NCMA Hosts Future of Learning Summit

Over the past year, we’ve been using this blog to document the process (Ask-Imagine-Plan-Create-Improve) behind our IMLS planning grant on the role of museums in next-generation learning. On Saturday, January 30 (after a week’s delay due to weather), we held a Thought Partner Summit and Future of Learning Panel discussion to reflect on the work we’ve done so far and prepare for the final stretch of our grant. Our thought partner group consists of national leaders in the fields of education, museums, and technology.

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In the morning, our collaborative planning team of P-16 educators from across the state met with the thought partners. Working in affinity groups, they shared ideas about teacher professional development, experiences for students that happen online and onsite, and participatory gallery spaces. Thought partners helped groups become aware of potential models for programs, recognize gaps in our planning, and find connections between prototype ideas.

We invited the public to join the discourse in a lively panel discussion that afternoon. Sylvea Hollis, program manager with the Center for the Future of Museums, moderated a panel featuring Corey Madden (executive director of the Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts), Matthew Rascoff (vice president for technology-based learning and innovation for the UNC system), and Dr. Keith Sawyer (Morgan Professor of Educational Innovation in the School of Education at UNC–Chapel Hill). Hank Willis Thomas, Dr. Rebecca Klemm, and Rob Stein contributed reflections via video. Topics included the role of community in innovative ed practices, embracing needs-based change, and data and education technology. Audience members participated by responding to real-time poll questions on these topics and had the opportunity to ask questions of panelists. A link to the full panel discussion can be accessed below. In the coming days, we will post additional footage and extended thought partner responses to each topic.

Future of Learning panel discussion.





2015-16 Big Picture Fellows

The Big Picture offers a yearlong fellowship to educators interested in developing their skills and understanding of art integration. We’re thrilled to introduce this year’s teams of educators who were selected this summer. In their own words, they describe where and what they teach and answer one of the following questions:

  • Why are the arts essential to what you teach?
  • What do you hope to get out of the fellowship?
  • What is your favorite work of art from the NCMA collection, and why?

Erin Gannon

unnamedSince 1997, I have served as a classroom teacher in grades two through five. For the first 15 years of my career, I worked primarily in charter schools in Southern California, specializing in inquiry and Project Based Learning. I currently teach at a local STEM school and am a member of the WCPSS Teacher Leader Corps. As a National Faculty member for Buck Institute for Education, I facilitate PBL workshops for teachers of grades K-12 across the United States. I am currently a third grade teacher at Hilburn Academy in Raleigh.

My favorite work of art at NCMA is Askew, one of the sculptures found on the grounds just outside the museum. Though sculpture isn’t generally the kind of art that moves me, I am always very drawn to this piece. With the varied weather here in Raleigh, the tree seems to be ever changing. I love that it is, all at once, both powerful and delicate; imposing and inviting.

Elissa Walker

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I am a third grade teacher at Hilburn Academy in Raleigh. I graduated from UNCW in 2013 and moved back to the city I proudly call home. I have loved to doodle, paint, and draw since I was a kid so I consider myself lucky that I am able incorporate it into my career as a teacher! 

My favorite piece of art from the NCMA collection is Rabble. I just love all of the colors and the subtle transition from flowers to butterflies. I find myself gazing upwards every time I visit the museum! 


Beth Rhyne

photo (4)I currently teach Physical Science at Cleveland High School.  I have been teaching Science for 26 years, 12 years in high school and 14 years in middle school.  The art I have used in my classes up to this point has all been student generated and related to class projects.  Usually in the form of illustrating a scientific principle we are studying in class.

I never considered using specific art to illustrate the principles or generate ideas for student work.  I am hoping that through Big Picture I will be able to introduce topics and art work that my students may otherwise not be exposed.


Gail Clougherty

IMG_1466I teach Earth/ Environmental Science at Cleveland High School in Clayton. I use many forms of art in my science classes because it helps students to make deeper connections. The art makes them look closely and think about the details. These are skills that make them better scientists. This fellowship is helping me learn new ways to integrate art and science.



Lisa Schnitzler & Cheri Williams

IMG_8852 (1)My name is Lisa Schnitzler(left) and I teach visual art at Williston Middle School in Wilmington, N.C. I think my favorite piece of work at the museum is Thomas Hart Benton’s painting, Spring on the Missouri. Every time I see it I am so sucked in to the action and color in the piece. The light and movement are amazing, and having spent many years in the mid west, it reminds me of the folks I met out there and their practical nature. The painting can go in either of two directions-is the storm coming, or is it leaving? I wish the museum could acquire another of his works!

My name is Cheri Williams(right) and I teach math at Williston Middle School in Wilmington,  NC. Through the Big Picture fellowship,  I hope to gain a better understanding of art integration in the middle  school math classroom and how arts integration can build understanding and encourage engagement in my class. As a math teacher,  I have always been drawn to M.C.Escher’s art, so this year’s Big Picture fellowship worked perfectly into my ideal collaborative opportunity with my teammate and art teacher,  Lisa Schnitzler.

Educators Night Out in Elizabeth City

On Thursday, October 29, the Big Picture hosted an event at the Museum of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City, called Educators Night Out: Make and Mingle with the North Carolina Museum of Art. We welcomed 59 teachers representing six counties in North Carolina and a range of subject areas and grade levels.

The evening was an exciting opportunity to reach out to teachers in the northeast region of the state and to say thank you for all of the hard work they are doing, as well as a fun way to support and inspire them to integrate the arts into their teaching. And after having to postpone the event because of the potential of flooding from Hurricane Joaquin in early October, we were so thankful for the sunny skies and beautiful weather.

With live music in the background and food and drink to keep them going, the teachers mingled, tried out some of the hands-on drop-in activities, and gathered information from local organizations as part of the Resource Fair.

The presentations were a highlight of the evening. Through a PechaKucha-style experience, we heard several voices responding to the prompt “Why the Arts?” Showing 20 slides for 20 seconds each, each presentation whirled through an exploration of the power of the arts to affect the classroom and the community. We got to hear about the significant role of arts in the community and their effect on the local economy from Katie Murray, executive director of Arts of the Albemarle. Valerie Person and Anita Rubino, an English language arts teacher and a visual arts teacher at Currituck County High School, led us to consider the power of the arts to unlock untold stories. And Vickie Turner, a science teacher at Moyock Middle, made us wonder how you can teach science without the arts by revealing the many ways she integrates art into her science classes.

The evening brought together many voices, all united by a shared understanding of the power of the arts to make a difference in our classrooms and communities. Through events like these, we are able to gain a deeper understanding of an area of the state and to continue to build stronger relationships with educators statewide.


Giving and Getting Feedback

Stop, Evaluate and Listen: Giving and Getting Feedback

Watch our LiveChat that focuses on how a Process Evaluation can impact the outcome of a grant. As we posted in our previous blog entry, NCMA Educators were awarded an IMLS grant in September 2014 to explore the museum’s role in next generation learning. The IMLS grant, Museum Solutions for Tomorrow’s Learners, has had two process evaluations, which provided feedback on how the grant is going. NCMA educators and evaluator speak to how this form of evaluation takes shape during the grant process and how the team responded to the data.


Stop Evaluate and Listen: Giving and Getting Feedback

We are a little over a year into our IMLS grant, Museum Solutions for Tomorrow’s Learners, and have had two process evaluations, which have provided us feedback on how the grant is going. If you’re curious about hearing how this form of evaluation takes shape during the grant process and how we responded to the data and feedback from the findings, then join us for a live video and Twitter chat on Wednesday, December 2, 3:00pm – 3:30pm.

We’ll be hosting this live chat using a software called ZOOM – the initial use of Zoom requires a quick, easy addition of a plug in and is very user friendly once installed. You can also follow along on Twitter using the hashtag #NCMAplan. We look forward to you joining the chat!


NCMA LiveChat Link

Stop Evaluate and Listen: Giving and Getting Feedback


The Power of Play

When you hear the word “play,” what comes to mind? Recess? Board games? Sports? Music? Do you consider play essential to how we learn? Many scientists have been researching the power of play and its effects on our social and emotional growth. NPRed provides a thoughtful article considering Brains at Play: What Do We Know?. It turns out play is essential to generating new ideas, engaging your mind in problem solving, creating passion and curiosity, and most important, developing the skills for social interaction.

On Thursday, November 12, 2015, The Big Picture will be exploring “the power of play” at its annual Educator Expo. Contemporary artist Oliver Herring will organize a TASK party at the Museum to engage our educator audience in the act of play. TASK parties encourage participants to take creative risks and to break down social barriers. Check out this video of a TASK Party organized by the artist in New York City’s Madison Square Park with help from Art21 educators and volunteers.

We hope this event will encourage educators to consider how play can inspire learning in themselves and in their students. And, most important, we hope everyone just has FUN!!!

For those not able to attend, watch for posts on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook under #NCMAplay.

Looking Back at The Future of Learning

While we’ve been busy thinking about and asking our stakeholders about the museum’s role in next generation learning, we’ve also been eager to engage with how other organizations are examining education in the 21st century. When we heard about the Future of Learning Institute offered by Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, it seemed like a great opportunity to compare our experiences so far and place them within the context of a research organization. The Future of Learning Institute’s goal is for participants “to envision and create innovative classrooms, programs, materials, and in- and out-of-school learning environments that promote deep, relevant, and engaging learning for our times.”

In considering the educator and student needs, we’ve identified proof, real world skills, play/experimentation, and engagement. These needs were heavily explored in the Institute’s course content. We learned about research that is in process and had many opportunities to learn from our peers. The overall design of the program was a strong model for professional development. The course featured a mix of formats including large plenary sessions, mini-courses with active participation, and a daily learning group that we got to reflect and grow with over the week. In fact, Howard Gardner and some colleagues recently wrote a response to a Washington Post article about the quality of teacher professional development that stresses the importance of treating educators as professionals, allowing opportunities for collaboration, and relevance, among other features. These same qualities factor into the development of professional development at the NCMA.

It would be impossible to confine all of my program takeaways to a blog post, but I’ll focus on three.


It is important to allow time for reflection and for that reflection to include the exploration of “disturbing thoughts” —thoughts that might represent someone else’s point of view and seem too difficult or upsetting to really think about but shouldn’t be ignored. Many members of my learning group agreed that we needed to make a conscious effort to prioritize reflection during the school and work day and not just leave it as something to be done later in favor of moving on to the next project.

Comparing Notes

IMG_0408I attended a session on systems design facilitated by Agency by Design (link: research specialists Jessica Ross and Edward Clapp. Agency by Design is a research project that explores maker-centered learning. The session focused on identifying human-designed systems at play in an interconnected world. As the session unfolded we moved through many of the same steps that I’ve used with teachers in concept mapping:  defining concepts, identifying the concepts or systems at play in an image, and making connections between concepts. This experience provided reinforcement for our approach to concept-based learning and was a great opportunity to share ArtNC and the concept explorer with peers from all over the world.

What to Let Go and What to Keep

On the first afternoon of the program, David Perkins, the Carl H. Pforzheimer, Jr., Research Professor of Teaching and Learning at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, posed the question, “What learning matters?” and prompted us to apply a “Mattermatics” equation  to our practice:

    • + 1 (one thing we might add to our practice that would be really different)
    • x 2 (one thing we would like to expand or enrich that we already do)
    • 3 (one thing we would shrink because it gets in the way)

IMG_20150729_222607We reflected on this formula several times over the course of the week. At our penultimate learning group meeting, we were given an assignment to bring in an artifact of our Future of Learning Experience. The night before I had encountered some books scattered on the sidewalk while walking back to my lodgings. Were they dropped? Were they left there on purpose with the knowledge that someone else would pick them up? I noticed a similar scene on a front porch the next morning, and when I passed by again both sets of books were gone. Luckily I had taken a picture that I could use as an artifact. To me the books represented knowledge or ideas that someone might be ready to let go in order to embrace the opportunities of the future of learning that matters. It reminded me of the challenges we face with this project. What projects should we keep, and what do we need to let go to meet the needs of next-generation learners and educators? The answers to these questions are still being written, but check back for more reflections as we move forward.


Next-Generation Learning: Student Solutions

During the last few months of the 2014–15 school year, our Collaborative Planning Team worked with students in their schools to IMAGINE what next-generation learning could look like in their classrooms and in museums. Deborah Brown, an English teacher from Research Triangle High School created this short video to share the project and solutions her students created.

Team members presented their student solutions at our last quarterly meeting. Ideas sparked from these solutions, as well as others imagined by the Collaborative Planning Team and the North Carolina Museum of Art staff, will be tested this fall and spring as we move through the PLAN and CREATE phases of the IMLS grant.

Reflections on the Summer Educator Institute

20150616_112420 Last month, just on the heels of completing the school year, a group of 22 educators from 17 North Carolina counties came together to participate in the first Big Picture Summer Educator Institute at the North Carolina Museum of Art, called Art and Environment: Investigating Place. Over the course of three days (June 16–18, 2015), this group of teachers, representing a variety of subject areas spanning K–12, shared ideas, made new connections, worked collaboratively and creatively through a variety of activities, all guided by their investigation of the concepts of Place and Environment.

Why concepts? Well, in the Big Picture Educator Enrichment program, we use art and concepts in our professional development programs to help teachers make connections—to big ideas, to works of art, to other subject areas—as a way to encourage arts integration and collaboration. For the summer institute, we focused on the concepts of Place and Environment.

In various iterations, in the galleries and in the heat of the Museum Park, we kept asking:

How do you define Place and Environment? What do these concepts mean to you? To your students? What do they look like in your classroom? How can they help you connect with a colleague’s curriculum?

The three days were filled with activities that pushed the teachers to deepen their thinking and inquiry into these big ideas. Here are some highlights:

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Day One: We made maps of our journeys to the summer institute and used our bodies to map out places that have meaning to us. We investigated the Museum Park through silent walking, observing in the Cloud Chamber [], writing, and inquiry activities at the Pond. We experienced a multi-draft process when looking in the galleries with the help of Todd Finley, professor of English education at East Carolina University [].

Day Two: We made marks. We “disturbed” nature, we questioned the ordering and naming in nature, and we painted—all guided by our guest artist James Prosek []. Prosek shared his work with us and inspired everyone to make their own mark.

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Day Three: This day was all about hands-on inquiry. We explored clay, paper, and writing instruments (markers, pens, and pencils) to find out their possibilities and limits and to gain confidence with materials. We discussed People on Fire [] and Berkeley No. 8 [] in the galleries. And we made maps of our experience, reflecting on the activities of the three days.

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Here’s what a few of the participants had to say:

“I feel inspired to broaden the types of experiences I provide for my students and to share what I have learned with the teachers at my school. The other attendees enhanced the three days we spent together. I enjoyed the sharing and collaboration that took place with other teachers throughout our state.”—art teacher, Buncombe County

“The summer institute was exactly what I needed to finish off a long school year. I really found the content, skills, and the people I met to be not only intriguing but also engaging. At first I was wary of the fact that I was the only history teacher there, but it was great to learn and interact with teachers and counselors who did teach or use my content every day.” —world history teacher, Johnston County

“I appreciated exploring the Museum collections in person, online, and on paper and discussing with other educators where we could use these pieces in our planning of lessons. I feel like I have a whole new pool of primary resources in my pocket. I look forward to being able to share this valuable resource with the teachers at my school! I appreciated making connections outside of my own subject area and learning how we can collaborate to deepen student learning.” —art teacher, Union County

“This institute challenged me to step out of my comfort zone and to try something completely different from what I was used to doing.” —guidance counselor, Greene County

Here’s to a relaxing, rejuvenating rest of the summer to all teachers and to another engaging year of Big Picture professional development in the year to come. We hope to see you at the NCMA or come to you in 2015–16!

Next-Generation Learning: Identifying Needs

#NCMAasks (2)What do students and teachers need to navigate the shifting landscape of education? The NCMA project team working on the IMLS grant Museum Solutions for Tomorrow’s Learners have identified the primary student and teacher needs after speaking with hundreds of educators, administrators, and museum stakeholders over the past few months. As technology becomes more integrated, content more open and accessible, and new models of education introduced, museums are poised to provide spaces and experiences to meet these needs.

This list will guide our discussions and planning for prototyping programs and resources as we move into the “imagine phase” of the grant.

Top 4 Teacher Needs

  • Time (saving time, time management, classroom models to individualize learning).
  • Professional development (new technology, standards, curricular integration, acting as a facilitator, differentiation).
  • Collaborators (other teachers, community partners, museum).
  • Proof (research, data, advocacy, awareness, analysis of student work/ teacher appraisal instrument, alternative assessments).

Top 4 Student Needs

  • Play/experiment (hands on, creativity, tinkering, alternative learning spaces, maker spaces).
  • Authentic approaches to demonstrate learning (mastery, formative, project-based).
  • Real-world skill sets (soft skills, project-based, career readiness, making, collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking, planning and organizing).
  • Engagement (active learning, individualized, child-centered, student-directed, mindset, participatory).

To hear more discussion about these needs, check out our Google Hangout that shared our findings from the “ask phase” with the museum community at large. We were joined by two members of our national thought partner network, Seema Rao and Kris Wetterland, who contributed to the discussion.

As we move into the “imagine phase” of this planning process, we ask you to take a moment to dream about what the ideal learning environment will look like in 2020. What does the art room of tomorrow look like? What does a museum visit look like?
Our next post will share some solutions students have imagined for next-generation learning.


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