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Summer Institute for Educators

The Power of Art:
Pathways to Critical Thinking and Social-Emotional Learning

July 12–16, 2021

The applications period has closed. If you applied, you should be receiving an email from the selection committee.

How might works of art spark engagement, support critical thinking, and foster social-emotional wellness in both students and educators?

The 2021 Online Summer Institute for Educators invites education professionals of all grade levels and subjects to learn from and connect with thought leaders and practitioners around the power of teaching with art. Participants will engage through live, synchronous webinar sessions, small learning-group meetings, teaching-artist workshops, online social events, and asynchronous, self-paced components.

Throughout the Institute, participants will: 

  • Learn from content experts about pedagogies, such as Artful Thinking Routines and Social-Emotional Learning Strategies, that use works of art to strengthen critical thinking and promote wellness in both students and educators.
  • Experience best practices for teaching with works of art to apply in virtual or in-person formal learning environments (classrooms) or informal settings (museums) during interactive sessions facilitated by museum educators, teaching artists, and experienced classroom teachers.
  • Engage in reflective journaling, artmaking, movement, and other forms of personal expression in response to works of art and ideas presented in the Institute.
  • Connect with a global community of teachers who integrate art into curricula to improve critical thinking skills and social emotional wellbeing among their students. 

Museum educators at the National Gallery of Art use Artful Thinking Routines to engage students of all ages in conversations that develop deep thinking with positive social-emotional outcomes. Originally developed by Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Thinking Routines scaffold thinking, increase student engagement, include all student voices, and provide opportunities to develop agency and empathy. Slow looking, active listening, and sharing ideas about art allow for moments of calm, flow, emotional awareness, perspective-taking, and creative expression. The Institute will highlight these approaches to teaching and learning, making them accessible and relevant.

Participants will join a learning community of educators from across the US and around the world for dynamic, interactive experiences with works of art in the Gallery’s collection. Each day will feature guest researchers and practitioners discussing one facet of our theme and modeling strategies in Interactive Plenary webinar sessions. Participants will actively discuss and apply these ideas in smaller learning-group meetings. Choice Out sessions will offer options for participants to dive deeper into specific areas of interest, such as connecting curricular topics to art, trauma-informed teaching with art, and overviews of the Gallery’s collection. Teaching strategies used in the Institute will be supported by the Gallery’s Teaching Critical Thinking Through Art online course and the Uncovering America teacher resource.

Whether teaching elementary language arts, high school social studies, studio art, or school counseling, the Summer Institute will empower educators of all levels and subjects to bring art into their practice in ways that make a difference for students and revitalize the joy of teaching.


The program will be held July 12–16, 2021, on Zoom and Google Classroom. Applicants should plan to attend the entire program daily, with a maximum of four hours of required live Zoom sessions each day, in addition to time spent on independent reflective journaling, optional sessions, and breaks. Participants will need to have access to a computer and high-speed internet to access the program on the event-hosting platform and must commit to the whole digital experience. A detailed schedule will be sent to participants after acceptance to the Institute.

Program Fees

The fee of $100 per person covers the cost of instruction and resources. All participants will be provided with a list of artmaking materials and will be required to purchase these materials for themselves. The cost of materials will be approximately $50.

Application Process

Applications are no longer being accepted for the summer of 2021. Please check back in February 2022 for the next Summer Institute.

Applicants must submit

  1. A 250-word statement of purpose explaining why they would like to attend the Institute and how the topic relates to their work. The statement should detail how the applicant will incorporate what they learn into their work.
  2. A plan for sharing what you learn from the Institute experience with students and colleagues upon completion of the program.

If you are applying with other colleagues from your school or organization and would like to be paired in a Learning Group, please reference one another’s full names in your respective statements of purpose.

Selection Criteria

Selection will be based on an individual’s statement of purpose. To encourage diverse geographical representation, efforts will be made to enroll candidates from each of these five US-based regions as well as international applicants:

  1. Northwest and Alaska
  2. Southwest and Hawaii
  3. Midwest
  4. Northeast
  5. Southeast
  6. International (Participants outside the United States)

In addition, to encourage a diverse range of education professionals, efforts will be made to accept a balance of candidates from each of the following categories:

  1. Early childhood teachers
  2. Elementary teachers
  3. Middle school teachers
  4. High school teachers
  5. Administrators (principals, supervisors, curriculum specialists, etc.)
  6. School counselors
  7. Higher education professors
  8. Museum educators and other informal educators (after-school program facilitators, etc.)


The Gallery offers a limited number of fee-waived fellowships. Educators who are currently employed in a public, private, or parochial school system, institution of higher learning, or educational organization that is unable to cover the Institute fee are eligible for fellowships. Participants who are not employed by one of the aforementioned types of learning institutions will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

There is not a separate application for the fellowship. If you wish to be considered for a fellowship, please be sure to complete that portion of the Institute application.

Fellows will be selected based on merit. Consideration will focus on the individual’s statement of purpose and how the Institute’s themes connect to their students’ needs. Successful fellowship candidates will be notified at the time of acceptance to the Institute.

Within three weeks of the Institute’s conclusion, submission of a two-page report will be required. The report should include examples and explanations of how the fellowship recipient will apply their experience at the Institute to daily teaching or administrative work, as well as reflections on their Institute experience.


Participants will be notified of their acceptance by April 15, 2021.


Please direct questions about this program to [email protected]. In your email, please provide a telephone number and the times of day when you can be reached.


The 2021 Summer Institute for Educators is supported by generous gifts from the Park Foundation, the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, the Sara Shallenberger Brown Fund, the PaineWebber Endowment, and the Annetta J. and Robert M. Coffelt Sr. and Robert M. Coffelt Jr. Endowed Fellowship.

Alma Thomas, Pansies in Washington, 1969, acrylic on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Corcoran Collection (Gift of Vincent Melzac), 2015.19.144