Summer Institutes for Teachers

Teaching the Humanities Through Art

A group of teachers talking by an artwork
Be inspired this summer! 

Attend one of the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s four-day institutes in the nation’s capital. Join educators from across the country for an exciting exploration of the connections among American art, social studies, history, and English/language arts.

2023 Summer Institute Information

Teachers discuss artwork in gallery at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Institute Dates:

Week 1: Tuesday, June 27 – Friday, June 30, 2023 

Week 2: Tuesday, July 25 – Friday, July 28, 2023 


Application Due Date:

April 3, 2023


Through interactive sessions with museum professionals, you’ll gain skills and comfort in using American art to make interdisciplinary connections, foster critical thinking skills, and develop visual literacy. You’ll walk away with a tool kit of practical strategies for integrating art into your curriculum, as well as lesson ideas developed by your cohort that you can immediately put to use in your classroom. In addition to the on-site dates, a pre-Institute and post-Institute virtual session will be scheduled before and after each Institute. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions about the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Renwick Gallery's Summer Institutes for teachers. 

The Institute is geared towards social studies, history, English/language arts, and general education teachers for grades 4-12. Teachers of other subjects or grades may be considered on an individual basis. Teachers may apply as individuals or as part of a team of two, but each member of the team must submit an individual application.  

Efforts will be made to enroll a diverse cohort that will contribute a range of perspectives based on geography, life experience, and teaching environment. Dedicated scholarship funding for participants from rural areas is available. 

  • Gain expertise from museum educators and content experts through virtual content sessions, in-gallery activities, and discussion groups

  • Learn to use American art in the classroom to foster critical thinking skills, develop visual literacy, and deepen student engagement with content

  • Make interdisciplinary connections among American art, social studies, history, and English/language arts

  • Experiment with digital tools you can use to bring art into your classroom

  • Develop and share lesson ideas with peers following the on-site Institute

During Institutes:

  • Teacher’s Tool Kit including color reproductions, classroom discussion and writing exercises, project guidelines, and teaching strategies
  • Behind-the-scenes experiences at the Museum
  • Access to featured technology
  • Daily breakfast and lunch 
  • Optional evening events and opportunities to explore Washington, D.C.

Throughout the year:

  • Connection to a national network of Institute alumni
  • Museum staff support for curriculum development
  • Completion of pre-Institute assignments
  • Attendance at two virtual sessions (one before and one after the on-site Institute) for a total of three hours. Virtual sessions will be recorded if participants are unable to attend live.
  • Active participation in the four-day on-site Institute in Washington, D.C.; plan to arrive each day at the Museum by 9:00 a.m. and leave by 4:00 p.m. 
  • Sharing of lesson ideas during the post-Institute virtual session, approximately two weeks following the on-site Institute.
  • Adherence to the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s COVID-19 policies.

“The entire experience feels like hitting the reset button on my approach to teaching. It has given me concrete tools to utilize in my classroom. The scope of thinking routines, activities, and artworks is impressive.”


“This week was transformative. The best professional development experience of my entire career.”


“All of my expectations were fulfilled and exceeded. I have found this to be the most productive and invigorating professional development of my teaching career.”


“I will look at art so differently from here on out. It won’t just be ’something to look at’ but something to learn from. I will also have a ton of strategies that I’m walking away with, which I really appreciate. In addition, I’m walking away with practice in them so I already feel like I know how to use them. And I will walk away with a much deeper art background than I came with.”


“This Institute is, without a doubt, impeccable. I am leaving with so many practical lesson ideas and resources, but also with a restored sense of wonder and excitement about using art in my classroom.”

When Institute participants return to the classroom, they see positive outcomes from regularly integrating art into their teaching. Evaluation has shown:

  • Stronger student writing
  • Greater participation from hard-to-reach students
  • Improved student capacity for evidence-based inferencing
  • Increased academic confidence for students of all ability levels
  • Transfer of critical thinking skills from visual texts to written texts

The application deadline for 2023 has passed.

A committee will review all completed applications and notify all applicants of their status via email by April 25, 2023. SAAM will attempt to accommodate accepted applicants' date preferences, subject to space limitations.  

The registration deadline for accepted teachers is May 15, 2023. 

The cost of the program is $100, due upon registration. This non-refundable fee covers the cost of your take-home materials as well as daily breakfast and lunch. Participants are responsible for travel and lodging costs. This fee will be waived for scholarship recipients. 

Graduate credit is available for an additional cost. 

Scholarships up to $1,500 are available to support travel from outside the DC Metro area. Applicants who wish to be considered should check the relevant box on their Institute application. Scholarship decisions will be made based on the following considerations, as shown by application responses:  

  • Demonstrated interest in interdisciplinary, student-centered teaching 
  • Ability to increase diversity of the Institute cohort 
  • Geographic location  
  • Rationale for attending and plans to implement learning 
  • Professionalism 

Dedicated scholarship funding is available for participants from rural areas. 

Museum staff will provide documentation of participation, including total contact hours for virtual and on-site sessions, for all participants.

Three graduate credits from an accredited university will be available for an additional fee. For more information, please contact

While on-site at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, participants may choose to wear a mask. Social distancing will be encouraged, and we ask that participants stay home if they do not feel well. 

The Smithsonian reserves the right to modify its visitor guidelines as circumstances require, and Museum staff will update participants if policies change.

Visit our Professional Development page to browse upcoming teacher programs, both in-person and virtual, and watch recordings of past workshops.

Summer Institutes: Teaching the Humanities through Art at SAAM


A group of educators talk in a gallery

For more information about traveling for the Institute and visiting Washington, D.C., please read the Teacher FAQs below.  

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This program is generously supported by the Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Foundation. Additional scholarship support comes from the William Randolph Hearst Foundation.