Pat Klos | June 2013

Make Use Of Museums: Take a Gallery Walk!

Make Use Of Museums: Take a Gallery Walk, Education ClosetI have gotten some of my very best arts integration lessons ideas from visiting art museums.  When most of our students are visual learners, it makes sense to integrate the visual arts into our classrooms.  There is something about looking at fine art that captures kids’ imaginations and gets them talking and writing. Visiting art museums in person, or online, is an excellent way to build your repertoire in visual arts. Plus, it increases your knowledge of art history: it is kind of like getting an Arts 101 course for free!

I try to visit an art museum in any city that I visit.  As I walk through and see a painting that might connect to a curriculum item, I snap it on my cell phone. Then, I save these in my artwork resources file for future reference.

It has been my experience that Art museums love teachers! I always recommend to content teachers that they consider attending educational workshops at local art museums as a professional development activity for arts integration.  If you are lucky enough to live near a city with art museum, definitely check out the teacher programs offered there. Even if it is a couple hours away- it’s probably worth the drive.  Often they are free (or have a very nominal fee) and may even offer professional development credits.

Not only does it give you an opportunity to go into the gallery and see the art up-close and personally. But, you do this with the guidance of a docent or an educational expert. Someone with the ability to help you connect what you see to content specific activities.  You also get the chance to talk and network with other arts integrationists.   Almost always you come home with piles of resources. You;ll find loads of books, images and sometimes even a flash drive of materials to use back at school.

However, if you are not able to physically visit a museum. And, you need ideas and resources for arts integration lessons. You can make a point of visiting them online.  Most museums have websites where you can search, access and often download images.  (The National Gallery of Art, any of the Smithsonian museums and the Walters Art Museum, for example, have digitized their collections and allow you to download artwork as .jpeg files and save them on your own computers.) What is even better is that many art museums have developed excellent resources and lessons for integrating content curriculum with visual arts.  You can find lessons, interactive sites and teaching kits for integrating art in science, math, social studies, and language arts classrooms.

Here are some of my favorite go-to museum sites to find content specific arts integrated lesson plans, ideas and resources:

Cameron Art Museum (NC).

A collection of 20 lessons with downloadable PowerPoints for connecting to Language Arts, Math, Social Studies and Science in the A+ Integrated Lessons for Education

National Gallery of Art (DC)

A series of lesson plans arranged in thematic units with grade specific activities focusing on a single work that can be completed in 1-2 periods.

North Carolina Museum of Art (NC)

An amazing online concept map tool for teachers to create arts integrated lesson plans using selected museum artwork while connecting to twelve concepts i.e. environment, identity, collaboration, conflict.

Philadelphia Museum of Art (PA)

Many downloadable lesson plans as well as excellent online teaching kits.  Looking to Write, Writing to Look is a wonderful kit for Common Core writing connections.

Portland Museum of Art (ME)

Great resource for arts integration lessons and assessment of the visual arts in Artful Assessment.

Smithsonian American Art Museum (DC)

Excellent downloadable teacher guides and materials for many topics, grade levels and standards for a variety of content areas but mostly social studies, history and language arts.

Walters Art Museum (MD)

Among the many resources for teachers and classrooms are their interactive sites based on themes such as Integrating the Arts: China as well as a bank of content integrated lesson plans. My newest favorite is their Common Core Connections, a series of arts integrated activities connecting to Common Core Math (and Math Practices) and ELA to pieces from the museum.

Enjoy your visit!

About the Author

Pat is an arts integration specialist in Anne Arundel County, MD. Having been a mentor teacher and instructional coach, she passionately believes that integrating the arts is the best approach to teaching: it enriches the classroom environment with art, engages students and motivates learning. Her mission is help all teachers realize that they can teach through the arts with a little know-how. Pat appears every Monday. Email Pat.