Related: Continuing Education, Erin McHenry

What D.C. Arts & Historical Centers Can Teach You


If you are you a teacher in need of a professional development course this summer but you aren’t looking forward to sitting in a classroom, I have just the thing for you.  Did you know you could take a course at Ford’s Theatre or the National Museum of Women in the Arts and receive Trinity credit?  Each year, teachers come from all over the U.S. to take these courses and they fill quickly.  

We will offer 130 of Trinity’s professional development courses this summer but we are extremely fortunate to partner with some local arts and historical experts in D.C.: the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) and Ford’s Theatre.  Don’t get me wrong, I am quite proud of our traditional and online courses for teachers and greatly appreciate the work our instructors put into making them a valuable use of your summer vacation.  However, the Ford’s and NMWA courses make me want to go back to the classroom.

The educational leaders at both Ford’s and the NMWA created courses similar to our weeklong summer format, but they teach the courses at their locations and provide behind the scenes access.  They want to show teachers how accessible they are to students and encourage teachers to bring their educational resources into their classrooms, no matter what subject they teach.   They have found inspiring ways to introduce culture and arts in ways students might not know are available in the District.

The Ford’s class takes place at several National Landmarks in D.C., including the recently renovated Ford’s Theatre museum and the new Center for Education and Leadership.  The class also tours the home of Frederick Douglass and President Lincoln’s Cottage as well as virtual tours that can be replicated in your classroom.  I visit the classes on location to answer registration questions from the out of town teachers, and on one visit, I learned that Lincoln’s Cottage is less than two miles from Trinity.  The beautiful campus of historical buildings three miles north of town quickly showed me why it was a peaceful retreat for President Lincoln during the Civil War.

The NMWA course takes place in a stunning room filled with paintings and a picture window overlooking the short walk to the White House.  The course incorporates ABC, an Art, Books, Creativity curriculum, with museum resources and art materials to help teachers integrate arts into their classrooms.  When I visited the class last year, I encountered students busy at work painting with water colors using techniques they had discussed earlier after touring a section of the museum.  I asked one of the instructors why a few of the students (adult teachers) were wearing large paper hats with feathers and glitter and other vibrant materials.  These students were elementary teachers proudly wearing hats they had created as part of a lesson presentation from a peer who has her students create a visual representation of the books they read.  It made me want to get back in my classroom as a high school English teacher to integrate visual arts in a literature project.  I was jealous of the teachers.  They were so enveloped in applying what they had learned, they didn’t realize the class had ended 20 minutes earlier.

Take advantage of these valuable resources in our nation’s capital.  Get knee deep in history by walking in the footsteps of Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre, or get your hands dirty at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, practicing painting techniques in lessons that might make reading finally sink in to a student.  Show your students the rich historical and cultural opportunities available in D.C.

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