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Summer Institutes: Teaching the Humanities through Art

Photos of Teacher Institute activities

Institute participants engaging in hands-on activities, leading discussions about artwork, and brainstorming lesson ideas in the galleries.

  • WEEK 1: Monday, July 10–Friday, July 14, 2017
  • WEEK 2: Monday, July 24–Friday, July 28, 2017

Be inspired this summer! Attend one of the Smithsonian American Art Museum's week-long institutes in the nation's capital. Join educators from across the country for an exciting exploration of the connections among American art, social studies, history, and English/language arts. Stay connected with your newfound colleagues and museum staff throughout the year.

View the 2016 Institute agenda (PDF) and video of past keynote addresses.

Who should apply?

Our institutes are geared towards social studies, history, and English/language arts teachers for grades 6-12. Teachers of other subjects or grades may be considered if space is available. Teachers may apply as individuals or as part of a team of two or three, but each member of the team must submit an individual application. Efforts will be made to enroll a diverse cohort that will contribute a range of perspectives, based on geography, life experience, and teaching environment.

What will teachers accomplish during the Institute?

museum gallery

A participant takes a close look at Allan Rohan Crite’s School’s Out.

  • Gain expertise from museum educators, curators, and content experts, through gallery talks, discussion groups, and hands-on activities
  • Learn to use American art in the classroom to foster critical thinking skills and deepen student engagement with content
  • 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

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
  • 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:

  • Connection to a national network of Institute alumni
  • Museum staff support for curriculum development

What is expected of Institute participants?

Participants in Galleries

Participants analyzing art and related documents in the galleries.

  • 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.
  • Active contribution of ideas during the Institute
  • Sharing of lesson ideas on the final day of the Institute

What are teachers saying about the Institute?

  • "[The Institute] was a stunning success. I have become visually literate, I have learned new teaching strategies and I have access to an amazing collection of resources."
  • "This has been the most rewarding PD I have ever attended. The strategies and resources are of immediate practicality."
  • "I will look at art so differently from here on out. It won’t just be ’something to look at’ but something to learn from. I will also have a ton of strategies that I’m walking away with, which I really appreciate. In addition to those, I’m walking away with practice in them so I already feel like I know how to use them. And I will walk away with a much deeper art background than I came with."
  • "To say that it changed the way I teach is an understatement."

How to Apply

Each applicant must submit a completed application online by Sunday, April 2, 2017.

Important Dates

Applications Due: April 2, 2017
Acceptance Notification: April 21, 2017
Scholarship Applications Due: April 28, 2017
Scholarship Notification: May 5, 2017
Registration Deadline: May 12, 2017

Acceptance and Registration

A committee will review all completed applications and notify accepted applicants via email by April 21, 2017. The Museum will attempt to accommodate accepted applicants' date preferences, subject to space limitations. Thirty spots are available per session. The registration deadline for accepted teachers is May 12, 2017.


The cost of the program is $200, due upon registration. This non-refundable fee covers the cost of your take-home materials as well as daily breakfast and lunch. Participants are responsible for travel and lodging costs. A low-cost housing option has been provided in past years through a local university. 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. Scholarship decisions will be made based on the following considerations:

  • Demonstrated thoughtfulness, creativity, and collaborative spirit
  • Ability to increase diversity of the Institute cohort, based on geography, life experience, teaching environment, or other considerations
  • Rationale for attending and plans to implement learning
  • Professionalism

Our scholarship committee will review your Institute application when making decisions, in addition to the supplemental materials detailed below. To apply for a scholarship, submit the following to with the subject line "Summer Institute Scholarship." The scholarship application deadline is April 28, 2017:

Teachers in Gallery

A participant completing a creative writing activity in the museum's galleries.

  1. One-page letter addressing:
    1. What you value most about teaching
    2. How you anticipate applying lessons learned at the Institute 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 5, 2017.

Graduate and Professional Development Credit

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