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MFA for Educators

Engage your students with the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to illustrate themes and concepts in any discipline.

K-1 Designing Our Own Art Museum

This unit puts students into the role of museum designers, exhibit curators and artists. In those three capacities, and by means of a series of visits to the MFA, students will explore the visual arts to express ideas, feelings and intuitive understandings of math concepts (pattern, measurement, shape, two and three-dimensionality, proportion, map-making), physics (how to make things move, how to make things stay in place), and design (of specific installations and the overall space), as well as consider themselves in relation to society (What are my neighborhood and community instiutions? How can I be an active participant in these institutions?) and to engage in authentic literacy by developing signage for their own museum that will guide visitors as they move through the space of the galleries and items in the collection.


Unit Overview:

K-1 work on a year-long theme of “My World and Me,” based on the Massachusetts History and Social Studies frameworks, the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts and the preK-12 Massachusetts Frameworks for Art, students read about, visit, conduct interviews at and immerse themselves in different institutions in their communities—a store, a health clinic, fire station, the post office, a museum, a mechanic’s garage, etc.—and express their learning in a variety of ways in the classroom, by engaging in activities such as writing and illustrating a big book based on the experience, mounting a photo montage with captions and explanations, playing with pullies and axels to make sense of the physics of a tow truck, or creating a small scale version of each establishment in the classroom.


The Rafael Hernández Museum of Fine Arts will be planned, designed, organized, and constructed by students. Children will visit the MFA, explore the entire space of the museum. They will make note of how the admissions are set up, use maps, tour the gift shop, visit the galleries, and say what they notice about the building, and installations—maps, display cases, pedestals, seating, lighting, signage, eateries, theater, etc. By means of the first visit, students will begin to think about the conventions of a museum and the logic of its spatial layout.  In successive visits, children will explore color, pattern-making and use of pattern in artwork, three-dimensional art, and the question of subject matter and material for artistic expression. 

In the classroom, students will continuously build skills in working with various media. Each week they will do one art center or station during their 2 and a half hour literacy block. Centers, such as the following can be used.

*Color large letters for labeling “Kindergarten 1, Room 004,” “Welcome,” “Bienvenidos,” etc. 

*Color large shapes in pairs (circle, square, star, trapezoid, triangle, rectangle, oval, heart, rhombus) to use in the room (teacher labels shapes for passive text in room, use in math, as a resource for writers’ workshop). 

*Make pattern strips (approx. 16”x2”) sing two colors. The pattern strips can be used as bulletin board boarders and placed around door frames, windows, and work display areas). Do this again using 3 colors or ask them to make a different kind of pattern using 2 colors. 

*Make a whole class big book like Salí de paseo or I Went Walking by Julie Vivas. Have children draw their animals on large 12”x12” paper. Teacher facilitates making a list of additional animals for the big book. Each child volunteers to draw an animal. Teacher outlines the animal drawn by students in permanent marker. Students color animal. Teacher cuts out animal and pastes it onto big book page. Class writes text and re-reads text as they go. 

*Students mix colors to match a found color provided by the teacher. Children create shades of blue (ocean, blue whale, blueberry, blue jay, delphinium, hydrangea, Argentinian flag, etc.). Repeat for each color over successive weeks.

*Students use several different colors of plasticine to fill in abstract figures (this can be explicitly connected to Joan Miró).

*Read various versions of the Los tres cerditos or The Three Little Pigs and make a mural of the class retelling. The re-telling can be broken up to fit onto 6 panels. The story can be written in 6 paragraphs. Six groups can each draw and paint one panel. The writing should be affixed to each panel once paint is thoroughly dry.

*Do mosaics using aquarium pebbles of different colors. Students draw a simple line drawing or patterns on firm 10”x10” cardstock or framing board. Teacher outlines with permanent marker. Over the course of weeks, children fill in mosaics. Do this several times with different assignment specifications.

*Study Paul Klee’s “Nomad Mother” and emulate his style using three pre-selected colors that can be mixed to create different tones.

*Experiment with applications of paint using turkey basters, toothbrushes, drinking straws and forks to emulate Jackson Pollack’s style.

*Work on brush stroke after observing and discussing Vincent van Gogh’s “Madame Augustine”.

*Observe Calder’s “Vache” wire sculpture. Use aluminum wire to create free-standing sculptures in Calder’s style.