Manhattan Schools Pilot New Visual Thinking Strategies Curriculum

The Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art is an important part of Kansas State University and impacts the community by helping “individuals think anew about personal experiences, sense of place, and the world of knowledge.” As part of their mission to use art as a teaching tool, Kathrine Schlageck, the Beach’s Senior Educator, has undergone training and commenced conducting Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) curriculum sessions in Manhattan Public Schools. As an Education Department volunteer, I accompanied her as an observer this week for the first 5th grade session at Bluemont Elementary School.
Curandera (Mexican Healer) painting by Carmen Lomas GarzaThis painting, Curandera (Mexican Healer), by Carmen Lomas Garza was the first image that the students were asked to discuss. Their conversation revolved around what they thought was going on in the image as a result of their visual observations – with the best part being that there were no wrong answers. I was amazed at how anxious almost all of the students were to share their thoughts with their class members. Some students took longer to form their thoughts about the images than others, but almost everyone was involved in the discussion at some point. Ideas about what was happening in the pieces varied widely and students backed up the assertions using visual clues in the artwork. I was interested in the diverse cultural interpretations that surfaced and how students collaborated to take their peers’ ideas further. Schlageck did an excellent job of fostering the conversation by moderating and echoing the students’ points without correcting or judging.

VTS logo

The program is being assessed and after the pilot sessions are completed, the district will use the data to make a decision about signing up for VTS. Pre and post session tests will be used to gauge the program’s outcome along with teachers’ observational notes. VTS has seen success in communities in California, Massachusetts, New York, and Washington, among others. For more information grab the December 11th copy of the Manhattan Mercury for their cover story entitled “Program teaches students to draw conclusions, back them up“. Learn more about Visual Thinking Strategies from the VTS website. For additional ways to participate in happenings with the Beach Museum, check their Participate webpage.


About amy de simone
Amy is an active volunteer, traveler and photographer. She is interested in art, libraries, museums and nonprofits. She holds an M.A. in Library & Information Studies and a B.A. in Italian Language & Literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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