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School Tours

Planning Your Museum Visit

As you plan your field trip, allow sixty minutes for students in grades 4 through 12 and those in college. Students in grades K–3 tour for thirty minutes. We welcome learners of all styles and abilities, from all settings. To add an Optional Activity, allow an additional thirty minutes. To visit our museum store, build in additional time.

Self-Guided Tours

With a self-guided visit, you are free to explore the collection in a way that best suits your class. In general, for students in kindergarten through second grade, we suggest that you concentrate on a few objects. For older students, we recommend one hour of focused looking and thirty minutes of discussion about the artworks. Teachers are invited to consult with the Smithsonian American Art Museum staff regarding content for self-guided tours. Contact us via telephone at (202) 633-8531 or email You can also submit your questions using our School/Group Registration Form.


School Tours require reservations. Please book at least one month in advance. When selecting a date, please identify back-up dates in case your first choice is unavailable. One week before your visit, your lead docent will contact you to discuss your content and curriculum connections. To make a reservation, complete and submit the School/Group Registration Form.

Self-guided tours do not require reservations, though they must comply with our policies and guidelines below.

Educators and Chaperones

Both guided and self-guided school groups require the following chaperone-to-student ratios:

  • Grades 1–2: 1 adult per 5 students
  • Grades 3–6: 1 adult per 10 students
  • Grades 7–12: 1 adult per 15 students

Chaperones must accompany all school and home school groups at all times. Teachers and chaperones are responsible for their students' behavior. We encourage accompanying adults to support the teacher's goals for the museum visit and to model active listening.

Guidelines for Museum Behavior

Please review the following guidelines with your students and chaperones before visiting the museum. Failure to comply may result in your group being asked to leave the building.

  • Be considerate of other visitors at all times
  • Keep at least an arm's length from artwork, pedestals, and exhibition cases
  • Walk—don't run—in the halls and stairways
  • Use an "inside voice"
  • Students may eat their lunches in the Courtyard
  • Photography without flash or tripod is permitted, except where posted

These orientation videos showcase artworks and special features of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and its Renwick Gallery. Two videos, intended for students in grades 5-8 with teen hosts, introduce each museum and illustrate a few dos and don'ts for school groups. Two other videos, intended for educators, give information about reserving a tour, using online resources and professional development opportunities.


Orientation Videos


photo of the F Street entrance to the Smithsonian American Art Museum

American Art Museum


  • Orientation Video for Teachers
  • Orientation Video for Students


    photo of the Renwick Gallery entrance

    Renwick Gallery


  • Orientation Video for Teachers
  • Orientation Video for Students


    Security Policies

    Security checks may be required for all visitors, and bags are thoroughly searched. We recommend that groups leave bags on the bus or at school. Pocketknives, scissors, and other sharp implements are not permitted in the museum. To speed entry into the Museum, carry as little as possible.

    Closing Policies

    The Smithsonian Institution follows the Homeland Security Advisory System. Under the orange advisory level, the museum will remain open. Under the red advisory level, the museum will close.

    All our school visits are canceled when any nearby school district is closed or delayed in opening (i.e., District of Columbia, counties of Montgomery, Fairfax, Prince George's, and Arlington, and cities of Falls Church and Alexandria). Prince William, Anne Arundel, and Howard are considered outlying districts and do not affect our policy.