The Friends of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts
(MIA) have announced that they will provide every second grader in the Minneapolis Public Schools an opportunity to visit the museum for a docent-led tour during the next three years. This commitment of over $60,000 provides bus transportation for approximately 3,000 second graders each year from 2008 through 2011. This program is a new initiative funded by the Friends Childrens Fund, established by the Friends in 2007. This Fund is in addition to the Friends Transportation Fund, which provides grants awarded on the basis of need, for elementary students throughout the Twin Cities to visit the museum, as well as the support of the MIAs Education Division of an annual endowed grant.
The Friends have consistently stressed arts education and opportunities to expose children to the world of art, said Friends President Suzanne Payne. Such endeavors as the new Friends initiative that brings all Minneapolis Public School second graders to the MIA for docent-led tours continue the tradition of what the Friends founders envisioned.
Research suggests that museum programs based on Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS), a specific internationally-recognized teaching method used at the MIA, can help develop childrens critical thinking skills. A VTS tour is a completely student-centered process that creates a positive environment for the students to experience art and talk about their own ideas and observations. VTS provides skills that carry over into all subjects. The Friends Childrens Fund will also underwrite the cost of VTS curriculum materials for all second-grade classrooms in 40 city schools. Training will be offered to the teachers so that they are comfortable conducting VTS sessions in their classrooms, using art reproductions.
The opportunity for all second-grade teachers to visit the MIA is also important. Through the Friends generous gift, teachers are introduced to the museum and are offered training and coaching in VTS by museum staff and guides. Teachers use posters of works of art in their classrooms to prepare for or build on their museum visits. The curriculum Visual Thinking Strategies: Learning to Think and Communicate Through Art. was developed by Visual Understanding in Education (VUE).
Studies conducted by organizations such as the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, the Guggenheim Museum in New York, and the Wolfsonian Museum in Miami, have found that elementary school students who spend time looking at and talking about art perform better in several areas of critical thinking than students without such art experience. The studies examined students who made regular, structured visits to a museum, comparing their skills with those of students who did not. The students in the museum programs, which also dispatched art educators to the schools, were found to have better results in six areas of critical thinking, including interpretation, comparison, and flexibility. The results are part of the federal grant program to examine links between art appreciation and education.