The Magic of Guiding Student Group Tours

Guiding student group tours is a true artform. From navigating the many variables and inevitable hiccups along the way, to engaging the students, and delivering educational content, our tour guides wear many different hats! But beyond the organization and facilitation of a tour, the true skill is managing it all while creating an environment that leaves space for questions, inspires learning, and fosters lasting connections.

Recently, I had the opportunity to watch our very own Timothy Smith, Lead Guide, in action on one of our Washington, D.C. student tours. While I’m sure there are many additional nuances to his guiding, a few stood out to me on this particular tour. 

  1. Fun Facts! Tim is known on staff for having incredible historic knowledge and facts. And if you’re a regular Global Guide reader, you’ve enjoyed many of his articles and anecdotes. When on the motorcoach in D.C., Tim introduced a simple yet fun game that keeps the students engaged. This helped to keep them off of their phones, in the moment, and more aware of their surroundings.  Each time they were on the coach, the first person to spot the Washington Monument could shout out “fun fact!” and Tim will supply a new fact about the monument. Even the adults got in on the fun! 
  1. Encouraging Questions. Throughout the entire tour, Tim encouraged the students to ask questions. What is the monument made of? Why was it placed here? What does that inscription mean? By encouraging them to ask questions at specific sites as well as throughout the tour, he spurred their curiosity and involved them in the learning process. By making sure students knew questions were welcomed, he created an environment that was safe to ask. Hopefully that same curiosity about monuments, memorials, and historic sites will stay with them!
  2. Sharing the Right Information. At any given museum or monument, there’s a plethora of information that could be shared with travelers. But part of what sets apart a great guide is their curation of precisely what information to share. Students visiting D.C. (or anywhere!) are taking in a ton of new information. One of the ways to create an engaging experience is sharing the right information at the right time for students to digest and remember it. Tim made sure at each site to bring the group together and share a few highlights of what they may enjoy at a museum or monument – the most important and interesting facts for 8th grade students. And often, there was a special challenge posed for them that encouraged their engagement. It was so fun to see their excitement to report back the answers! 

Tim’s skillful guidance was even reflected in the group’s post-trip surveys. Apparently he’s a legend amongst the students!

Each guide brings their own unique style and perspective to guiding our student tours. And often a group enjoys working with their guide so much that they’re requested the following year! In addition to guiding groups, Tim cultivates our team of tour guides and also conducts guide training to cultivate an incredible team.

Katie is the Director of Marketing for Global Travel Alliance. She resides in Pittsburgh, PA with her husband and son. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging out in Pittsburgh’s international food neighborhood, the Strip District, or planning her family’s next travel adventure.

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