Writing for the Future: Developing a Handbook for Touring with Children and Teens

Shelagh Barrington, Gallery Guide, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada (Summer, 2022)

Betsy Vourlekis Lindsay McAuliffe NDS Lindsay McAuliffe NDS

In this 40th Ruby Anniversary year of NDSC we are highlighting the efforts of dedicated volunteers to bring Best Practices to our docent/guide community.

Pictured here, left to right, are Betsy Vourlekis, Docent, Smithsonian's National Museum of Asian Art/Charles Lang Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington, DC; Jan Thorman, Docent, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore; and Lindsay McAuliffe, Docent, Smithsonian's National Museum of Asian Art/Charles Lang Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington, DC.

These three experienced docents took on the task of researching and writing the NDSC handbook Touring with Children and Teens. Their combined backgrounds, input from other docents and guides, and extensive research have resulted in a professional and engaging roadmap for docent/guides.

Their journey began after the Montreal Symposium when the 2017 revised NDSC Docent Handbook 2 was released. The revision process for the handbook had identified a need for a more targeted approach for touring with young people. Madelyn Mayberry, NDSC President, asked Betsy (who worked on the 2017 handbook revision) to lead a new project focused on tours with younger audiences. Jan and Lindsay joined Betsy. Due to Covid restrictions, nearly all their collaboration occurred through Zoom meetings.

Their research included gathering information from a variety of cultural institutions, not just the fine art museums with which they were associated. The project grew as their research indicated that to be thorough and inclusive this would require a separate handbook.

What became evident and important as they went through many meetings and lengthy consultations was the need to widen their scope to include not just the concepts of best practice for successful tours but the sometimes challenging situations that docent/guides deal with while touring youth and teens.

They delve deeply into the opportunities and realities of a broad range of community experiences. They provide information on stages of childhood development followed by specific touring strategies and techniques, and concrete examples from a variety of different institutions giving tours for youth and teens.

The handbook underscores and illustrates how enthusiasm, flexibility, and empathy lead to successful tours and any challenges that arise. A positive approach aligned with specific examples provides a roadmap for both new and experienced docent/guides to move forward through a variety of situations for great results.

Here is what you will find in Touring with Children and Teens:


Chapter 1 Basics
Chapter 2 Getting Started
Chapter 3 Tours with Younger Visitors
Chapter 4 Tours with Teens
Chapter 5 Tours with Home- School, After-School, and Multi-age School Groups
Chapter 6 Special Attention
Chapter 7 Candid Conversations
Chapter 8 Challenging Behaviors
Chapter 9 Live Virtual Tours

Touring with Children and Teens will be sold in the same way as Docent Handbook 2: both printed and digital versions will be available.  Click on this link for purchase options. 

The NDSC is grateful to Betsy, Jan and Lindsay for "making an impact" by bringing trusted and successful concepts to the docent/guide community in Touring with Children and Teens.