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Free School Tours with Transportation

Boise Art Museum

In the 2019-2020 school year, approximately 5,200 Idaho students and their teachers experienced a school tour at BAM through our Free School Tour Program with Transportation Reimbursement. At BAM, trained docents led 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 reinforced concepts discussed in the tour. Each multi-disciplinary school tour featured themes based on changing exhibitions, addressing a spectrum of historical periods, artistic media and styles. Materials were provided free of charge and Museum admission was waived for all participants. Transportation Reimbursement covered the costs of travel to BAM from outlying areas so that rural and low-income schools could participate. The program increased access to the arts for Idaho students, provided an opportunity for students to experience visual art first-hand in a museum setting and helped teachers integrate art content and techniques into their curricula. This program furthered 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 suited all learning styles by creating 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?

Through interactions with and analysis of art through guided activities and discussion with BAM docents, students developed ideas and understandings of society, culture, and history. Students compared uses of art in a variety of societal, cultural, and historical contexts and made connections to uses of art in contemporary and local contexts.

Every in-gallery tour experience was followed with hands-on art making to reinforce the tour discussion and observations, encouraging students to make meaning by investigating and developing awareness of their perceptions, knowledge and experiences. Students utilized inquiry methods of observation, research, and experimentation to explore unfamiliar subjects through art-making.

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

Student survey responses showed the development of their ideas and understanding of visual art in different societal, cultural and historical contexts.

  • “The piece of art that really stuck in my head was the silkscreen. I liked that the artist was connecting something from the past to the present.”
  • “I will remember all the questions asked when we were studying the Impressionist paintings. They really made me appreciate the artwork more and really understand that history and art are very important because they’re basically the same.”
  • “I’ll remember what happened during the time period these paintings were made – the women’s suffrage movement.”

Their responses also demonstrated that the art-making component of the tour helped them to connect their knowledge, gained from the tours, with the process of making their own art.

  • “I was surprised that you can use circuit boards for something other than running a computer. I liked getting to make my own art at the end.”
  • “My favorite part of the tour was when we got to make our own artwork, because we got to be creative with the paper, geometrical shapes, color, and recycled computer parts.”
  • “For my artwork, I made a picture of a gaming controller using different shapes and computer parts. It’s something I like to do, so I made it a part of my art!”


One of the unique outcomes of the Free School Tour Program at BAM is demonstrating the deep emotional connections, often unexpected, that students have with original works of art. This year, during tours of Impressionism in the Northwest, students were amazed by Impressionist paintings by artists who lived and traveled in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. The works, dated from 1885 to 1939, featured many landmarks familiar to students, such as Shoshone Falls, Malad Canyon, and views of Mountain Home. The impact of seeing the works in person was palpable – and audible! As students entered the galleries, some could not help but exclaim, “I’ve been there!” This immediate personal connection piqued their interest and encouraged them to carefully study the paintings, and actively participate in discussions. Some students expressed that they never expected to see historic paintings of Idaho landscapes in an art museum, and the museum experience changed their perception of familiar places. They considered the landscapes in a different way, connecting the past to the present, and inspiring their own creativity.


Consistently, after tours at BAM, we hear from students that they felt comfortable asking questions, expressed their different opinions, made observations, created their own meaning based on their interests and life experiences, and appreciated that no answer was considered “wrong.” Hearing that we successfully created a comfortable, supportive, creative, learning environment for students is the most rewarding part of this program for BAM staff and docents. In the 2019-2020 academic year, tours of Impressionism in the Northwest, Wally Dion: Current, Outside the Lines, Ann Gardner: The Shape of Air, and Margaret Jacobs: Steel Medicine, helped students see the world from different perspectives, explore artwork from the standpoint of the artist, and make connections to their own lives and the greater world. Tours were designed to include cross-curricular connections to help make the tour content relatable to students, creating deeper personal connections. Students had impactful, memorable, hands-on visual arts experiences at BAM.

When the pandemic forced schools and BAM to temporarily close, we quickly turned our attention to providing online resources for continued learning from home. We adapted our Free School Tour Program materials into free online content and downloadable PDFs. We were able to continue to reach our intended audiences through our digital offerings related to the exhibitions The 2020 Idaho Triennial, and Women in American Impressionism: Three Masterworks from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, including extended information, art-making activities, videos, and a resource packet developed to help teachers who were teaching children from home. Teachers expressed their appreciation for the resources, which suited a range of learning styles and interests. Moving forward, we will explore additional and new delivery methods to continue to serve Idaho students and their teachers.