MASS MoCA uses its array of world-class exhibitions and performances as a platform for discussing contemporary social issues, as well as to expand notions about art making and the creative process. The school programs at MASS MoCA focus on facilitating students’ experiences with contemporary art through guided conversation and inquiry-based tours and art-making activities.
School Partnership Program
MASS MoCA forged its inaugural school partnership with Brayton Elementary School in North Adams in 2000, which expanded to include all of the elementary schools in the North Adams Public School District and North Berkshire School Union by 2001. In 2012, MASS MoCA doubled its partnership program to include schools in the Hoosac Valley Regional School District and Pittsfield Public Schools. The school partnership program provides 100% subsidized educational opportunities to a growing number of students and teachers in the Northern Berkshires region and currently reaches 17 partner schools across four districts. Each year the partnership schools participate in curriculum-based tours of the main galleries followed by art-making projects related to the exhibitions discussed during the tour.
In addition to the partner school program, MASS MoCA provides subsidized curriculum-based guided tours for many other K-12 schools throughout the New England region on an annual basis. Title 1 schools also receive an additional discount on admission fees and museum educator fees for guided tours.
Pre-K – 12th Grade Guided Tours
MASS MoCA’s tours are conversation and inquiry-based, encouraging participation while also providing important content and context about the art on display. Our pedagogy is informed by recent findings in the neuroscience of learning, art, and museum education. It includes Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS), Universal Design for Learning (UDL), and Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) components with the goal of engaging and supporting diverse learning styles. Through multidimensional museum visits students develop and utilize observation, visual literacy, communication, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills. Students also learn how to observe, interpret, and form connections with art, artists, themselves, and each other.
Trained Museum Educators provide one-hour tours of the museum that focus on 3-5 exhibitions along with a brief history of MASS MoCA. We currently offer the following grade-specific curriculum-based tours:
Grades Pre-K-2: Elements of Art
Grades 3-5: Perspective & Individuality
Grades 6-8: Perspective & Context
Grades 9-12: Stories & Histories
Our educators can also customize these tours or design a highlights tour that incorporates specific artists, exhibitions, and curricular connections to meet your students’ interests and learning goals.
If your school is visiting MASS MoCA soon please review our Chaperone Checklist and share it with your students prior to your visit.
Art Assembly Performances
Art Assembly, MASS MoCA’s performing arts education initiative for students and teachers, presents a diverse schedule of live performing arts events each school year. These events deepen students’ understanding of the performing arts and the thought-provoking themes they explore, such as culture and tradition, gender and identity, the environment, democracy, and the human body. Art Assembly performances give students access to world-class artists that they might not otherwise encounter; for many students, Art Assembly is their first experience with live performance.
The Art Assembly in Fall 2023 featured Maxine Lyle, Artistic Director of Soul Steps, presenting excerpts from her new work-in-progress Step Show: The Musical (co-presented with Jacob’s Pillow). Initially developed while in residency at MASS MoCA in 2021, Step Show: The Musical is a two-act theatrical production that showcases African American step dance and its role in Black college life. Infusing body percussion with hip-hop, R&B, and soul, this intergenerational coming-of-age story takes a riveting ride through the world of step dance and its imprint on Black culture.
The Art Assembly program is supported in part by the Avangrid Foundation and the Pauline Young Music Fund.
Teacher Workshops & Resources
MASS MoCA occasionally leads professional development workshops for K-12 educators. Past examples include summer institutes for teachers, hosting the 2015 Massachusetts Arts Education Association (MAEA) annual conference, partnerships with the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, CARE SYLLABUS, the Wade Institute for Science Education, BRAINworks, and Art21. New workshops will be posted on this page as they become available.
Educator guides featuring anticipated learning outcomes and connections to interdisciplinary curricular standards are available for select past exhibitions at the following links. New educator guides will be posted as they become available.
- Apsáalooke: Children of the Large-Beaked Bird, 2020-2022
- ERRE: Them and Us / Ellos y Nosotros, 2019-2021
- Still I Rise, 2019 – 2020
- Come To Your Senses 2018-2019
- Cavernous: The Inner Life of Courage, 2017-2018
- Federico Uribe: Here Comes the Sun, 2016-2017
- Walk In My Shoes, 2015-2016
Co-developed by Berkshire County youth and artist Shaun Leonardo, the Curriculum Takeover for Black Lives Matter is a virtual teaching resource where students can direct their own and their peers’ learning around racial injustice.
Additionally, check out some of these resources to help make a case for bringing your students to the museum:
- NAEA’s User Guide for the Impact of Single-Visits to Art Museums Study (2018)
- MASS MoCA’s Field Trip Rubric for assessing student outcomes
MASS MoCA hosts a Family Night in the Fall each year to welcome the families of our partner school students to the museum for a free after-hours event celebrating intergenerational learning. The first Family Night took place in October 2023 for the North Adams Public School students, families, teachers, and administrators. Attendees received free admission to the museum, food, and art-making activities.
The 2023 NAPS Family Night was supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and W.L.S. Spencer Foundation.