Thinking Through Art

Partnering with Boston Public School Teachers

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum encourages deep experiences with art that spark lasting connections between our visitors and the Museum.

Our school programs build relationships with teachers and students through multiple visits, focusing on the process of “learning to look” and “making meaning” from works of art. Since 1992, the Gardner Museum has partnered with schools to make the experience of responding to works of art an essential part of school culture. Thinking Through Art, our multiple-interaction program for Boston Public Schools, empowers teachers and students to practice critical thinking and communication skills through discussions about visual art.

Formerly known as the School Partnership Program, Thinking Through Art takes a new approach of collaborating directly with Boston Public School teachers through a yearlong graduate-level course on teaching and learning through visual art. Thinking Through Art trains teachers to use an innovative, rigorous discussion method called Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) to integrate group discussion and reflective practice in their classroom. By prioritizing students’ observations and prior knowledge, Thinking Through Art helps students explore works of art and make meaning on their own terms. As a result of regular group discussions about the works of art, students of all ages and abilities demonstrate measurable growth in their ability to reason with evidence, think flexibly, and communicate their ideas in conversation and in writing.

Thinking Through Art offers two sequential programs for teachers: Level 1 for teachers new to the Gardner Museum’s programs, and Level 2 for teachers who have completed Level 1 or participated in the School Partnership Program in the past. Boston Public School teachers in grades 3 - 12, including all content areas, are eligible for Thinking Through Art. The courses include the following components:

  • Professional development at the Museum, resulting in up to two graduate credits or 30 professional development points
  • Two guided visits in the Museum for every class
  • Digital visual art curriculum and tools for assessing student learning

Apply to join Thinking Through Art

Applications for the 2019-20 school year will be available in March 2019. Contact ThinkArt@isgm.org with questions. If you'd like to visit the Gardner Museum with your students, please schedule a tour.

The Impact of Thinking Through Art

The Gardner Museum has conducted many studies on the effect of multiple-visit, discussion-based programs. Our research with elementary, middle, and high school students shows that students who participate in regular Visual Thinking Strategies discussions with works of art double their critical thinking skills, including supported observations and flexible thinking, compared with peers who do not participate. These results persist over time, making one year of Thinking Through Art have an effect on students’ college and career readiness.

Learn more about the Gardner Museum’s educational research projects.

Thinking Through Art Level 1

Learn to facilitate open-ended discussions of works of art using Visual Thinking Strategies, a method proven to develop students’ critical thinking and communication skills. Learn how to choose artwork tailored to the needs of your students, and how to assess student learning in the context of group discussion. You and your students will experience the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum as a place of learning, inspiration, and community.

Components and Benefits

Professional Development

  • Two graduate credits/30 professional development points 
  • Summer Institute 2018, Option 1: August 13, 15, 16, and 17, 10 am - 4 pm
  • Summer Institute 2018, Option 2: August 20, 22, 23, and 24, 10 am - 4 pm
  • Fall 2018 Workshop Options: November 10, 9 am - noon; November 15, 4 - 7 pm; or November 17, 9 am - noon
  • Spring 2019 Workshop Options: March 30, 9 am - noon; April 4, 4 - 7 pm; or April 6, 9 am - noon
  • One-year Gardner Museum Friend-level memberships for participating teachers

Museum Visits

  • Two guided visits to the Museum for each class, led by skilled Museum Teachers
  • The Museum covers transportation costs
  • One-year Gardner Museum family passes for participating students

Classroom Curriculum and Student Assessment Tools

  • Up to 10 digital sets of developmentally appropriate lessons of visual art images, suitable for use by classroom teachers
  • Writing and discussion-based tools to measure growth in critical thinking and communication skills

Requirements 

Teachers must be teaching grades 3 - 12 in a Boston Public School for the 2018-19 school year. Preference will be given to high school humanities teachers. We encourage participation by cohorts of teachers from the same school.

Teachers and their principals must sign a memorandum of agreement acknowledging the following program requirements. They will: 

  • Attend all professional development workshops
  • Bring at least one class for two guided visits to the Museum. Middle school and high school teachers who have multiple classes may bring all classes/sections to the Museum. 
  • Complete all assignments:
  • Lead eight classroom Thinking Through Art lessons
  • Write a one-page reflection following each classroom lesson
  • Write an 8-10 page paper following final Museum visit 

Fee 

$100 materials fee per teacher, plus $150 for teachers seeking graduate credit. 

Looking to Learn at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Thinking Through Art Level 2

Through rigorous professional development and a supportive community of educators, deepen your facilitation skills, and become an advocate for student-centered teaching and arts integration within your school. Reflect on your own teaching and learning, while adopting tools to mentor your peers. Build on your expertise with Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) and use the Museum as a resource for designing lesson plans and student assessments that cultivate open-ended inquiry in your classroom. 

Components and Benefits

Professional Development

  • One Graduate Credit/20 Professional Development Points 
  • Summer Institute 2018, Option 1: August 14, 10 am - 4 pm and coaching Thinking Through Art Level 1 teachers from 10 am - 12:30 pm on two of the following dates: August 15, 16, or 17
  • Summer Institute 2018, Option 2: August 21,10 am - 4 pm and coaching Thinking Through Art Level 1 teachers from 10 am - 12:30 pm on two of the following dates: August 22, 23, or 24
  • Fall 2018 Workshop Options: October 27, 9 am - noon; or November 1, 4 - 7 pm
  • Spring 2019 Workshop Options: March 21, 4 - 7 pm; or March 23, 9 am -noon
  • One-year Gardner Museum Friend-level memberships for participating teachers

Museum Visits

  • Two guided visits to the Museum for each class, led by skilled Museum Teachers before Museum open hours
  • The Museum covers transportation costs
  • One-year Gardner Museum family passes for participating students

Classroom curriculum and student assessment tools

  • Up to 10 sets of developmentally appropriate lessons of visual art images, suitable for use by classroom teachers 
  • Writing and discussion-based tools to measure growth in critical thinking and communication skills
  • Support and structure for designing your own lesson plans and assessment methods

Requirements

Teachers must have completed Thinking Through Art Level 1 or have participated in the Gardner Museum’s School Partnership Program for at least one year. Teachers and their principals must sign a memorandum of agreement acknowledging the following program requirements. They will: 

  • Attend all professional development workshops.
  • Bring at least one class for two guided visits to the Gardner Museum. Middle and high school teachers who have multiple classes have the option of bringing all classes/sections. 
  • Complete all assignments:
    • Lead 4 classroom Thinking Through Art lessons, each including 2-3 images
    • Design and implement at least one Thinking Through Art Extension Project
    • One-page reflection following each Classroom Lesson
    • Write a 5-7 page paper about the Thinking Through Art Extension Project, including evaluation of lesson design

Fee

$100 materials fee per teacher, plus $75 for teachers seeking graduate credit. 

Thinking Through Art at the Gardner Museum

Seeing the transfer of skills from the classroom into the authentic setting of the Gardner Museum is a great experience. Most importantly, it allows the students who might otherwise not speak up, or who may not have a moment to shine, to put themselves out there, and to say something really insightful. I see that happen over and over and over again.

— Michael Baulier, former 9th grade English Language Arts teacher, Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers

The 2018-2019 Thinking Through Art program is made possible by the Josephine and Louise Crane Foundation, Lenoir Charitable Trust, Liberty Mutual Foundation, Janet Burke Mann Foundation for the Arts, Marriott Daughters Foundation, Rowland Foundation, Pappas Foundation, Wells Fargo Foundation, and a fund established in honor of Peggy Burchenal. The museum also receives operating support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, which receives support from the State of Massachusetts and the National Endowment for the Arts.