Celebrating 10 Years of Visual Education
The Visual Education Program at Nightingale began ten years ago with a broad vision and idea that art, critical thinking, and visual literacy are inextricably tied to excellence in education. What began with a generous donor, a supportive administration, and a small number of committed teachers has grown into a completely integrated curricular initiative.
Defining Visual Education
Visual Education is a multidisciplinary approach to teaching and education that incorporates art objects and images to enrich the K–12 curricula. Nightingale utilizes New York City’s rich museum resources as an important part of students’ learning experiences. By integrating images into their classroom lessons, Nightingale educators have developed a unique teaching method that simultaneously nurtures and challenges students through image-based curricula and museum work. From its beginning in 2001, the program has sought to develop students’ visual literacy and to create an awareness of art and objects as valuable tools for learning. Although the goals of the program have remained constant during the last ten years, Visual Education has expanded and changed to suit the needs of Nightingale’s faculty, staff, and students.
A Classroom without Walls
The Visual Education Program exposes students to the diversity of the world through the lens of New York City’s various museums. This experience allows Nightingale students to become lifelong learners and museum-goers. Nightingale students visit a wide range of cultural institutions during their tenure at the school. More than 550 students participate in the Visual Education Program every year. The objects and institutions that the faculty purposefully selects represent various cultures, time periods, media, and subject matter. They conduct repeat visits to museums and build long-term student-teacher relationships with cultural institutions. In addition, these organizations collaborate with Nightingale to provide guided visits, research resources, internships, and professional development opportunities.
Through the Visual Education Program, Nightingale has established formal partnerships with local museums including the Rubin Museum of Art, the Frick Collection, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. In the last three years, the Modern Languages department has looked to engage students in museum visits that are conducted in foreign languages. The Frick Collection has responded to this request by providing tours led by native speakers. Without question, these museum programs that have been initiated by Visual Education have enhanced the students’ sense of an emerging global community.
In 2001, there were less than four faculty members involved in the Visual Education Program. In 2011, more than half the faculty is actively involved in teaching image-based lessons and planning museum visits. The faculty feels ownership of the lessons and trips they have created and thus remains committed to the long-term success of the program. All of the museum work and classroom lessons are notable achievements. However, this program is constantly looking for new ways to serve the Nightingale community. One of the primary goals at this time is to implement more curricular connections between art, math, and science.
The Visual Education Program directly supports global awareness, diversity, and communication skills—attributes required of all successful Nightingale students. Visual Education helps students to develop a cultural context for all of their learning. By presenting objects and images from many cultures, time periods, and materials, the program cultivates greater awareness and respect for differences in culture, ideology, politics, and experience. The structure promotes analytical, observational, verbal, written, and auditory skills. Both classroom and museum-based lessons promote group work, discussions, visual processing, observational analysis, and creative writing.
The Visual Education Program at Nightingale-Bamford represents an exceptional asset to the educational community. Our students develop a lifelong appreciation for artistic forms and cultural expression. The program nurtures a deeper understanding of our world. Visual Education is unique in its ability to adapt to the changing needs of the Nightingale community. The interests and curricular goals of the faculty drive this program; their work is the Visual Education Program. As a result of this personal investment and the seamless integration of Visual Education into the academic fabric of the school, the future of this program is infinite.
For more information on the Visual Education Program, please contact April Tonin at firstname.lastname@example.org.