A Note from
the Executive Director
The Fall VTS Newsletter brings some recent developments at Visual Thinking Strategies headquarters, includ-
ing the debut of an exciting new website, and VTS news from Harvard to California. We would also like to share the stories of two 'real life' teachers using VTS in their classrooms, and pay tribute to Linda Pace, a longtime ally of VTS who recently passed.
We hope to hear from you soon. Have a safe and productive school year.
Greetings VTS Friends and Colleagues!
I met Abigail Housen in 1988 as a student at Massachusetts College of Art and have since contributed to the development and implementation of Visual Thinking Strategies.
As someone who has always loved images and words, I wanted to make art--both reflection on and discussion of--accessible to as many people as possible. As an educator, I wanted to make teaching genuinely learner-centered.
I ask that, as you are thinking about this upcoming holiday season, you consider giving the gift of VTS by supporting our programs.
Senior Research Associate, VTS
November 16, 2007
Seattle Art Museum
Professional Development Institutes
November 7-10, 2007
Session 1 of 3;
Session 1 of 3;
New York City
sponsored by the
Los Angeles County
Office of Education
New VTS Schools
Mary Silveira School
San Rafael, CA
Rosa Parks Elementary
El Verano School
The Presentation School*
*a gift from Kevin
& Rosemary McNeely.
Roosevelt High School
Harriet Tubman School
John L. Bernstein School
Roberto Clemente School
New York, NY
Isaac Pitkin School
Bronx Charter School
for Better Learning
The Amagansett School
Long Island, NY
West Orange, NJ
New VTS Website:
Video, FAQ & Research
Please take a few moments to view and explore our new website:
Seeing is truly believing, especially with VTS. Our new site features a video of VTS "in-action." The strengths of VTS can often be difficult to explain, but they are easily and instantly understood by watching students participate in a VTS discussion. Now, at VisualThinkingStrategies.org, you can watch a video of students taking
part in the Thinking Through Art program at the Isabella Stewart
Gardner Museum in Boston.
We hope that you will also use the website as a tool for building support and generating interest in VTS in your area. Send the link to fellow teachers, principals and parents.
|Training the Eye: VTS at Harvard
Despite a growing body of evidence of substantial inadequacy in physical examination skills among medical students, residents, and practicing physicians, the teaching of physical examination skills, a critical component of clinical diagnosis, has declined in medical education. This predicament is the backdrop for Training the Eye: Improving the Art of Physical Diagnosis, a 10-session elective course at Harvard Medical School that is focused on building visual diagnosis skills in first and second year medical students. The course is in its fourth year.
VTS continues to be the cornerstone methodology for Training The Eye because it uniquely develops visual literacy-in particular, observation and interpretation skills-- that can improve the accuracy, timeliness, and cost-effectiveness of a diagnostic evaluation. VTS further develops medical students' understanding of the meaning and process of diagnostic evaluation, its relationship to the physical exam, and how maintaining an open mind, suspending discomfort in ambiguity, and thinking flexibly are the critical abilities to avoid the common pitfalls of misdiagnosis. Through VTS discussions, students examine works of art, medical imagery and, in the final sessions, live patients to develop these skills and understandings. Students also complete intensive writing, drawing and reflection assignments.
Training the Eye is co-facilitated by Judy Murray and Alexa Miller at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, with faculty directors Joel T. Katz, MD, and Shahram Khoshbin, MD.
First Person VTS
Ed Malaret is a science teacher at Mary Silveira Elementary in Marin County, California who uses Visual Thinking Strategies in his classroom. "Through VTS, I've seen a strong connection between science and art," he said. Ed's first experience with VTS was with the Falkirk Cultural Center in San Rafael, in a program called "Learning to Look." "We wanted to bring more visual art into our classrooms," he said, "and we quickly saw that VTS was what we were looking for."
Ed confesses that he is more likely to be found at the ballpark than in an art museum. However, VTS gave him a renewed interest in the possibilities that visual art can provide. "I'm looking forward to seeing my students' progress after ten lessons," he said. "We have found so many opportunities to utilize VTS questions to develop discussions in both the science and the history curriculums."
He has just completed a Masters program in Education Administration at San Francisco State University and has his sights on expanding his leadership in education.
Despi Mayes is a teacher and art historian currently working in the New Media Department at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. She has been practicing VTS since 2005. "My students are loving it because they feel their opinion matters," she says. She has also used VTS with other groups, including an after-school program at the Boys & Girls Club. "I feel like learning VTS has definitely made me a better teacher regardless of the audience I am working with."
"I was a very inexperienced art viewer when I began college," Despi says, "museum going was just not part of my culture growing up." She later attended the Herron School of Art & Design, and at the IMA discovered Abigail Housen's aesthetic development research. "It certainly makes a difference for me as an educator to be able to make real connections between VTS and the path of my own education. Noting these behaviors Abigail described were definitely a part of my growth as an art history student."
VTS played a large role in writing for an IMA exhibition, "Nature Holds My Camera," which you can view online by clicking here. VTS has also transformed her classes. "It seems as though there is never a moment when the students don't have as much control over the content as I do, and that has really resulted in coursework they find more relevant."
New York --
Long Island --
- We received an Empire State Partnership grant to support a collaboration between VTS and PS 159, a small bi-lingual elementary school in the Bronx, and their existing partnership with DreamYard, an organization providing instruction in visual arts and poetry.
- VUE will be presenting at the New State Art Teachers Association November 15 and 16.
New Britain, Connecticut--
- Our first VTS school program in Long Island has begun at the Amagansett School.
- VTS received a New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) "Services to the Field" grant to provide VTS training to teachers on Long Island. We are working in partnership with the East Suffolk BOCES, the Nassau County Museum of Art and the Parrish Museum to bring these workshops to teachers and schools in the area.
New Jersey --
- The New Britain Museum of American Art has begun training their docent staff in using VTS with school groups. At our introductory workshop, the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction for the New Britain School, who has a pilot VTS program started in one of his districts schools, made a special appearance our first training to speak with the docents about their role supporting future VTS programs and students in the area. Thanks to a gift from Kay Cox, and John & Jasie Britton.
Northern California --
- Bill Westheimer, an artist who lives in West Orange NJ, has given the gift of supporting a pilot VTS program in his local school district. In conjunction with the Superintendent of West Orange Schools, the Redwood Elementary School has been selected for this initiative. We will be partnering with the Montclair Art Museum to provide the teacher training and to support the students' VTS visits to the museum.
- VTS is taking the wine country by storm. El Verano School in Sonoma, the Presentation School, and the Sonoma Valley Art Museum have all begun VTS programs.
- Liz Harvey is the new VTS program director in San Francisco, coordinating training for 6 new schools, bringing the total number of VTS schools in San Francisco to 25.
- The Los Angeles County Office of Education and VTS National are offering a VTS workshop to LA educators in February 2008 at the Huntington Library.
- In partnership with the Frye Museum, the Wyman Youth Trust has generously agreed to fund a three-year professional development program for Roxhill Elementary School in West Seattle starting this fall.
- A year-long VTS implementation at the University Child Development School, an independent school in Seattle, began this fall, also in partnership with the Frye Museum.
- We also started a year-long Educator VTS professional development program based at the Frye Museum. We have a great group of 27 K-12 teachers and educators, representing over 17 schools (public, catholic and independent schools) working with us this academic year to implement VTS in their classrooms.
- In September, we conducted workshops for the staff and docents at the Tacoma Art Museum.
- We helped conduct summer workshops for teachers as part of MoNA's (Museum of Northwest Art) MoNAlink teacher professional development Institutes.
- We continue to develop our relationship with the Portland Art Museum (PAM) and the Portland Public Schools in planning VTS programs.
Linda Pace: 1945-2007
Contemporary Artist and founder of San Antonio's Artpace, Linda Pace died of complications from breast cancer in July 2007.
Through Artpace, she managed to ignite interest in contemporary art in San Antonio, and across Texas. The center is well-known as one of the country's premier, and most beloved, artist-residency programs, hosting local, national and international artists three times a year.
Linda was a steady and strong advocate of VTS, providing office space and all related administrative support for our five-year research and implementation project. She was well-known for bridging, often in conversational contexts or through guided exhibitions, the space between artists and philanthropists, or anyone interested in contemporary art.
Linda will be deeply missed.
As Visual Thinking Strategies grows, so does our network of teachers, artists, museum educators and students. We have always known that VTS works best when bolstered by relationships between schools and art institutions, with ongoing support from the VTS National office.
If, at any time, you find yourself looking for new ideas or some simple guidance, please do not hesitate to ask.
Contact us at 212-253-9007, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The VTS Staff
Visual Understanding in Education