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School Tours with Transportation

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 (Anchor Standard #10). Students will utilize inquiry methods of observation, research, and experimentation to explore unfamiliar subjects through art-making (VA:Cn10.1.IIa). Every in-gallery tour experience is 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.

Another outcome of the program is for students to relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural and historical context to deepen understanding (Anchor Standard #11). 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). Students develop ideas and understandings of society, culture, and history through their interactions with and analysis of art through guided activities and discussion with docents.

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

Student survey responses demonstrated that the art-making portion of the tour helped them to connect their knowledge gained from the tours with the process of making their own art.

  • “I made an anteater out of yarn. I got the idea of using unusual colors from the artwork.” (4th grade)
  • “My work of art was me in the middle of a transformation into an owl. I included [Rick] Bartow’s idea of adding the animal’s features to my own.” (7th grade)
  • “I made a mostly blue and violet Lego flower. I included the idea of symmetry in my piece.” (8th grade)
  • “I loved being able to set my own creativity loose and use the same style of art that we saw, but make my own design.” (5th grade)

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

  • “I was surprised that everyone saw something different in the same piece of art.” (4th grade)
  • “My favorite part of the tour in the museum was seeing the mugshots artworks. I found it really interesting that the artist decided to use faces from mugshots for her art. It was almost like some sort of honor.” (6th grade)
  • “The symbol of the bear was meaningful to Rick Bartow because of his heritage; it meant protection to him.” (9th grade)


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. Tours of “Consider the Source,” “An Intentional Eye,” “Bricks + Stones,” “Jo Hamilton: Knots in Time,” and “Rick Bartow: Things You Know But Cannot Explain,” 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. Comments from participating teachers support the impact of BAM’s Free School Tour Program:

  • “We value principals of innovation, creativity, and shared knowledge in every part of our students’ work. BAM significantly furthers that part of our mission.”
  • “Just being there was incredible. We are a low income Title 1 school. The opportunity to go was amazing.”
  • “My students loved the project at the end. It exposed the students to many types of material used for art.”
  • “Students are starting to realize the value of talking about art…how it expands our perceptions!”
  • “Always an amazing and quality supplement. Art curriculum is not being emphasized in our district, so thank you!”
  • “This gave our students a real art world experience. They were able to appreciate art in an actual art institution.”


For many Idaho students, the Free School Tour Program experience at BAM is their first time visiting an art museum, and sometimes their only opportunity for hands-on visual arts experiences for the school year. BAM is focused on making memorable, impactful experiences for students as well as their teachers. As evidenced by teacher feedback, one of the biggest “wins” is due to the Pre-Tour Packs that prepare students for their visit. 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 Pack. By coming to the Museum prepared to ask questions and respond to the artwork, students had more in-depth conversations about the ways artwork conveys meaning or an idea, different cultures, and their own thoughts and opinions. Teachers responded that they appreciated and used the Pre-Tour Packs, and suggested small tweaks to make them an even better resource.

Teachers also reported that they appreciated the cross-curricular connections explored during the tours, and replied that the impact of the Free School Tour Program experience was felt later in the school year. Tours and topics discussed at BAM enhanced their teaching of fine art, as well as history, science, math, language arts, cultural awareness, character development, and critical thinking.