If you love learning—and teaching—becoming a docent may be the perfect retirement activity for you. What is a docent? Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines a docent as “a person who leads guided tours especially through a museum or art gallery.” It’s typically a volunteer role, and docent service opportunities exist at museums and galleries, but also at historical landmarks and other places visited by the public across the United States.
The Best Way to Learn is to Teach
If you’re passionate about a subject, going back to “school” for rigorous docent training is a great way to add to your knowledge and get you ready to share what you’ve learned with others. To give you a taste of the range of opportunities out there, here are brief descriptions of three docent programs at different places and at different types of institutions:
Tahoe Environmental Research Center, Incline Village, Nev. – Docent here “help visitors to have an entertaining, educational experience through which they will learn about Lake Tahoe and environmental problems affecting it. Our program offers docents unlimited opportunities for enrichment, public outreach, and personal satisfaction.” TERC’s Docent Program Description gives a good overview of what being a docent entails.
Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta, Ga. – Volunteering as a docent at the Center for Civil and Human Rights “not only exemplifies your support and commitment to human rights but also provides you with the opportunity to contribute to the enriching experience of visitors and members.” Many docents here are veterans of the civil rights movement.
Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, Minn. – If you want docent training that sounds like the equivalent of getting a postgraduate degree, this may be the place for you. At MIA, “docents are enthusiastic, creative, self-motivated volunteers who have excellent communication skills and a desire to interact with people of all ages. The required two-year study course trains volunteers to conduct inquiry-based, participatory tours of the museum’s permanent collection and special exhibitions. Weekly sessions focus on the history of art with emphasis on the museum’s collection, and on teaching techniques that actively engage tour participants. Assignments include readings, oral presentations, and several hours of preparation outside of class. Those who complete the program are asked to give 40 tours per year for a minimum of three years. A college degree or college-level coursework and/or art history classes are recommended but not required.”
Docent service is a great way to interact with people, and to keep your brain sharp and active in retirement.
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