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.

Thinking Through Art is a yearlong graduate-level course on teaching and learning through visual art for Boston Public School teachers. Participants learn 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. See details below. The courses include the following components:

  • Professional development at the Museum, resulting in graduate credit or professional development points
  • Two guided visits in the Museum for every class
  • Digital visual art curriculum and tools for assessing student learning. Teachers use Visual Thinking Strategies to lead monthly discussions about art with their students.
     

Apply to Join Thinking Through Art

Complete the online application by June 1 to join the 2019-20 cohort of Thinking Through Art. Contact ThinkArt@isgm.org with questions.

The Impact of Thinking Through Art

The Gardner Museum has conducted many studies on the effect of multiple-visit, discussion-based programs in Boston. 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 affect 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, Option 1: August 12, 14, 15, & 16 (10 am - 4 pm each day, does not meet Tuesday)
  • Summer Institute, Option 2: August 19, 21, 22, & 23 (10 am - 4 pm each day, does not meet Tuesday)
  • Fall Workshop Options: November 16, 9 am - noon; November 21, 4:30 - 7:30 pm; or November 23, 9 am - noon
  • Spring Workshop Options: March 19, 4:30 - 7:30 pm; March 21, 9 am - noon; or April 4, 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

  • Eight digital lessons of developmentally appropriate of visual art, for monthly discussions led 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. 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 during the school year, each including 2-3 works of art.
    • Write a one-page reflection following each classroom lesson.
    • Write an 5-7 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 Options: August 7 or August 13, 10 am - 4 pm 
  • Coaching Session Options (select 2): August 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, or 23, 10am - 1 pm each day
  • Fall Workshop Options: November 2, 9 am - noon; or November 7, 4 - 7 pm
  • Spring Workshop Options: March 5, 4:30 - 7:30 pm; or March 7, 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

  • Four digital lessons of developmentally appropriate of visual art, for monthly discussions led 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 four classroom Thinking Through Art lessons during the school year, each including 2-3 images
    • One-page reflection following each classroom lesson 
    • Design and implement a Thinking Through Art Extension Project
    • Write a 5-7 page paper about the Extension Project, including an evaluation of the Project 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