Another school year is upon us… So, this week we will be taking a look at school group tour logistics. Do you have a plan in place? Do you have daily meetings to make sure everyone is on the same page? Do you have a centralized calendar for staff and volunteers about upcoming groups? What structures do you have in place for moving multiple school groups through your museum? How many school groups can your museum hold each day? Do you have rules in place for school groups? What happens when everything does not go as planned? James “Zach” Zacharias from the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Daytona Beach Florida has agreed to get us thinking about some of these questions and how his institution works with school groups.
School Group Logistics
By James “Zach” Zacharias
One of the most challenging aspects of museum education is the logistics of moving school groups through our facility. We want to make the experience as wonderful and exciting for everyone, so that they will want to return the next year. Hopefully, the school group visitor will become an adult visitor in the future.
Communication is key to a smooth visit. Make sure everyone involved, from the front desk, security, tour guides, and other staff members, knows about tour specifics. The time, group size and contact person should all be set forth in an accessible format such as a central calendar. A quick conference beforehand with tour guides and the contact person is very helpful in determining if there are any last minute changes or contingencies that need to be accounted for. We try to be as flexible as possible in dealing with such situations. Sometimes, additional time might need to be added or shaved off an activity depending on an unforeseen complication. Regardless of when a tour group arrives, we work to make sure the group departs at the designated time.
One of our key strategies is limiting groups to a manageable size. With our space and personnel limitations, we can handle groups of up to 120 individuals. We will break those groups into six smaller groups. The groups will then rotate to the designated activities that the teachers have chosen and a tour supervisor keeps the groups on task and checks with the head teacher on regular intervals to see if there are any concerns.
One of the challenges we have is protecting the collections while making them accessible as possible. We are an art, history, and science museum with a collection of over 30,000 objects. Many pieces are extremely valuable and one of a kind. We make sure that students know what they can touch and what items are “hands off”. We explain why it is important not to touch certain items.
Finally, a rather simple, but key strategy, is to make sure that all the visitors of the groups young and old know the rules before they enter the museum. If everyone knows what is expected, it lessens the likelihood of a misunderstanding later. This is the time where we make sure little details are addressed. Maps are given out, garbage bags are made ready for lunch, and any payment or changes are addressed.
Sometimes. Things happen that can’t be predicted. The key idea is to keep the visit fun, lively, and be flexible. Always remember to greet guests, young and old, with a friendly smile. When the guests leave, thank them for visiting especially the head instructor. Hopefully, they will always remember the welcoming environment of their visit, and want to come back for more.
James “Zach” Zacharias has been an education and curator at the Museum of Arts and Sciences for more than 18 years. He holds several degrees in communication, history and a masters in education. Zach creates and oversees all of the adult and children’s programming at the museum and lectures on many museum topics all over Central Florida. He has worked with prestigious exhibits; such as, Great Asian Dinosaurs, The Glories of Ancient Egypt, Henrietta Marie Slave Ship, Dali, Picasso, The Great Masters and many more!