Summer Institutes for Teachers

Teaching the Humanities Through Art

A group of teachers talking by an artwork

“This week was transformative. The best professional development experience of my entire career.”
–SAAM Summer Institute Participant

2022 On-Site Summer Institutes Dates: Monday, July 25 and Tuesday, July 26, 2022. In addition, two pre-Institute sessions in July and one post-Institute session in August will be held virtually, for a total of four virtual hours.

Be inspired this summer! Attend a two-day on-site Summer Institute at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, bookended by virtual pre- and post-Institute sessions. Join a community of educators from across the country for an exciting exploration of the connections among American art, social studies, history, and English/language arts.

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 2022, all attendees will receive $1,500 scholarships to support their learning. Priority will be given to educators from rural and underserved areas of the country.


Summer Institutes: Teaching the Humanities through Art at SAAM

Who Should Apply?

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.  

This summer, priority will be given to teachers from rural and underserved areas. Efforts will be made to enroll a diverse cohort that will contribute a range of perspectives based on geography, life experience, and teaching environment.  

What will teachers accomplish during the Institute?

  • 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

What is provided for Institute participants?

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

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 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

What is expected of Institute participants?

  • Completion of pre-Institute assignments
  • Active participation in two virtual pre-Institute content sessions in July 2022 and one virtual post-Institute session in August 2022
  • Active participation in the two-day on-site Institute in Washington, D.C.; plan to arrive each day at the Museum by 9:00 a.m. and leave at 4:00 p.m. 
  • Sharing of lesson ideas during August 2022 virtual post-Institute session
  • Adherence to the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s COVID-19 policies. 
  • Optional: Paid opportunities for up to four participants from rural areas to co-present with museum staff at conferences over the course of the school year 

What are teachers saying about the Institute?

A woman sitting in front of a quilted artwork.
  • “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.”
  • “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.”

What is the Impact for Students?

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

How to Apply

The April 1, 2022, application deadline has passed. Please check back in January 2023 to apply for next year's Institutes. Explore Professional Development Workshops to find additional teacher programs with SAAM.

Acceptance and Registration

A committee will review all completed applications and notify all applicants of their status via email by April 22, 2022. We plan to accept 15-20 participants, to allow for social distancing in our MacMillan Education Center. 

The registration deadline for accepted teachers is May 13, 2022.

Cost and Scholarships

In 2022, all accepted teachers who participate will be awarded a $1,500 scholarship to support their learning. Participants will receive their scholarship following completion of the on-site Institute. Participants are responsible for arranging their own travel and lodging. Scholarships may be used to reimburse participants for the cost of travel, lodging, or other expenses. For more information, please email

Professional Development Credit

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

COVID-19 Policies

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.

Read More About the Summer Institutes on SAAM's Blog


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

Direct inquiries to

Interested in participating in one-day teacher professional development experiences? Consider these upcoming Professional Development Workshops.


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