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4–12 Collection Tours

Museum tours are designed as interactive lessons that encourage students to examine objects and ideas through a variety of activities including discussions, worksheets, and small group work. Observation, critical thinking, problem solving, and literacy skills are incorporated in all lessons. These programs take place in the Museum's permanent galleries. Expect to visit approximately four to six galleries during your tour.

All tours are appropriate for grades 4–12 (except where noted).

Correlations between Museum lessons and Academic Standards:
Pennsylvania State Standards | NJ State Standards | Common Core State Standards

Introductory Lessons

These lessons are ideal for a first visit or for a general introduction to broad aspects of the collection.

  • Learning to Look

    How can we learn to see more when we look at art? Students explore the Museum's collections through activities and discussions focused on looking at, thinking about, and responding to works of art. This lesson is offered in both the Museum's main building and the Perelman Building. Click here for related resource materials: Learning to Look
  • Around the World (grades 4–6)

    What can art tell us about different times and cultures? Students compare works of art and architecture to discover the common threads and unique qualities of a variety of cultures. Grades 4–6 will complete their own around-the-world travelogue.
  • Treasures of the Museum

    The Philadelphia Museum of Art is filled with world-renowned works of art, from ancient Chinese tomb figures to knights in armor to works by modern masters such as Vincent van Gogh and Georgia O'Keeffe. This lesson invites students to explore a selection of masterpieces in the collection and introduces them to ways of examining and interpreting works of art from many times and places.
  • Critical Thinking through Art

    Exploring works of art naturally engages critical-thinking skills. In this lesson, students practice a variety of these skills, such as deductive and inductive reasoning, comparing and contrasting, making inferences and drawing conclusions, while they look at, think about, and discuss works of art in the Museum's collections.
  • Painters and Paintings

    Why do painters make the choices they do? How do they create their illusions or abstractions? This lesson explores changing styles in painting and our reactions to them. If you are studying specific artists, please let us know and we will try to include them.
  • Introduction to Sculpture

    What is sculpture? What artistic choices must sculptors make? This lesson introduces the methods and materials of three-dimensional art from around the world.
  • Introduction to Architecture

    What is architecture? This lesson focuses on the Museum's outstanding collection of period rooms and architectural elements from around the world. Beginning with the Museum's main building itself, students explore different styles, materials, building methods, and functions of architecture.
  • The Artist and Society (grades 9–12)

    What does art reflect about the time in which it was created? Students examine how artists have chronicled, commented upon, and critiqued their societies.

Subject-Area Lessons

These lessons are designed to relate to classroom studies. If you do not see a lesson that connects with your studies, we can work with you to design a lesson that supports your curriculum.

  • American Art: From Colony to Nation

    What was art like in George Washington's day? Students examine furniture and paintings, discuss styles and techniques, and explore what art can tell us about life in the colonial and Federal periods.
  • Survey of American Art

    What are the important themes in American art? How are changes in American society reflected in its art? This lesson surveys the art in the American collections from the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries.
  • African American Art

    What can works of art tell us about African American culture and history? During this tour, students explore a broad range of works by and about African Americans from the nineteenth century to the present.
  • Pennsylvania Artists

    What do Charles Willson Peale, Thomas Eakins, Horace Pippin, and Alexander Calder have in common? They are all artists who called Pennsylvania their home. This lesson introduces artists who were born or worked in Pennsylvania from colonial times to today.
  • Greek and Roman Mythology in Art

    Beginning with the Museum building, students explore how artists have interpreted the ideas and mythology of the classical world.
  • Medieval Art

    What can the architecture, sculpture, textiles, and armor of medieval Europe tell us about life in the Middle Ages? This lesson explores stylistic changes in medieval art and how they reveal an evolving society.
  • Arms and Armor

    Who used arms and armor? How were they made? This exploration of Renaissance armor includes the handling of some pieces.
  • Art of the Renaissance

    How did the art of the Renaissance reflect the ideas of that time? Students examine works of art from Italy and northern Europe to learn more about the art and beliefs of the day.
  • Medieval and Renaissance Art

    A combination of two lessons, Medieval Art and Art of the Renaissance (see descriptions above), this offering is designed for classes studying both periods of European history.
  • Renaissance to Modern

    This lesson provides a chronological look at European and American artistic styles from the Renaissance to today. Students consider the strengths and challenges of each period and evaluate their reactions to each style.
  • Art and Math

    Students explore how artists from different eras and cultures used math concepts. The content is adjusted to fit the grade level of each class. Possible topics include pattern, symmetry, one-point perspective, and number series.
  • Discovering Science in Art

    Students explore some of the many connection between art and science. Content is adjusted to fit the grade level of each class. Possible topics include the five senses, nature, color theory, light, materials, and the influence of techinological advancements on the history of Art. Click here for related pre- and post-visit resources: Techniques in Metalwork
  • Art and Language Arts

    How do you read a work of art? How do you write a work of art? During this lesson, students uncover the "stories" told by objects in the Museum's collections as they experiment with the different tools that writers and artists use to make an engaging work. Activities encourage careful observation, analysis and discussion of works of art, and creative and descriptive writing. This lesson can be adapted for English-language learners.
  • Art Speaks (Philadelphia public school grade 4 only)

    Philadelphia art museums developed this program to help fourth-grade students practice literacy skills while exploring works of art. Each class is sent a teacher's notebook that includes an orientation DVD, teaching posters (one from each museum), and pre- and post-visit literacy and art activities. During the museum lesson, students use a journal to record their responses to several works of art. Thanks to generous funding, Art Speaks museum admission and busing are free this school year. Click here for related pre- and post-visit resources: Art Speaks

    Supported by Target

    Additional upport is provided by The Dow Chemical Company, TD Bank through the TD Charitable Foundation, the Hamilton Family Foundation, The Christopher Ludwick Foundation, and generous individual contributors.

  • The Impressionist Era (1 hour)

    What made the art of the Impressionists so different? This lesson introduces students to the works of Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Mary Cassatt, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh, and others, and places them within the context of their time.
  • Modern and Contemporary Art

    What is modern art and what makes it look the way it does? This lesson explores changing styles and ideas in European and American art from Impressionism to Cubism to the contemporary art of today.
  • Islamic Art (1 hour)

    How does Islamic art reflect the ideas of its culture? Students examine rugs, tiles, architecture, and other objects from the Middle East, Europe, and Asia to learn about Islamic art, beliefs, and cross-cultural influences.
  • Art of Asia

    Students examine and compare the art of India, China, Japan, and Korea. Highlights include an Indian Hindu temple, a Chinese palace hall, and a Japanese teahouse and garden. Classes can explore all four cultures or focus on a specific one. Click here for related resource materials: Learning from Asian Art: China, Learning from Asian Art: Japan, and Learning from Asian Art: Korea.
  • Artists and the Natural World

    During this lesson, students look at works of art from several times periods and places, and explore ways that artists have been inspired by, recorded, and incorporated elements of the natural world in their art. Students have a chance to respond to nature themselves through writing and drawing activities.
  • The Mixed-Up Files (grades 4–8)

    In this companion tour to the book The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg, students learn about the Museum and its collections as they explore popular galleries and mysterious objects.
  • Treasures of French, German, or Spanish Art (grades 9–12) (1 hour)

    Students studying a foreign language learn about the art of one of the above cultures. Tours range from medieval religious objects to contemporary paintings and sculpture.
  • Drawing and Discovering (grades 5–12)

    How does drawing aid our understanding of art? Students explore sculpture, architecture, and decorative arts through drawing activities and discussions led by a Museum Teacher/Artist. Let us know if you are studying a particular drawing technique, style, or time period.
  • Multiple-Visit Programs (grades K–12)

    The more you visit, the more you learn! These lessons offer an opportunity to explore classroom curriculum and the Museum's collections in greater depth. You and a Museum Teacher work together to create a two-, three-, or four-visit program that connects to your curriculum. Your class works with the same Museum Teacher each visit. Past topics have included "An Introduction to Art," "The Middle Ages," "Art and American History," and "Art from Around the World." Students pay regular school admission fees for each visit.


For more information, please contact The Division of Education by phone at 215-684-7580, by fax at 215-236-4063, or by e-mail at .

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