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Free School Tour Program with Transportation Reimbursement

Boise Art Museum

From September to May, approximately 8,000 Idaho students and their teachers experience a school tour at the Boise Art Museum through our Free School Tour Program with Transportation Reimbursement. At the Museum, trained docents lead students through interactive discussions about the work on display in the galleries, followed by a hands-on art activity in the BAM education studios that reinforces concepts discussed in the tour. Each year, multi-disciplinary school tours feature themes based on changing exhibitions, addressing a spectrum of historical periods, artistic media and styles. Materials are provided free of charge and Museum admission is waived for all participants. Transportation Reimbursement covers the costs of travel to BAM from outlying areas so that rural and low-income schools can participate. The program increases access to the arts for Idaho students, provides an opportunity for students to experience visual art first-hand in a museum setting and helps teachers integrate art content and techniques into their curricula. This program furthers BAM’s goals to promote the enjoyment, appreciation and understanding of the visual arts through comprehensive exhibition and educational programs serving a broad public audience. The program suits all learning styles to create meaningful learning experiences with original works of art.

The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:

How do people contribute to awareness & understanding of their lives & their communities through art-making?

As an outcome of planned activities and experiences, students will synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experiences to make art (Visual Arts Anchor Standard 10, Connecting). Students will utilize inquiry methods of observation, research, and experimentation to explore unfamiliar subjects through art-making (VA:Cn10.1.IIa).

Another outcome of the program is for students to relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural and historical context to deepen understanding (Visual Arts Anchor Standard 11, Connecting). Students will compare uses of art in a variety of societal, cultural, and historical contexts and make connections to uses of art in contemporary and local contexts (VA:Cn11.1.IIa).

At the conclusion of the project, students responded to questions related to the identified Standards:

“The most surprising thing from the tour was that all the artwork was made by Idaho artists. In the studio, I made a tree that reminds me of trees from Idaho.”
“I have never seen someone put cells and genes in art form.It’s really cool! I liked learning about the way Geraldine Ondrizek made the chromosome panels. And about where silk comes from.”
“In the studio we made self-portraits but in the form of chromosomes.I noticed in the tour there were different shades of colors and in random order so I used that in my art.”
“I liked looking at the chromosome fabric painting because it was colorful and it helped me understand chromosomes better.”
“The most memorable thing I learned is that art tells you a story.”
“The most surprising thing for me was that the art was really connected to science, which was fun. I liked that we got to be creative. I liked the activity in the studio and drawing my genes. It was cool how everyone’s was different.”
“It was surprising how some of the artists were actually in the camp and drew their memories. Roger Shimomura’s paintings reminded me of the discrimination experience we did in class.”
“You can really make art out of anything, like wires and cords or balloons. The art was beautiful.”


BAM presented four different tour topics, exploring four exhibitions at the Museum with works ranging from ceramics and photography, to room-sized sculptural installations and large-scale paintings on silk panels. The 2016-17 Free School Tour Program explored Idaho Artists, storytelling, genetics, and “Minidoka,” the WWII-era Japanese American Internment Camp in Idaho. BAM welcomed students who had never visited an art museum before, had never seen original works of art in person, and who were excited to use real art materials such as oil pastels. Whether students were visiting BAM for the first time, or if they already come to the Museum regularly with their families, students had impactful and memorable visual arts experiences. Every in-gallery tour experience was followed with hands-on art making to reinforce earlier discussion and observations, encouraging students to make meaning by investigating and developing awareness of their perceptions, knowledge and experiences. Students developed ideas and understandings of society, culture, and history through their interactions with and analysis of art through guided activities and discussion with docents. Tours of “Tall Tales: Narratives from the Permanent Collection,” “2017 Idaho Triennial,” “Geraldine Ondrizek: Chromosome Painting II,” and “Minidoka: Artist as Witness,” helped students see the world from a different perspective, explore artwork from the standpoint of the artist, and make connections to their own lives and the greater world.


BAM provides a pre-tour packet for teachers to share with students prior to their visit. 81% of teachers reported using the packet. Many teachers let BAM know that one of the best parts about the tour experience was seeing their students focused, engaged, and excited about seeing artwork in person that they had previewed in the pre-tour packet. By coming to the Museum prepared to ask questions and respond to the artwork, students had more in-depth conversations about how artwork conveys meaning or an idea, different cultures, and their own thoughts and opinions. Students overwhelmingly responded (84%) that they felt comfortable sharing their opinions with the docent and their peers.
Teachers appreciated the curricular connections explored during the tours, and replied that the program enhanced their teaching of cultural awareness, history, science, language arts, critical thinking, and fine art. Their comments from post-tour surveys are among the most convincing measures of the importance of this program to Idaho schools:

“Our students are not exposed to art. To see the different media used and different forms of art is a great experience for them.”
“This furthered our children’s education about art and artists, specifically local artists and how this affects the idea of community. This trip gave the children something to aspire to and inspire passion for their own.”
“The experience helps the students look and think beyond the obvious – beyond the first glance. Throughout the rest of the year, we often refer back to the art we saw at BAM.”
“I loved that my students were able to see and understand that there are more art forms than just paintings.”
“This trip was such an incredible growth experience both in academics and character. It was wholly unique for my students and served to broaden their interests, knowledge and curiosity.”