Student Programs
Thinking Through Art

Connect art and critical thinking in the classroom.

We partner with Title I elementary and secondary schools in the Kansas City area to provide year-long, classroom-based arts integration that supports visual literacy and the English Language Arts curriculum. Museum staff and docents facilitate conversations about works of art using Visual Thinking Strategies, a research-based method. Students develop visual literacy and practice critical thinking skills through class discussions and individual writing activities.

VTS supports language acquisition for all students, and teaches the tenets of respectful conversation. Partnering classroom teachers also receive training and continual coaching in the VTS method, and classes visit the museum twice a year.

The Nelson-Atkins currently works with seven schools across the greater Kansas City region, reaching over 1,000 students and nearly 50 teachers.

Interested in bringing Thinking Through Art to your classroom or school? Contact us at 816-751-1244 or email Louisa Hartigan,

Why partner with the Nelson-Atkins?
Here are some of the benefits of being a Thinking Through Art partner school:

  • Students practice critical thinking: VTS challenges students to use evidentiary reasoning to support their ideas.
  • VTS teaches an appreciation for diverse perspectives: Students assess their classmates’ arguments, learn to consider multiple points of view, and practice respectfully agreeing or disagreeing.
  • VTS strengthens literacy skills: Students who are not yet confident readers can practice literary reasoning using an accessible visual “text.”
  • VTS teaches visual literacy: The 21st century definition of “literacy” expands beyond reading and writing; through VTS, students learn how to analyze and evaluate visual media.
  • A way for all students to succeed: Conversations about art are low-stress because art is subjective and open to interpretation. Ideas are never labeled “right” or “wrong.”
  • All students, including ELLs, increase academic vocabulary: The image provides a visual scaffold as students learn higher-level words in context.
  • Adults in the community make a long-term investment in your school: Museum docents visit twelve times in a school year.
  • Students connect with a resource for life-long learning: Students visit the Nelson-Atkins twice and gain comfort with and a sense of belonging at one of Kansas City’s most prized institutions.
  • Teachers gain a coach or mentor: Teachers are trained in Visual Thinking Strategies facilitation, an inquiry-based model, and work with Nelson-Atkins staff to self-reflect as they increase their skills.
  • The museum supports school initiatives: The Nelson-Atkins invests in your school, contributes to school events, and is a valuable community partner.

For more information, please contact