Making the Grade: The Art of Learning

An education program has inner city students in Boston learning how to appreciate art and changing the way they think.

Students from Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers are using Visual Thinking Strategies to consider the context of different works of art.

"I'm always wondering what age, how old this has been. Why she [Isabella Stewart Gardner] has put things here," said Marco Suares, a 10th grader.

The teaching technique is fueling the imagination.

"Instead of telling students a ton of info about the artwork, we stand in front of the artwork and ask them what they think is happening," said Michelle Grohe, Assistant Curator of Education and School Programs at the Gardner Museum.

For the past 11 years, Grohe has led the partnership program that has high schoolers from Boston Public Schools connecting to the arts.

"We all have different experiences, different backgrounds. And by looking together and sharing those experiences, they can come up with different interpretations of the artworks," Grohe said.

Students talk, write, and sketch within the walls of Isabella Stewart Gardner's former home.

"You have so many thoughts going," said Yvelisse Rodriguez, a 10th grader at EMK Academy. "Why this, why that, how? And for me to ask, why did she [Gardner] put that there? What was the meaning really, the true meaning for it? Why did she do this? It makes me think of what type of person she really was."

For history teacher Mary-Alyce Whitham, specialized training from the Gardner Museum has allowed her to go beyond traditional classroom lessons.

"It's really become an extension of our school community," Whitham said. "There's a level of comfortability and connection to the museum."

"It just makes me think way deeper than what I used to," said Yvelisse.

Students in the program visit the Gardner Museum at least twice a year. Their teachers incorporate visual art lesson plans into the school curriculum using the method to analyze materials ranging from political cartoons to Harlem Renaissance art.

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