Props and experiential activities

Providing an opportunity to touch a material, listen to music, or watch a video enlivens the tour as well as accommodates different learning styles (e.g., one child may learn more through touch). Experiential activities also activate other senses and provide a more holistic sensory experience on the tour.

Tip: If you are using an iPad or tablet, be sure to display it in a way in which your entire group may see the image or video.
Tip: Use a flashlight to point out details in the artwork. Allow visitors to use the flashlight, too. If you have one student who is not participating, ask them to assist you by shining the flashlight at the artwork. It is a way for the student to participate in a nonverbal manner. Small flashlights are available in the Tour Office for your use.

Challenges using props

Props will do little but distract your group without careful planning. Consider these questions before using the prop: Will they all get to touch the prop? How should they take turns? What should they do when it’s not their turn? How should they treat the prop? At the end of the discussion, don’t forget to ask for the props back!

Review the following points to prevent group management challenges from undermining the benefits of props:

  1. Decide what information about the object the prop best illustrates. Present the prop in conjunction with information about the object or to help answer a question about the object.

  2. Provide structure for the group’s interactions with the prop. Clearly communicate your expectations to keep students focused on the activity. For a material prop, you could pass the prop around the group, allowing students to touch it.

Tip: If you do this, give the group a question to consider while they are waiting their turn to hold the prop and one to consider after they have held the prop. (e.g., How do you think it is going to feel? How did the feel of it surprise you?) Encourage the group to be ready for discussion when the prop finishes circulating.

If the group has trouble passing the prop quickly and taking turns, here are other ways in which to use a material prop:

  • Ask a single visitor to come forward and describe how it feels to the whole group.
  • Hold the prop yourself and walk it around for the group to touch or look at closely.
  • Ask one of your chaperones to display the prop to the group while you facilitate the discussion. (Tip: This also can be a good way to re-engage distracted or disinterested chaperones, by giving them a specific active role.)
  • Hold the prop to illustrate relevant parts of the discussion. Then give everyone a chance to examine it more closely at the end of your presentation or tour.

    Link the experience with the prop to the rest of the discussion. After the group has explored the prop in some fashion, refer to the experience as you continue the discussion.