MFA School Programs maintains longitudinal, dynamic relationships with individual schools and school districts. The rationale behind our School Partnership Program is to build long-term capacity within the schools—by training the faculty to incorporate art into their various subject areas, and by providing access to art for the students, thereby cultivating the Museum’s audiences of the future. Our school partnerships take varying forms, depending on the school/district and their needs and priorities. We work with administrators and teachers to design partnerships that meet our shared educational goals.

Our current partnerships are described below. For more information on these partnerships, or to discuss the possibility of setting up a partnership with your school or district, please contact

VTS-Based Partnerships

Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) is a research-based teaching method that improves critical thinking and language skills through discussions of visual images. VTS encourages participation and self-confidence, especially among students who struggle. VTS is easy to learn and offers a proven strategy for educators to meet current learning objectives.

Watch VTS in action at the MFA

Boston Public Schools
The MFA and Boston Public Schools (BPS) have had a decades-long standing partnership. While the Museum has served schoolchildren throughout the city from its first days, a formalized relationship with BPS began in the 1960s. Since that time, the MFA has worked closely with BPS to provide opportunities for BPS students to visit the museum and engage with our collections as a part of their classroom curriculum each year.

Over the past 50 years, the program has evolved and changed based on the needs of BPS schools and the resources available at the MFA. At present, our partnership model centers around the Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS). We train teachers in the VTS pedagogy, provide on-going support in their classrooms throughout the year, and welcome the students to the Museum in the spring for Guided VTS Tours.

As of the 2015-2016 school year, we have six partner schools: the Josiah Quincy School in Chinatown, the Joseph Hurley School and the William Blackstone Elementary School in the South End, the Margarita Muniz Academy in Jamaica Plain, and the East Boston Early Education Center and the Samuel Adams Elementary School in East Boston.

Beacon Academy
The MFA has partnered with this independent alternative school since its inception 10 years ago. The 20 students in each cohort come to the Museum multiple times during the course of their 14-month tenure at Beacon Academy, participating in Visual Thinking Strategies discussions, sketching in the galleries, and hosting an annual Family Night where they introduce their parents to this Museum—for which they have come to feel such ownership. Some Beacon Academy students go on to apply to be a part of the MFA’s Teen Arts Council, and are able to deepen their relationship with the Museum in this way.

Beacon Hill Nursery School
In 2015-2016, the MFA launched a partnership with the Beacon Hill Nursery School. Located in the heart of Boston, the school’s mission is to nurture their students’ innate curiosity and lay the foundation for a lifelong love of learning. Teachers at the school are implementing the VTS curriculum and conducting research about the impact of the curriculum on their students, with support from the MFA’s school programs and evaluation staff.

Student Docent Programs

Quincy/North Quincy High Schools
Started in 1990 by a History/Social Studies teacher at Quincy High School, this program brings together students from these two rival high schools to learn together about art, art history, research, and presentation skills. Students must apply and make a three-year commitment to the highly selective Student Docent Program. Through the program, students visit the MFA four times each year to train as docents (content and performance skills) and ultimately give tours to classmates from their schools. They become high-profile members of their school communities. This highly successful program was honored with the MFA’s Community Partnership Award in the fall of 2009.

Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers
In 2012-2013, the MFA and the Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers launched a student docent program modeled on the Quincy/North Quincy High School Partnership described above. The program goals are to engage the entire school community with the world-class museum within walking distance from campus, to empower a small cohort of students who have applied and been accepted to work closely with Museum staff as student docents, and to make direct connections between the MFA’s encyclopedic collection and the school’s art, science, and humanities curriculum.

Medford High School
In 2013-2014, MFA staff began working with 12 students in art history and studio art at Medford High School to train them as student docents in the Museum’s Art of Europe and Art of Asia collections. Currently they lead tours for their peers who are studying World History when they visit the Museum.

Read more about the student docent program in the December 10, 2015 edition of the Medford Transcript

Other Partnerships

Buckingham, Browne & Nichols School
The MFA’s partnership, celebrating its 22nd year in 2014-2015, enhances the curriculum throughout this K – 12 school. The lower school students make multiple visits to the MFA, with the goal of synthesizing their integrated units of study. Upper school students who participate in various art classes, as well as Early Western Studies and AP Art History, make great use of the Museum as a learning resource.

Advent School
In 2013-2014, the Advent School, located on Beacon Hill and serving students in grades pre-K through 6, began a partnership with the MFA that allows students and faculty unlimited access to the Museum and its resources in order to connect the school community with the Museum’s collections.

Noble and Greenough School
The Noble and Greenough School in Dedham, a non-sectarian school serving grades 7-12, became an MFA partner in 2014-2015. In addition to giving students unlimited access to the Museum and its resources, faculty will be participating in professional development aimed at helping teachers to make best use of the Museum and its collections in their curriculum.

Dexter Southfield School
Located in nearby Brookline, the Dexter Southfield School, a PK-12 college prep school, also became an MFA partner in 2014-2015. Their partnership combines both unlimited access to the Museum with a new student docent program that will train a small group of upper school students to lead tours for their younger peers.

British International School of Boston
The British International School of Boston launched its MFA partnership in 2014-2015, which includes unlimited access to the Museum, as well as a docent program for students in years 2-9 to present objects on view in the Museum’s galleries for their families at their inaugural art show in May 2015. In addition, the faculty and MFA staff choose a particular work of art from the Museum’s collection to serve as a focus for art projects in the classroom.

German International School of Boston
The MFA’s partnership with the German International School of Boston began in 2015-2016 with a professional development session for some of its faculty in Visual Thinking Strategies and its applications to various areas of the curriculum. In addition, the entire 11th and 12th grade classes were trained as student docents, and served as docents for their younger peers who visited the Art of the Ancient World collection.