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 school by training the faculty to incorporate art into their various subject areas and providing access to the Museum and its collection to students at all grade levels. 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 develops students’ critical thinking and language skills while building self-confidence through facilitated discussions of works of art. VTS is a cornerstone of the partnership program at the MFA due to its strength in empowering all learners to engage with the visual world.
For more information and further resources about VTS, see Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) Resources.
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.
The MFA has six VTS/BPS partner schools: the Josiah Quincy School in Chinatown, the Joseph Hurley School and the William Blackstone Elementary School in the South End, and the East Boston Early Education Center, the Samuel Adams Elementary School, and the Dante Alighieri Montessori School in East Boston.
In 2017–2018, the MFA will also begin partnering with several classrooms at the nearby Timilty Middle School in Roxbury to provide teachers with training in VTS pedagogy, as well as multiple visits to the Museum, which is within walking distance of the school. The Margarita Muniz Academy, a Boston Public Schools dual language high school, will continue its five year partnership with the MFA. Teachers incorporate VTS lessons into their curriculum, bring students for self-guided visits, hold an annual Art Exhibit, and celebrate the students’ high school graduation at the MFA.
To request a Museum visit for a VTS/BPS Partner School, please submit a Visit Request.
The MFA has partnered with this independent alternative school since its inception over a decade 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.
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.
Buckingham, Browne & Nichols School
The MFA’s partnership, which dates back to the 1990s, 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.
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 2016–2017 the partnership was expanded to include unlimited access to the Museum, including a student docent program for the the entire 11th and 12th grade classes.
Thayer Academy, a co-educational independent day school in Braintree serving grades 5–12, is launching a new partnership with the MFA in 2017–2018 that includes multiple visits to the Museum, as well as a student docent program that will complement the school’s rich offerings in the arts.
In 2017–2018, the MFA will also begin a partnership with Codman Academy, a public charter school in Dorchester that serves students in grades K1–12. This partnership will include a visit to the MFA for all students that provides them with an opportunity to look at art and respond to it through studio art projects. These projects will also be on view at an annual art show in one of the Museum’s classrooms.