Amon Carter Museum’s Education Outreach Programs on the Leading Edge of Technology and Methodology

Release date: 
March 15, 2007

FORT WORTH, Texas---During February, the Amon Carter Museum reached more than 1,000 students in 20 schools through 40 real-time video broadcasts via its distance learning program. These live, two-way video broadcasts bring the museum into the remote classroom, focusing on the Carter’s collection of American art or on special exhibitions that are on view. Distance Learning Coordinator Nancy Strickland engages students and teachers in discussions exploring art, history, culture, language arts and science.

“Videoconferencing is a fabulous way to maximize instructional time and enrich the learning environment,” Strickland says. “Students are naturally drawn to and motivated by the technology, and I can see real excitement as they travel beyond their school and community boundaries to learn within this format. Videoconferencing opens doors for students without them ever having to leave the classroom. It brings people who otherwise might always remain at a distance into the same room.”

Because the special exhibition William H. Johnson’s World on Paper opened in February, Strickland took the opportunity to create a special distance learning program, A New View of Black History Month. Participating students explored and discussed Johnson’s colorful paintings and prints, learning about the lifestyles, struggles, and spirituality of African-Americans in this county in the early 20th century. Many area schools, as well as schools in Georgia, Indiana, Montana, New Jersey and Virginia, took this virtual field trip to the Carter.

The Carter offers more than a dozen distance learning program titles and also designs programs to suit special interests or requests made by individual teachers or schools. Students can learn to analyze how artists have interpreted the western United States over the last two centuries, explore the museum’s extensive collection of 19th-century works of art about Plains Indians, or even find out how science and art interconnect as they travel environmental regions of the world through the work of renowned nature photographer Eliot Porter. All of the programs align with Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills and National Standards. They can be experienced as stand-alone programs, serve as a precursor to a museum visit, or be used in conjunction with other museum online teaching resources. Broadcasts can be conducted from the museum’s distance learning facility or directly from the galleries. During the broadcasts, students view the art and interact with a teacher and other students just as if they were taking an actual on-site museum tour. If students have completed related pre-broadcast projects, they can share them during the broadcast with the museum teacher and other classrooms who may be participating simultaneously.

Strickland, along with Instructional Services Manager Stacy Fuller, has further expanded on the Carter’s distance learning outreach by offering videoconferencing programs for professional development. The two tailor faculty training to educators’ specific needs, incorporating visual arts, language arts, social studies and other disciplines. Teachers receive the same Continuing Professional Education credit hours from these videoconferences as they do from on-site workshops.

“We decided to offer professional development through videoconferencing because it eliminates the geographical boundaries of who can receive teacher training from the Carter,” Fuller said. “Our on-site workshops can hold 30 to 35 teachers, while the number who can participate via videoconferencing is theoretically unlimited.”

Many teachers who have participated in professional development through videoconferencing are from districts within the Dallas-Fort Worth area, but others are just far enough way---in Denton, Argyle, Cleburne and Keene, for instance---that getting to the Carter for an on-site program after school would be difficult. There are still others who could only have accessed these programs through this technology, from places like San Antonio, Lingleville and Dublin.

Gallery Teachers, Educator Training Programs also at Forefront of Art Education Practices

The Amon Carter Museum’s distance learning programs for students and educators constitute an important part of the Carter’s extensive education outreach program, which also encompasses student tours and on-site educator training. From September through December 2006, 10,229 students toured the Amon Carter Museum through the gallery teacher program, headed by Student, Family, and Adult Programs Manager Nora Christie Puckett. These tours correlate to curricular standards, and the gallery teachers utilize inquiry-based teaching strategies to engage students in discussions about the works of art.

The Carter is one of only a few art museums in the country whose student tour programs are designed so that professional staff members lead the tours. The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Yale University Art Gallery and The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles each have similar programs. The gallery teachers are professional educators with prior experience in classroom or museum teaching and in many cases hold advanced degrees in art history, education, history or other related fields.

By the end of the 2006–07 school year, the following groups will have toured the Carter with the gallery teachers:

  • every fourth grader in the Fort Worth Independent School District
  • every fourth grader in the Weatherford Independent School District
  • every fifth grader in the Hurst-Euless-Bedford Independent School District
  • students from the Santo, Strawn, Gordon, Palo Pinto and Mineral Walls school districts in Palo Pinto County.

“The reality is that school districts in Texas are not letting kids out of the classroom unless they see direct curricular benefits,” said Director of Outreach Lori Eklund. “With the gallery teachers, the Carter can offer a more structured program that links to state testing standards. Plus, we believe that children from all walks of life deserve the opportunity to learn about and understand their cultural heritage so they can have a more informed and well-rounded frame of reference for dealing with the world.”

Throughout the year, the Carter’s gallery teachers work with other groups, including: private school and homeschool students; Fort Worth ISD high school students in advanced placement history, art history and studio art classes; and first-year medical students at the University of North Texas Health Science Center in a program called Eye for Detail, which helps future physicians hone their diagnostic skills by examining paintings and photographs from the museum’s collections.

The Carter’s commitment to students is equaled by its commitment to educators:

  • This year, Fuller is offering 13 educator workshops, programs held at the museum that provide an in-depth look at the Carter’s special exhibitions and permanent collection. Two of these are part of a series of English-as-a-second-language (ESL) programs.
  • The Carter serves as one of the partner sites for the Fort Worth ISD’s American EAGLE Project, a U.S. Department of Education Teaching American History grant that trains 30 American history teachers each year to think, work, teach and share like historians.
  • In-service training sessions are designed specifically for an individual school district or education service center, providing curriculum created for their individual needs.
  • Through the Future Teacher Program, Fuller works with local university and college education departments to educate pre-service teachers from all disciplines about the museum’s resources for teachers and students and to demonstrate how they can integrate the museum’s collection into their curriculum.
  • Advanced Placement Presentations are given to AP Institutes held at local colleges and universities.
  • Fuller also spearheads the museum’s homeschool workshops, in which students and their parents take a tour of artworks related to a particular theme, and then the students complete a related hands-on art project. Parents learn how to incorporate the workshops’ contents into their curricula and are introduced to the museum’s student and teacher resources.

Mineral Wells Students Tour the Museum, Participate in Broadcast, Create Photography Exhibition

Travis Elementary School in Mineral Wells, Texas (a town of 17,000 one hour west of Fort Worth), recently experienced the full benefits of the Carter’s education outreach program. A group of Travis teachers worked together with Carter education staff to build upon fourth- and sixth-grade students’ tours of the fall 2006 exhibition Regarding the Land: Robert Glenn Ketchum and the Legacy of Eliot Porter. Language arts and science teachers coordinated the October museum visit with a book study, while art teachers Debra Strandberg and Skipper Bennett oversaw a photography project that students undertook based on what they saw at the museum. Grant money from the Walton Family Foundation (which funds tours to the Carter for school districts in Palo Pinto County) provided for disposable cameras and film development. After their museum tour, students were challenged to look at their everyday surroundings and notice the beauty that they may have taken for granted. Each student took 12 photographs and selected their best effort to enter in the aptly named show Our Land, which is on display now in the library at Travis Elementary before it moves to a Mineral Wells bank lobby for two weeks. Several sixth-grade students also participated in a November videoconference with Ketchum, who spoke from the museum’s galleries.

“Many of the students had preconceived notions about what an artist was like,” said Bennett, also an art teacher at Travis. “To their surprise, Ketchum was an entertaining speaker who responded to their questions honestly and candidly. It was an extraordinary experience for everyone.”

“The Amon Carter Museum is dedicated to providing best-quality services to students and educators,” said Director Ron Tyler. “This commitment is a direct legacy of Amon Carter’s vision for the museum to be available to as many people as possible, especially to young people, because it was an opportunity he did not have as a child. Our education outreach programs also underscore the Carter not only as one of the country’s finest museums of American art, but one that offers a social and historical context for the masterworks in its collection, rather than displaying them as art for art’s sake. The museum’s mission mandates that we share its great resources with students and teachers.”

Learn more about the Amon Carter Museum’s education programs at http://www.cartermuseum.org/teaching.