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Summer Institutes: Teaching the Humanities through Art

Photos of Teacher Institute activities

Institute participants exploring contemporary art, enjoying a reception on the Museum’s portico, and creating original podcasts.

  • WEEK 1: Monday, July 13–Friday, July 17, 2015
  • WEEK 2: Monday, July 27–Friday, July 31, 2015

Be inspired this summer at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, as you join colleagues from across the country for an exciting exploration of the connections among American art, social studies, history, and English/language arts. Attend one of our week-long institutes in the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. Stay connected with your newfound colleagues and museum staff throughout the year.

View last year’s 2014 Institute agenda (PDF) and video of past keynote addresses.

Teacher participants

A participant investigates William Holbrook Beard’sThe Lost Balloon.

Who should apply?

Core subject teachers for grades 6–12 may apply as individuals or as part of a team. Priority will be given to social studies, history, and English/language arts teachers.

What will teachers accomplish during the Institute?

  • Gain expertise from museum educators, curators, content experts, and technology specialists through gallery talks, discussion groups, and hands-on activities
  • Learn to use American art in the classroom to foster critical thinking skills
  • Make interdisciplinary connections among American art, social studies, history, and English/language arts
  • Experiment with digital tools you can use to bring art into your classroom
  • Develop and share lesson ideas with peers
  • Engage in online professional development activities and assignments before, during, and after the Institute

What is provided for Institute participants?

During Institutes:

  • Teacher’s Tool Kit including color reproductions, classroom discussion and writing exercises, project guidelines, and teaching strategies
  • Behind-the-scenes experiences at the Museum
  • Opportunity to engage with leading scholars during keynote addresses
  • Access to featured technology
  • Daily breakfast and lunch
  • Optional evening events and opportunities to explore Washington, D.C., such as a bus tour of monuments

Throughout the year:

  • Exclusive access to a collaborative website
  • Connection to a national network of Institute alumni
  • Museum staff support for curriculum development

What is expected of Institute participants?

Participants editing podcasts about artwork in the Museum's permanent collection.

Participants editing podcasts about artwork in the Museum’s collection.

  • Completion of pre-Institute assignments
  • Participation in the entire Institute; plan to arrive each day at the Museum by 9:00 a.m. and leave after 4:00 p.m.
  • Sharing of lesson ideas on the final day of the Institute
  • Contribution of ideas, comments, and resources to a collaborative website during the Institute and throughout the school year

How to Apply

The deadline to apply for the 2015 Summer Institutes has passed. Please check back in the fall for the 2016 application.

Important Deadlines

Applications Due: April 1, 2015
Acceptance Notification: April 22, 2015
Scholarship Applications Due: April 29, 2015
Scholarship Notification: May 6, 2015
Registration Deadline: May 13, 2015


A committee will review all completed applications and notify accepted applicants via email by April 22, 2015. The Museum will attempt to accommodate all applicants’ date preferences, subject to space limitations. Efforts will be made to enroll educators from across the country for geographic diversity.

Registration and Cost

The registration deadline is May 13, 2015. A non-refundable registration fee of $200 per person is required. Participants are responsible for travel and lodging costs. For more information about transportation and low-cost housing recommendations, please email View tips for funding your professional development.


The Smithsonian American Art Museum is pleased to offer a limited number of $500 scholarships per Institute. Scholarships may be used to cover selected participants’ registration, travel, and lodging expenses, as well as other potential costs of attendance. To apply for a scholarship, submit the following to with the subject line "Summer Institute Scholarship." The scholarship application deadline is April 29, 2015:

  1. One-page letter addressing:
    1. What you value most about teaching
    2. Your interest in the Institute
    3. How you anticipate applying lessons learned to your work
  2. Letter of recommendation written by and emailed from a teaching colleague or school administrator addressing your collaborative spirit and creative contributions as an educator
  3. Résumé

Scholarship recipients will be notified via email by May 6, 2015.

Graduate and Professional Development Credit

A teacher participating in the 2009 Clarice Smith National Teacher Institute records a podcast inspired by Interception, painted in 1996 by Mark Tansey. Facing the painting, she enthusiastically gestures with her left hand while recording with an iPod Touch held in her right.

Amber Kerr, Painting Conservator, describes her treatment of a George Catlin painting to participants in the Lunder Conservation Center.

If you are interested in receiving graduate credit for your participation in the Institute, please contact for more information.

Upon request, museum staff will provide documentation of participation including total contact hours.


For more information about transportation and low-cost housing recommendations, please read the FAQs.

Direct inquiries to

Interested in participating in one-day teacher professional development experiences? Consider these upcoming Professional Development Workshops.

Video of Past Keynote Addresses