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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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 2014-2015 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.