Thursday, October 9, 2014

Training by Doing (and Pretending to be Third-Graders)

Training to lead the "A Bug's Life" program

By Kaitlin Henderson

Duke Gardens offers many different tours for its myriad visitors. You might have taken an adult trolley tour or have kids who have come on a field trip. If so, you know how hugely important our volunteer docents are. The staff and volunteers who lead tours of the Gardens have a wealth of information and experience to offer, all with their own perspectives.

To help volunteers increase their knowledge, we offer trainings. For instance, you may have recently seen a group of 15 adults dancing and singing about butterflies in the Mary Duke Biddle Rose Garden. What better way to learn how a children’s program really works than by going through it yourself? To learn how to lead a program for third-graders, new volunteers get the chance to imagine they're 8-year-olds for a couple of hours. I know I enjoyed experiencing the Gardens from that perspective. You don’t always get the time to bring your uninhibited curiosity about nature to the forefront, investigating insects under a log or examining what your ears and nose are telling you about your environment.

The point, of course, is to prepare ourselves to lead children in experiencing and learning about the Gardens, but it’s also a nice refresher for us adults to do the same. Plus, with a group of such diverse and knowledgeable people, you always discover new things. For example, did you know that bamboo is a clonal plant, meaning that new shoots sprouting out of the ground are actually copies of a nearby stalk? I didn’t.

If you’d like to become a docent (leader or assistant), please fill out our volunteer application here. Or, if you’d like to go on a tour of the Gardens, you can find more information here.

Kaitlin Henderson is a graduate student in Duke's Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Program.

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