K–12 Programs & Partnerships


The Smart Museum is dedicated to pushing beyond the bounds of our galleries and collection of objects to leverage the power of art to address critical issues within school communities.

Relationships between the Smart Museum and K–12 schools typically begin with an inspiring tour experience in our galleries. As an intimate museum, students are empowered to engage their thoughts and feelings without intimidation, building authentic connections to the art and the Smart.

Those initial tour experiences can lead to deeper engagements, ranging from participation in multi-site tours with other arts organizations on campus to collaboratively designed experiences through our Program Lab.  

To learn more about the following partnership opportunities, contact Nicole Bond, Manager of Learning and Public Engagement./p>

Partnership examples

Art + Peace Program

Offered in partnership with Rotary Clubs International, this dynamic school residency for elementary-aged students includes two Museum visits, eight in-class sessions with a teaching artist and Museum docent, and a celebratory exhibition of student artwork. Designed to provide hands-on material exploration not available at the partner schools, the program uses art work as an avenue to explore peace, mindfulness, meditation, and conflict resolution.

Amplify multi-site field trips

Amplify—a partnership of arts and cultural organizations at the University of Chicago including the Smart Museum, Arts + Public Life, Court Theatre, Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures, and Logan Center for the Arts—offers a variety of high-quality performance and visual arts education opportunities for teachers and their school classes.

During a multi-site field trip, students explore two different arts disciplines at Amplify institutions either over the course of a single dynamic day on the University of Chicago campus or over the course of multiple visits. The experiences are designed to inspire deeper levels of learning and engagement by offering students the opportunity to draw connections and explore themes across multiple art disciplines, eras, and cultures. Amplify organizations will engage teachers as planning partners to not only tailor their visit itinerary but also help articulate connections to curricular content and standards to increase impact on school culture.

Art + Environment Program

Offered in partnership with Sunflower Project US, this program provides an opportunity for cross-disciplinary learning.

Geared toward elementary students, this program investigates ecological sustainability and civic activism by way of arts engagement. Students have an extended Museum experience, an art activity designed by teaching artists, and an opportunity to plant organic mammoth sunflowers at their school or in their neighborhood. Students are directly responsible for neighborhood beautification and environmental clean up efforts.

Program Lab

Sitting at the extreme end of our spectrum of engagement, and representing the deepest relationship with the Museum, our Program Lab provides opportunity for experimental activities to address critical issues within school communities.

The Smart Museum’s public practice team works closely with a small group of school partners over a sustained period of time to pursue new museum practices for community engagement—programs like a social justice and slam poetry club, deep collaborative experiences for merging school communities, and an artist-led project exploring abstraction, color, and personal trauma. These practices vary widely as they are developed in collaboration with Museum staff, school administration and teaching faculty, teaching artists, parents, and students.

At the moment, we are still building these sustained experiments with school partners and are not prepared to publicly share our results.

Top: Students from Peck Elementary School perform at a Family Day. Photo by Erik L. Peterson.