The Junior Docent Program trains 7th and 8th grade students to conduct tours for elementary school classes that visit the House. In preparation, adult docents visit the Pasadena area schools in September to describe the program to students that have been recommended by their teachers. Five or six students are selected from each school for a total of about 35 Junior Docents per class. The makeup of each class reflects the diverse ethnic mix of the local schools.
Training consists of six two-hour sessions at the House. Gamble House docents give instructions on techniques for conducting a tour, and lead small groups in studying the rooms and the architecture. Guest speakers illustrate their lectures with slide presentations, and each Junior Docent receives an information booklet. The last step in training is Family Day when Junior Docents conduct tours for their families and friends.
The Gamble House Junior Docent program partners with the Pasadena Education Foundation’s “My Masterpieces” program to bring roughly 1,000 students from thirty-five elementary schools to tour the Gamble House each year. Junior Docents are assigned to tour these classes and must interpret to their young visitors the information they have learned as well as answer questions and behave in a responsible and professional manner. Adult docents are on hand to answer questions and to aid in moving the groups through the House. After each class the Junior Docents meet with an adult docent to review their tours, discuss strategies for improving them, and to celebrate their successes.
My Masterpieces: Discovering Art in My Community is an award-winning program of the Pasadena Educational Foundation, operated in partnership with Pasadena Unified School District and ten museums and arts organizations. Started in 2007 as a pilot program serving a few hundred students, today the program serves every K-6 student in PUSD, providing community-based arts learning opportunities for over 9,000 students and 400 teachers in Altadena, Pasadena, and Sierra Madre.
My Masterpieces: Discovering Art in My Community program was jointly developed by Pasadena Unified teachers and 10 local museums and arts organizations, offering both classroom instructions with instructional field trips. As students matriculate through elementary school they get to know all of the arts resources in their community. Each grade level offers a unique experience that is tied to the standards for the grade level.
The third grade component offers 2 partnerships, one with The Gamble House and another with Side Street Projects. Students receive a guided tour, as well as a hands-on woodworking workshop at their school. The students that traditionally have a hard time understanding math concepts excel in the woodworking component, due to the hands on application of fractions, measurements, and basic arithmetic. For other students, adding those design components that they have hand crafted allows them to slow down and enjoy their work. This can create a positive educational experience for the students, which is what leads to a life-long learner.
Having a hands on woodworking experience gives the students a deeper appreciation of the craftsmanship and labor that went into building and designing the Gamble House. Students engage with math and science standards on the tour and in-classroom instruction. The students also get to use the same type of hand tools in their woodworking workshop that the fabricators of the Gamble House used, which is truly bringing history to life.
Next, when students see the Gamble House in person and learn about how it was made, they are able to make deeper connections. The field trip that the Jr. Docents lead also connects these students to the place they live, and encourages pride in their hometown and community engagement.
~ Jamie Powell
Program Manager, Pasadena Educational Foundation