Summer Institutes for Teachers

Teaching the Humanities Through Art

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


“This was one of the most useful, meaningful, rigorous, and enjoyable opportunities I have ever taken part in." - 2023 Summer Institute participant

Spend four days in Washington, DC, refreshing your teaching practice with educators from across the country! Explore connections among American art, social studies, history, and English/language arts through immersive sessions with museum professionals. 

Walk away with a tool kit of practical strategies for integrating art into your curriculum, as well as lesson ideas developed by your learning cohort that you can immediately implement in your classroom.

2024 Summer Institute Information

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

Institute Dates:

Week 1: Monday, June 24 – Thursday, June 27, 2024 

Week 2: Monday, July 22 – Thursday, July 25, 2024


Application Due Date:

April 1, 2024


Note: Additional virtual sessions will be scheduled; one before and one after each Institute.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions about the Summer Institutes for teachers. 

All teachers are welcome to apply. Priority selection goes to social studies, history, and English/language arts, and general education teachers of 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.   

SAAM values diverse perspectives. Efforts will be made to enroll a cohort that reflects a range of geography, life experience, and teaching environment.  

  • 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

“I always thought art was for art teachers. but this week I learned that through art you can do social emotional learning, you can do critical thinking, history, analysis. I feel so much more confidence now!”
- 2023 Institute Participant

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 enrichment experiences

Throughout the year:

  • Connection to a national network of Institute alumni
  • Museum staff support for curriculum development

“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.” 
- 2019 Institute Participant

  • Completion of pre-Institute assignments
  • Attendance at two 90-minute 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.


“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.”

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

“I wanted to share some of the amazing work my students have done in this first month of school with art integration. Students were engaged and excited to learn … it was so impressive seeing them making connections and being genuinely excited to write.” 

­– 2023 Institute Participant 


The deadline to apply for the 2024 Summer Institutes has passed. Please check back in January for the 2025 application.

A committee will review all completed applications and notify all applicants of their status via email by April 26, 2024. SAAM will attempt to accommodate accepted applicants' date preferences, subject to space limitations.  

The registration deadline for accepted teachers is May 17, 2024. 

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. 

A limited number of scholarships up to $1,500 are available to support travel from outside the DC Metro area. 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. Two scholarships are designated for National English Honor Society chapter advisors. 

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. 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, DC, please read the Travel Info Sheet below.  

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Teaching the Humanities Through Art is generously supported by Maggie and Dick Scarlett, in honor of Emeritus Smithsonian American Art Museum Commissioner William G. Kerr, and by Irv Kessler and Barbara Anderson. Additional scholarship support comes from the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, the Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Foundation, and the National English Honor Society.