 
nursing facility. One resident, let's call 
her Mary, indicated on a couple of 
occasions that she was bored and wanted 
to go home. During the movement from 
one room to another, an attendant from 
the nursing home leaned over and 
whispered to the docent that Mary had 
Alzheimer's, in an apparent attempt to 
explain Mary's behavior. Later, as the 
group stopped to observe a particular 
piece of sculpture, the docent singled out 
Mary asking her how she would want to 
look at this piece. Mary went over to the 
sculpture, circled it and declared, "In 
order to get the full effect you have to 
feel it from all sides." She had 
succeeded in providing an extremely 
appropriate response, much to 
everyone's surprise. By assuming an 
ability to participate, rather than writing 
off Mary as a victim of Alzheimer's 
disease, the docent was able to evoke a 
response no one would have predicted. 

Another technique that is sometimes 
successful with nursing home residents is 
to relate items to their childhood or early 
adulthood. This is particularly effective 
if you can focus on items that suggest an 
earlier time period, such as photographs 
or objects that might have been more 
common earlier in the century than now. 
Or, even if the theme is contemporary, 
you can relate it to an earlier time period. 
For example, images of modem 
architecture could prompt questions 
about the first time residents saw a 
skyscraper or what people might have 
thought of such a building if it had been 
erected in 1920. Evidence of a genuine 
interest in what things were like "back 
then" can sometimes evoke meaningful 
responses. And, being in a situation 

where the more knowledgeable person - 
- the docent — is asking them to be the 
educator can feel empowering. 

Rehabilitation Patients, Assisted 
Living Residents, and Retirement 
Home Residents 

With the enactment of cost 
containment legislation for Medicare 
forcing older patients to leave the 
hospital earlier than in the past, a 
sizeable minority of new nursing home 
admissions are temporary ones, while the 
individual is continuing a rehabilitation 
program begun in an acute care hospital. 
If your touring group consists of these 
individuals you are likely to find most of 
them to be cognitively normal and more 
like your typical older adult clientele 
than the typical nursing home resident. 

Likewise, residents of assisted 
living facilities should not be confused 
with the nursing home resident. Assisted 
living facilities (which are known by 
different names in different locations) are 
for individuals who need some assistance 
with activities of daily living, but do not 
need skilled nursing care. Usually they 
will be more mobile and more alert. Do 
not confuse these individuals with 
nursing home residents. 

Residents of retirement homes or 
retirement communities should not be 
confused with nursing home residents. 
These individuals will be totally 
independent and even more alert and 
mobile than assisted living residents. 


Docents with considerable 
experience with nursing home residents 
can attest to the tremendous satisfaction 
they gain from working with these 
people. In all likelihood, these 
successful tours were characterized by 
careful planning, knowledge of the 
group's needs, a recognition of the 
dignity and worth of the group members, 
and by aggressive attempts to engage the 
participants during the tour. 


Skeptical Visitors 

in the Art Museum 

C-hme^Wgood that every 
docciil will eventually 
encounter reluctant or 
skeptical visitors. Docents 
serving in art museums and galleries 
have special problems with such viewers 
since much of the art world seems 
subjective and mysterious to novice 
gallery-goers. Because art museums do 
not have the same straightforward, factual 
aura found in many science and history 
museums, viewers feel particularly at 
liberty to rely upon their own opinions and 
to confuse these opinions with informed, 
critical evaluations. The opinions and 
biases of these visitors are easily activated 
by abstract and non-representational 
works, contemporary art, naive and folk 
art, as well as by nudity and certain 
themes that may conflict with religious or 
political beliefs. 

Skeptical viewers come in all ages. 
It is not unusual for young children when 
looking at naive art to say, scornfully, "It 
looks like a kid did that!" And, every 
decent eventually meets visitors who say 
some version of "Do people get money 
for that?" "If this is art, I'm going 
home!" "My kid could do that!" "I 
could do that!" 

Remarks such as these often reveal 
biases about art that are typical of many 
viewers. You, yourself, may even share 
some of these thoughts. How can you 
become more comfortable with your own 
questions and handle the skeptical visitor, 

It may be helpful to remember that 
almost everyone is uncomfortable when 
first confronting the unfamiliar. 
Therefore, it is best not to rush the 
process of understanding. Recall that 
most art styles and movements were not 
greeted with joyful acceptance when they 
first emerged. The Impressionists, whose 
works are among the most widely 
enjoyed today, were rejected from the 
French academic salons and were 
referred to as "lunatics" in the press 

when their works first appeared. Even 
the term impressionism, derived from the 
title of a Monet painting, was not 
considered a flattering one at that time. 

Many visitors airive with the belief 
that art should be "beautiful." This is an 
idea that dates back to ancient times. 
However, definitions of what constitutes 
beauty have changed during the 
intervening years, as has what the term 
"beauty" refers to. Over the centuries 
"beauty" has been defined as physical 
appearance, goodness, morality, as 
certain sublime emotions, or as a 
psychological response to certain 
predictable visual stimuli. The problem 
with using beauty as the criterion for art 
is that it is not specific, and that it is 
culturally, temporally, and personally 
subjective. It also discounts the idea that 
artists are people who challenge our 
assumptions, rather than simply pander 
to them. 

Art is not simply decoration. It is a 
language or visual code for important 
ideas in culture. Art functions as far 
more than the personal expression of the 
artist. Art discusses what we think, how 
we behave, and what we feel. Just as 
contemporary life is not always 
beautiful, contemporary art can reflect 
the strife inherent in our times — 
violence, disease, political oppression, 
racism, and sexism. 

At some point in your tour, it is 
incumbent upon you to demonstrate how 
an art work can be analyzed. Through 
the process of questioning, help visitors 
see a work's formal design elements. 
Develop discussions about any narrative 
subject matter you, or they, perceive in 
the work. If some deeper symbolic or 
hidden meaning seems evident, talk 
about that. Skeptical viewers often do 
not know that understanding art is more 
than just reacting to it. 

Let your visitors know that 
understanding art is not like watching 
television. You cannot be passive and 


by Ellen J. Henry 

simply respond. You must participate 
and use your ability to see. Quick 
glances of 30 seconds or less, which are 
the kind that many visitors give to any 
particular work, will not inform. Model 
more productive behaviors by spending 
as much time as possible with a single 
object to demonstrate the process of in- 
depth looking and consideration. 

Ask questions of your reluctant 
visitors, such as: 

• What choices did the artist have to 
make about materials? About color? 

• What risks did this artist take? 

• If you could remake this work, how 
would you make it better, or different? 

• What might the artist be trying to tell 
us in this work? 

• What might a child (or with children, 
an adult) say about this work? 

• What do you think this artist's life is 
like? How do you find that in his/her 

Another challenge skeptical viewers 
may pose is their belief that an artist may 
be deliberately fooling us, and that the 
work is a scam or a slap in the face. 
They may even believe that curators and 

critics have "had the wool pulled over 
their eyes." 

Given the fact that less than 1 % of 
serious artists actually make a reasonable 
living from their art alone, it seems 
unlikely that many artists would use the 
hard-won opportunity to exhibit their 
work just to mock instimtions and the 
people visiting them. While some artists 
do use tiieir work to question art trends, 
the sanctity of the museum world, or the 
preciousness of art objects, these efforts 
are done in earnest and have validity. 

One of the most important things a 
docent can teach is to feel open and 
relaxed with works of art, rather than 
tense and fearful. A docent' s attitude 
about viewing art, even when unspoken, 
will be sensed and noted. It is essential 
that docents be open-minded and 
accepting of art. No, he or she need not 
love everything on display; however, the 
docent should remember and understand 
that personal feelings about art do not 
constitute informed viewing or a full, 
solid critical evaluation. 

Should you experience personal 
difficulties accepting a work or an 

exhibition, take this as challenge. Do 
some research. Discuss the workfsj with 
staff members until you are more 
comfortable, or at least until you 
understand why the museum has chosen 
to display it/them. 

Art has the power to stir emotions 
and challenge the intellect. If you call 
upon your own interest, excitement, 
honest concerns, and analytical skills, 
you can enhance your awareness and 
understanding while challenging 
skeptical visitors to shift from wariness 
into a willingness to look deeper into art 
and themselves. 

Ellen J. Henry is the education 
director of the Peninsula Fine Arts Center 
in Newport News, VA. Ms. Henry has a 
Master of Fine Arts in Visual Studies from 
Old Dominion University and Norfolk State 
University, and is a sculptor. She was 
recently named Museum Educator of the 
Year for the Tidewater Region by the 
Virginia Art Education Association. 

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