On 25th June 2005, 21 young children, age ranging from kindergarten to primary four, and 2 teachers from a childcare centre, visited the museum gallery. Gwynne and I were roped in the last minute to guide them.
The initial strategy was to have an introduction to the whole group. However we split into 2 groups immediately, as I realized I would not be able to give a good introduction that would capture their attention.
Fortunately their teachers were in my group and I was able to have a better control of the children. I also had better attention from them. Because of this, I was able to deliver my stories completely most of the time without much interruption.
My guiding strategy was to give a brief introduction on the function of the museum, and then hold their attention with as many interesting stories as possible. This strategy worked and I was just able to complete one round of the gallery just as I ran out of stories to tell them. The lack of stories was due to the lack of biology background I have. I dare not talk about the scientific aspect of the specimens, as I do not want to give misinformation. This is one area I must work upon and I believe it will be a major problem for guides without biology background. One example was when they asked me about the flying fox and I was stumped since I knew nothing about it. Luckily Siva was around to helped me answer that question.
For presentation, I told my facts like stories and kept them as simple as possible to fit into their short attention span. I was speaking in kiddie and drama mode and using a lot of dramatic hand gesture. I basically became a storyteller. I also posted a lot of simple questions as I found the audience very eager to answer and it helped me in focusing their attention on the specimens I was talking about. It also gained me a better control of the children.
The biggest problem I had during the guiding was the handling of the comments thrown at me simultaneously from the children. Most of the comments were distantly relevant and at times disrupted the story. Yet I believe it is courtesy to reply to these comments yet not to lose the control and attention of the children.
For the comments that came at the end of the story, I would acknowledge the commenter who was still maintaining the eye contact with me, usually with a very short answer. I would then attempt to gain back the control and attention by gathering them to the next specimen I would like to talk about. For the comments that came in the middle of the story, I would only acknowledge if the comment was relevant or I could use the comment to link to my next point in the story.
On the whole, I enjoyed the experience. I would be able to do a better job if I was more mentally prepared so that I would not struggle in presenting my content. I was also nervous throughout the entire guiding. Both factors contributed a lot to my stuttering. Lastly, I would rate myself a 6.5 out of 10 for my performance.
What a relief when it finally ended!