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Museum volunteers go back to school

Submitted by Kerynn Fisher
Phone: (907) 474-6941

09/05/07

Photo caption below.

Photo by Kerynn Fisher
Volunteer docent Pat Johnson talks about one of the paintings in the museum's art gallery during a school tour on Alaska art.
Each year, as Fairbanks-area school children settle into the new school year, volunteer docents at the University of Alaska Museum of the North are also going back to school. The museum offers volunteer training sessions at the beginning of each semester, giving volunteers all the background they need to lead school tours at the museum. This semester's training, which begins on Monday, September 10 and runs through September 21, is open to anyone interested in volunteering with school groups at the museum.

"You don't need teaching experience to be a museum docent," says Jennifer Arseneau, the museum's education program leader. "What's really important is that the volunteers love learning about Alaska and want to share their enthusiasm with kids."

This fall, the docents will lead programs on Alaskan art (all elementary grade levels), Alaska's animals (kindergarten and first grade), maps and their uses (grades 2-3), Athabascan culture (grades 3-4) and the aurora (grades 5-6). All the programs use the museum's exhibits and hands-on activities to complement the students' classroom lessons. In addition to leading organized school tours, the volunteers also assist elementary, middle and high school groups visiting the museum on self-guided tours. Docents typically volunteer at the museum for one to three hours each week throughout the semester.

The museum has offered docent-led tours for school groups since 1981. While the museum has full-time staff to manage its educational programs, the docent-led tours depend almost entirely on volunteers. Approximately 25 docents, usually a mix of new volunteers and returning docents, lead programs each semester. While the volunteer pool includes retired educators and UAF students just starting on their education career, the vast majority of the volunteers don't come from a background in education.

Thanks to a four-year, $150,000 partnership with Flint Hills Resources, the museum is able to offer free admission for school groups participating in docent-led tours. During the 2006-07 school year, the program reached more than 2,100 local elementary school students. The docent-led school tours are scheduled on an allotment basis, with public and private elementary schools in the Fairbanks North Star Borough receiving a specified number of school tours slots.

Individuals interested in volunteering for the museum's docent program can contact the museum education department at 474-6948.

More information on the museum docent program is available in a UAF web feature story online at http://www.uaf.edu/news/featured/06/docent/.

CONTACT: University of Alaska Museum of the North communications coordinator Kerynn Fisher at (907) 474-6941 or (907) 378-2559.