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Free School Tour Program with Transportation Reimbursement

Boise Art Museum

From September to May, more than 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:

“When I first saw the Paul Vexler pieces, I thought they were very simple and easy to create. Learning about the processes it took to create and install this art, I learned to appreciate the work put into it.”
“The origami I made was difficult for me but really fun. The idea I included from the tour was to make sure I got the folds really neat and accurate.”
“Looking at the art was fun, because it told a lot about the artist’s life.”
“I had a greater respect for people who practice the art of origami. I learned that it takes lots of focus, time, and skill. Patience too. I loved learning how to fold a fox box.”
“I found it interesting that the artist who created pictures with Idaho river silt thought of that idea. It seems unusual, creative, and unique; something no one else would have thought of. That’s what gives the picture a spark.”
“I liked the part when we talked about how mathematics applied to art.”
“I think my favorite part of the tour was being able to see the origami dresses. I loved how a fashion designer was inspired to use some origami techniques to make a beautiful dress.”
“I didn’t know art could be used to cause awareness for environmental or other issues.”


BAM presented four different tour topics, exploring five exhibitions at the Museum with works ranging from origami, to ceramics, photography, site-specific sculptural installations, painting, and large-scale photorealistic drawings. The 2015-16 Free School Tour Program explored origami, animals, shape and form, and the environment. 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 charcoal pencils. 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 “Folding Paper: The Infinite Possibilities of Origami,” “Paul Vexler: Ribbons,” “Modern and Contemporary Ceramics: Kay Hardy and Gregory Kaslo Collection,” “Weather or Not,” and “Adonna Khare: The Kingdom,” 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 visiting the Museum. 91% of teachers reported using the packet, and expressed appreciation for the content. 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, “the real thing,” 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 art processes, inspiration, different cultures, how artwork conveys meaning or an idea, and their own thoughts and opinions. One teacher shared, “It was very helpful and set the stage for a great tour.” Students overwhelmingly responded (89%) that they felt comfortable sharing their opinions with the docent and their peers.

Teachers greatly appreciated the curricular connections explored during the tours, and replied that the program enhanced their teaching of language arts, creativity and critical thinking, cultural awareness, math and science concepts, and fine art. Their comments from post-tour surveys are among the most convincing measures of the importance of this program to Idaho schools:

“Kids feel empowered when they can share ideas and relate to a piece of artwork.”
“Art applies to every aspect of learning.”
“Enhanced our science unit with weather, environment, and nature. Great discussion on artist’s purpose and comparing/contrasting.”
“They see real art and how art is part of our community.”
“Great cross-disciplinary exhibit! This touched on all the areas of S.T.E.A.M. (science, technology, engineering, art and math).”
“Created opportunities to discuss observations and ideas. Opens their minds to more possibilities!”
“It inspired and encouraged the students to be creative and think abstractly.”
“The study of art always teaches respect, following directions and persistence.”