Reimagining Museum and School Partnerships

Today’s Ever-Changing World:
Reimagining the School-Museum Partnership

This blog post is written by Hilary Katz, Head of Teaching & Learning ([email protected]) and Alexandra Laroche, Manager of School Partnerships ([email protected]) 

In the post-pandemic world, The Phillips Collection (located in Dupont Circle, Washington, DC) has been revisioning what school-museum partnerships can look like. We are looking for ways to sustain the success and accessibility of virtual programs that can reach students and teachers across the country, as well as returning to the engagement of in-person learning. 

Our virtual professional development workshops allow us to remain accessible to teachers from across the globe, and with a variety of schedules and health needs. We aim to provide concrete arts integration ideas for teachers to incorporate into their existing curricula. Teachers who participated in our most recent hybrid Summer Teacher Institute: The Meaning We Make reflected:

This has shown me that art is accessible to all students, no matter age or ability;”


“I was able to take away tons of techniques and strategies that I can apply immediately to my teaching practice!” We plan to continue to offer both virtual and in-person teacher workshops that are open to all educators, using student-centered, inquiry-based, and culturally responsive approaches.”

We plan to continue to organize both virtual and in-person teacher workshops that are open to all educators, using student-centered, inquiry-based, and culturally responsive approaches.

Teachers participate in a hands-on artmaking workshop during
the 2022
Summer Teacher Institute: The Meaning We Make. 

Building Long-Term Relationships with Teachers:

In addition to offering virtual opportunities, we’re eager to see students and teachers back in the galleries as well as in their classrooms. Beyond taking a single-visit field trip to the museum, we strive to create opportunities for long-term and sustainable relationships with teachers who participate in our courses and programs. Before the pandemic, our teacher programs and school partnerships functioned relatively separately. Now, teachers who participate in one of our professional development workshops, and express an interest, are prioritized for becoming a school partner, resulting in more intentional and more impactful collaborations. 

For example, building on a relationship with a teacher that began when she attended our Summer Teacher Institute, we recently led an in-person professional development workshop for her DCPS elementary school on integrating the arts into specific English-Language Arts (ELA) units. Our team collaborated with the school’s assistant principal and visual arts teacher over several months to assess the needs of the school and research the units on which teachers would be working at the time of the session. From there, we crafted activities that combined Prism.K12 arts integration techniques with the teachers’ curricula to ensure the workshop was relevant, and to inform long-term educational practices. Prism.K12 is the Phillips’s approach to arts integration and includes guiding principles, questions, and activities to develop scaffolded arts integration lessons; it encourages educators to understand their perspectives, power, and identities, and their impact on what they do in the classroom.

Washington School for Girls students create prints in connection to
Lou Stovall: The Museum Workshop. Their prints are currently featured
in a student exhibition,
Art + Music: More than a Feeling, at the Phillips,
on view through the end of 2022. 

For the 2022-23 school year, we have plans to partner with approximately 15 schools across DC, Maryland, and Virginia, in varying capacities, providing Art Kits and Art Cards (see more on these below), facilitating museum visits, leading arts-integrated lessons in the classroom, offering teacher professional development, showcasing exhibitions of student artwork at the Phillips and THEARC, and more. Ultimately, we aim to create customizable, collaborative partnerships to expand students’ critical thinking about relevant topics, encourage students and teachers to consider new perspectives, and enhance traditional classroom learning. 

Pandemic Lessons Learned:

During the pandemic, we learned several valuable lessons that we hope to apply to all of our programming. When we were initially pivoting to virtual, we wanted to make our online programs as engaging, interactive, and hands-on as our in-person workshops had been. However, we learned that engaging students and teachers through a screen is a real challenge! When we started returning in person, we realized that some of the strategies we had used online would also strengthen the in-gallery experience. For example, we found that streaming music during our online programs complemented the lesson while creating a relaxed atmosphere. We have now incorporated music into many in-person programs to provide a multi-sensory experience. 

The Phillips Art Cards in Action

We’re also proud of another pandemic creation: our “Art Cards” (which are frequently distributed to educators who participate in our programs). In our search to create engaging materials during the pandemic, we created these card decks to bring art into any lesson. They consist of 54 reproductions from works in our collection and are transferable to several games and arts integration activities (described in an accompanying packet), allowing everyone’s ideas and opinions to create conversations surrounding artworks and different themes. Teachers who used the Art Cards commented:

  • “[Student] interest level increased because they had choices”;
  • “They have seen a more diverse selection of art than I am able to show in class”;
  • They “allow students to…take a break that still requires them to think, just in a more creative way.” 

Kindergarten students from Noyes Elementary School create torn-paper
collage portraits during a Phillips field trip focusing on “Making Friends.”

Examples of Upcoming School Partnerships:

  • An exhibition at the Phillips, which will feature the work of over 300 students from three DMV-area schools, connecting curriculum goals to our special exhibitions (notably, this is one of a few collaborations that resulted from relationships with teachers who previously participated in teacher workshops with the Phillips).
  • Eight grade levels from a single school will visit the museum and participate in personalized, hands-on art making activities related to what they are learning in class.
  • Representatives from the Phillips are working with PreK and 2nd grade teachers at Inspired Teaching Demonstration School to design field trips, classroom visits by Phillips Educators, and artmaking activities that align to their upcoming Science units on extreme weather and animal habitats. 

Langley Elementary School teacher Brittany Root poses in front
of her students’ lightbox artworks during our
spring 2022 student exhibition.
As part of their partnership this school year, Langley Elementary students
will again be featured in our spring 2023 student exhibition. 

If you can’t make it to a workshop or a field trip, we have digital resources for educators to engage with the Phillips: 

We hope our experiences can spark ideas for how other schools and museums can partner in creative, thought-provoking ways!