At the Museum, the impact of arts education can often be seen and heard—from the awe-inspired gazes upon entering the Calatrava-designed building, to the questions, discussions, and laughter that frequently fill the galleries.
In 2010, National Arts in Education Week was officially recognized by Congress and, since then, schools and institutions across the country have continued to celebrate annually, the second week in September. Championed by the non-profit organization, Americans for the Arts, this celebration is designed to encourage educational decision makers and elected officials to support what art museums have known for a long time: The arts are essential for a well-rounded education and for creating access and inclusivity to that end. Art museums commonly support this initiative with school programs and education departments that know all about the powerful impact of the arts in transforming learning experiences for visitors of all ages.
The MAM education department takes pride in celebrating and supporting arts in education year-round by offering something for everyone—from animal-themed student tours to professional development for teachers. Over 150 docent educators are dedicated to delivering high quality arts experiences on guided tours to over 50,000 school children each year. Each of the guided tours is designed to align with state and national standards for art education and commonly overlap with writing, social studies, and history curriculum standards as well. A growing number of teacher workshops are hosted to help educators incorporate art into their curriculum (and often include a themed guided tour!).
So how do docent-guided tours support the arts in education? Each tour, based on a pre-selected theme, provides engaging learning activities in the galleries. Students and docents exchange intergenerational knowledge and perspectives while interpreting works of art in a variety of ways. At a 12:1 student to docent ratio, students are encouraged to develop personal connections with art and share ideas within a small group. Name tags allow docents to praise, question, and call on students by name, as curiosity is piqued amidst intriguing works of art. Students get to slow down and dig deeper into the stories behind works of art through thought-provoking questions and participation in discussions.
Many studies, such as the recently published NAEA-AAMD Study: Impact of Art Museum Programs on K-12 Students, have proven that cultural enrichment opportunities can reach beyond classroom walls and into the community. Studies like these have also proven that art museum field trips promote critical and creative thinking skills, offer real-world learning, enhance observation skills, and help students empathize with life experiences from multiple perspectives and from different times and places.
Help us celebrate arts in education all year long by visiting with your teacher and school groups, or stop in for a weekend drop-in tour with a docent educator. We look forward to welcoming the next generation of curators, conservators, patrons, and, of course, artists that walk through our doors each year, benefiting from museum field trips in ways we have yet to see. And in the wise words of a thank you note from a visiting nine-year-old student, “The art museum is the best! They have so many paintings from so many different artists. If we didn’t have the art museum, I don’t know where I could get my insperashion. I know that the art museum is very important, so having the opportunity to take a tour to learn more is even better!”