The Stratford Historical Society
Stratford Historical Society Box 382
Docent Training March 29, 2016
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Docent Training March 29, 2016
By Dolores Hoctor

The Stratford Historical Society recently completed yet another course of docent training. The Spring session is to prepare people who love history and children to give school tours to all fifth graders in Stratford who are studying about the Revolutionary War. The emphasis is on the problems local people faced living through those times and the heroes that Stratford produced to serve the town and the nation.

Instruction consists of two hour lessons one day a week for six weeks. The issues dealt with are taxation, raids, factions - Patriot vs, Loyalist - , disease, recruitment of men and preparation of supplies. These problems and the people involved are dealt with in the setting of rooms in the beautiful and historic Judson House and Museum. The heroes include William Samuel Johnson, General David Wooster, Captain David Hawley, Jabez Tomlinson, and Jack Arabus.

Presenting this material to fifth graders is made interesting by the fact that we assign two docents to each group of children, one portraying a Patriot, the other a Loyalist to familiarize them with both sides of an issue.

Besides the instruction, each lesson includes an invited member of the Society to discuss various subjects in depth. Judy Kurmay deals with the topic of slavery as well as the actions that led America to declare independence and fight the Revolutionary War. Ray Vermette traces the background of the two military heroes, Hawley and Wooster. Barbara Firisin demonstrates storytelling.

New docents then face the task of reviewing each lesson to the point where they can explain the important points to their charges. They have a practice session with an experienced docent followed by one morning of observing how other docents present the tour when the children are actually there.

The training continues in September with just two lessons in preparation for third graders who come to learn about the early settlement of Stratford, the way people lived without electricity, running water or automatic heating, and the chores required of children in those days.

Material for the course consists of a Handbook with topics sorted into several sections taken from the records of the Society. Material is prepared for individual lessons from information written by Lewis Knapp in his book, In Pursuit of Paradise as well as from magazine articles pertinent to the subjects being studied and instructions in 'How to…'