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: agencybydesign.org) 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 [http://artnc.org/works-of-art/cloud-chamber-trees-and-sky], 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 [https://www.edutopia.org/users/todd-finley].

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 [http://ncartmuseum.org/exhibitions/view/11380]. 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 [http://ncartmuseum.org/art/detail/people_on_fire] and Berkeley No. 8 [http://artnc.org/works-of-art/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.

Next-Generation Learning: Asking Around

11154961_10205774211545734_262573898902355917_oOur last blog post about the NCMA’s planning grant from IMLS introduced our guiding question: What is the unique role of art museums in supporting tomorrow’s learners in North Carolina and beyond? To develop an audience-based needs assessment, the project team had many conversations with groups identified as stakeholders in the planning process. The discussions revolved around four main themes: trends in education and museums, change, educator and student needs, and the museum’s role._DSC1695

Our stakeholders included:

  • Collaborative Planning Team members (12 educators and administrators from across the state who meet quarterly)
  • NCMA Education staff
  • NCMA Board of Trustees Education Committee
  • NCMA staff members from the curatorial, marketing and communications, visitor services, performing arts, and planning and design departments
  • Representatives from the North Carolina Arts Council, Arts North Carolina, and the Department of Public Instruction
  • NCMA docents
  • Educators participating in an #NCed twitter chat.

Questions posed:

  • What trends in education (schools/museums) have you seen in the past five years that will have lasting impact?
  • What do you think will be the most powerful change in classrooms/museums in the next five years?
  • What are the growing needs of educators and students across the state?
  • What is the role of the art museum in the state?

We’ll share the results from these conversations in our next post.

The Museum’s Role in Next-Generation Learning

Design-ProcessSTEMAre you interested in current trends in education and how they will change the design of learning spaces, the way students access content and show what they know, and how educators will connect with others and grow their practice? We are, too!

In September 2014, the North Carolina Museum of Art’s Education Department received a grant from IMLS to spend two years collaborating with educators, students, and a national panel of experts to investigate the question: What is the unique role of art museums in supporting tomorrow’s learners in North Carolina and beyond?

To answer this question, the project team will experiment with a STEM-based[1] and art-infused design process to first identify questions, challenges, needs, or gaps among key audiences and within the existing research and literature, and then, based on those findings, plan, prototype, and refine a scalable menu of collection-based programs and resources designed to deepen learning across the disciplines for prekindergarten to college students and teachers.

We and our Collaborative Planning Team will keep you up to date with our findings as we move through the design process, and we’ll keep you informed of opportunities to be involved with discussions and experiences connected to the grant.

[1] STEM is an acronym for the fields of study in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

2014 -15 Big Picture Fellows

The Big Picture has been offering a yearlong fellowship to educators interested in developing their skills and understanding of arts integration. This summer we had over 150 applications! It was a definite challenge to narrow down the field of amazing educators who would work with Big Picture educators over the 2014-­15 school year. We’re thrilled to introduce the three teams of educators who were selected. 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?

Amy (1)

Amy Yount

I teach 5th grade at the Doris Henderson Newcomers School in Greensboro, which is in Guilford County. Art is essential to what I teach because my students may not be able to say what they are thinking with words, but they can show me through their artwork.


photo (20)Doris Kroiss

I am a 5th grade ESL teacher at the Doris Henderson Newcomers School, which is a public school in Guilford County. Our school serves refugees and immigrants who have recently arrived in the U.S. I have always said that working at our school is like traveling without leaving home. Our students bring with them a myriad of backgrounds and experiences. Art is an essential tool in my teaching because of its psychological effects on my often traumatized students. Teaching content curriculum with art allows me to put my students at ease while motivating them to learn. It has become an invaluable asset to my teaching.

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Andrew Brennan

I teach 10th grade English at Leesville Road High School in Raleigh. My favorite work of art at NCMA is Gerhard Richter’s Station (577-2) because its psychedelic colors and messy geometry are just plain fun to take in.


Chip2Chip Stone

I teach AP Environmental Science at Leesville Road High School. I am starting my ninth year at Leesville. I’ve been a college professor at Davidson College, UNC–CH, and UNC–Wilmington. I have also been a business owner and hospital administrator. I really like teaching and look forward to using art to help my students love and appreciate science and the arts.

this one (1)

Anita Rubino

I teach visual arts at Currituck County High School. We live on the beautiful northeast coast of North Carolina. Working with the fellowship is going to enable my colleague and me to pursue a fusion approach to teaching art and English. Working thus far with our advisor, Camille, has been incredible! She is able to bring all the resources the Museum can offer to our collaboration. We are truly excited about the potential to effect change in teaching at our school!

photo (19)Valerie A. Person

I teach English language arts, primarily 10th grade and AP Literature and Composition, at Currituck County High School in Barco, North Carolina. We are part of the OBX. Why do I love the arts? For me, they are a vehicle I ride in to get to the truth. Our ability to create and appreciate art is what separates us from other living creatures. Art is my comfort food; it’s what I “eat” to feel at home.

The Flipped Museum: Artists in Process

The Big Picture Team would like to share another great program offered by our Education Team.

Have you experimented with a “flipped” classroom? Are you interested in blended learning and looking for opportunities to try it out in your school? The NCMA Education team is piloting a blended learning experience that flips the Museum to help deliver content and activities in a fresh way. The deadline to participate is December 1. Read below for more information about the course and how to apply.

Katz, Six Women, 91.15

The Flipped Museum

The North Carolina Museum of Art seeks high school art educators to pilot an innovative blended learning program that inverts the delivery of content for a more student-centered approach. This spring, almost 300 high school students from across the state will participate in our first comprehensive pilot of the Flipped Museum called Artists in Process.

What problem does the program address?

Museum tours and studio programs have limited time to engage groups of students who have little knowledge of discussing art in galleries or the content being discussed. There may be advanced students who need to be challenged, along with students who feel overwhelmed. Teachers interested in bringing students for self-guided experiences have limited time and resources to research and design gallery experiences. How can we provide engaging learning experiences for students to deepen learning at the Museum?

What’s the solution?

Based upon the approach of the flipped classroom, the Flipped Museum puts students in control of their learning rather than teachers or docents. The NCMA seeks high school art educators to pilot a new blended learning course to “preload” students before visiting the Museum so they can apply this knowledge during their field trip. Blended learning combines online learning and face-to-face (F2F) learning in the classroom and at the Museum. Students can log in to the Museum’s secure learning management platform to watch content-rich videos that are not published outside of this platform. Teachers become facilitators, working with Museum educators as well as other teachers across the state to engage students in their classroom and at the Museum.

The Museum hopes to build on the foundations of choice-based art education by providing individualized student-centered learning so students can make choices to read content and watch videos that interest them at their own pace. Based on our initial blended learning pilot in spring 2014, we have created a new experience with increased flexibility for teachers to set the pace for students. While we recommend students have one week in the course before visiting the Museum and continue for two weeks after the visit, teachers and students will have access to the course for the entire semester.

DI24944-146What is Artists in Process?

Artist in Process is a blended learning unit that combines individual and collaborative investigation of the artistic process online, in the classroom, and at the Museum. For this course, the Museum will pair classes online whose field trip will be on the same day. Students can watch videos of contemporary North Carolina artists Beverly McIver, Thomas Sayre, and Kiki Farish discussing their process of finding inspiration, developing ideas, and making art. Classes from across the state will partner to explore the artistic process online, individually, and at the Museum.

This blended learning unit was created as a resource to develop work for the annual Teens, Inspired exhibition. Students may choose to submit their work at the end of the blended learning unit. Watch this short Prezi to see how Teens, Inspired and Artists in Process are connected.

How do you apply?

Complete this Google form by December 1. Teachers will be notified by December 11. Teacher orientation begins in early January with a 30-minute Google Hangout and access to the online course. The blended learning unit tentatively begins January 28. Visits to the Museum would be between March 3 and March 13.

Interested, but not a high school art teacher?

We’ll offer opportunities in the next few months to provide feedback on the next blended learning unit integrating English language arts, social studies, and art.

From STEM to STEAM: Reflections from our Big Picture Fellow John Scarfpin

KM_72_Scarfpin_JohnMiddle school teacher John Scarfpin finished up his fellowship with the NCMA Big Picture team this summer and wrote this reflection of his year diving into the arts as a STEM teacher. Here he shares his perspective on what it means to teach the arts. The student work that came out of his fellowship will be on display in the Museum’s education galleries through January 2015. You can also visit his website Technology, Engineering, and Design.

When I first took on the challenge of integrating art into my STEM class, I thought, “I already do this, it’ll be easy.” Then I actually began to look at what art teachers really have to teach. I never thought of art as problem solving, nor did I ever consider how much one needs to know to complete a work of art. I always thought of art as something that just happened. Someone found inspiration in something and created something they thought would be cool or expressive of a situation. My experience as a Big Picture fellow has given me a new perspective and respect for art teachers in general.

When I think of problem solving, I think of engineering, math, or science─but art, it was not even on the radar. I never thought that there was a problem in art. I have taken art classes in painting, photography, pottery, three-dimensional design, and sculpture, and never thought of the assignments as problems. I simply found them as enjoyable activities. I find great joy in creating things, and that was the way I viewed art as a class. Then the paradigm shift began to happen. I started to look at the parallels between art, engineering, science, and math. In all of these things, as with the rest of the universe, the foundation of these areas of study has to do with how the elements are arranged. The difference between wood stacked in a pile and the frame of a house, grains of sand and glass, numbers on paper and a well-formulated equation, paint on a palette and a masterpiece on the wall, all comes back to organization.

Once I began to realize this, my project began to take shape in my mind. Through the engineering and design procengineering_design_process1-2fdq4vsess, we began to integrate the elements of design from art. My students studied Vollis Simpson’s Wind Machine and began to define the problem they had. We wanted to create our own kinetic sculptures that we could display in the Museum. Originally, to give the project context, I had the students focus on creating something similar to Wind Machine, but as we began to move through the E&D process and identify constraints, we realized that wind was not on our side, given the display area. As a result, we modified our designs to use gearboxes and motors. As each team worked on brainstorming solutions to the problem, many different ideas emerged, ranging from pieces derived from perpetual motion machines and marble machines to more organic structures with spinning flowers.

As the ideas began to take shape and grow, so did the challenge of managing it all. Students had to then figure out which materials to use for their construction and how to assemble it so it would actually work. We focused on simple machines and compound machines in figuring out the mechanics needed to make the pieces work. Students began to bring in many assorted materials, such as cardboard, marbles, tubing, paint, and even a tree stump.

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For me, as the instructor, the real problem working against me was time. I thought two weeks would work for this project, and testing was coming, so I thought, “This will work out in time.” But two weeks became four weeks, and then after testing was over, another week until school was dismissed. In total the students spent five weeks working on the projects that I thought would take about two weeks of class time.

All I know is that art teachers must be some amazing people. I have done science projects that require extensive construction, but this was something else. Everyone was given the same prompt at the beginning, and every team took a different approach to the problem. Each project grew into extremely involved and detailed construction, and if school had not ended, I think the students would have spent several weeks more trying to add to each one.

In the end, even though some projects remain incomplete, I do not see this as a failure. This project is about the process and not the product. I feel that the students learned a great deal about the design process and how all the various curriculum areas go together in solving real world problems. There is a lot of room in STEM to make STEAM. The challenge I see is in most experiments and engineering activities is that when it works you are done. With art it is only truly done when you are ready to set down your tools and say it is done.

Introducing Concept Explorer v2

By Ashley Weinard, Educator


Concept mapping on ArtNC.org just got way more fun, flexible, and personal. The new and improved version of the NCMA’s Concept Explorer tool lets you customize your concept maps with your own images and your own concepts. We have been listening to your feedback and requests for more versatility! Thanks for helping us make our mapping tool even cooler and more useful.

Now, let’s see what you can do with the new CE 2.0:

1. You can map your own images, as well as NCMA collection works.

Can’t find the image you are looking for on ArtNC? Add your own.

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Look for this icon in your Portfolio or under the My Images tab in the Concept Explorer. Click on the icon to upload a selfie, photo of a friend, your favorite landscape, an object you treasure, a student art work, or even an NCMA gallery shot. The options are endless. Be creative!

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Personal images are stored in your Portfolio. Your photos will remain private unless you decide to make your concept maps public.

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2. You can tag your personal images with Big Picture concepts and your own concepts.

After you upload your own image, you can tag it with provided Big Picture concepts (e.g., change, communication, environment, interdependence), and you can add your own concepts to your image. (Go wild!) All the concepts you have selected and added will show up as options for concept mapping your image.

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3. You can use your iPad or Android tablet to take and upload new photos within the Concept Explorer.

Have a tablet? Head outside, visit a museum gallery, or capture your classroom. Create a concept map of what you see around you.

Log into your account. Then tap the Start a Concept Map button on the ArtNC.org home page.

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Select My Images and tap the Add-an-Image icon.

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Choose Image File and the Take Photo option. Use the photo or retake it to get a better shot. Add an image title, select your concepts, or add your own. Now you’re ready to start your map.

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These new Concept Explorer features give you and your students the freedom and versatility to design and customize your own concept maps. Share your unique ideas and images with other teachers by making your maps public! Or, browse maps shared by other teachers in the Concept Maps section of the web site. Custom concept maps are distinguished by a camera icon on the bottom right of the map icon.

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Connect and share in your own way. We can’t wait to see and hear about the new connections you and your students create!




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