Viewfinders: A School to Museum Program
The Viewfinders Program is a school partnership program active in many elementary schools throughout the city of Indianapolis. Through Viewfinders, the IMA trains classroom teachers to utilize Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS), a teaching technique that gives students the opportunity to share their ideas, build new perspectives, and learn to disagree respectfully – all while looking at and talking about works of art.
The Viewfinders Program uses VTS because it is a research-based teaching method that has been shown to improve the critical thinking and language skills of students who consistently participate in these open-ended discussions. Though the discussion is about a work of art, the skills that students develop as they make observations and support their ideas with evidence are relevant in all subject areas. VTS can be easy to learn and offers teachers a proven strategy to meet the current demands of the classroom. Find out more about Visual Thinking Strategies.
The Viewfinders Program provides teachers with professional development throughout the school year with workshops and in-class coaching. Teachers facilitate a number of VTS lessons with students using carefully selected artworks. These lessons help students develop their looking, thinking, and communication skills while exposing them to a wide variety of artworks. The final component of the program provides students the opportunity to visit the IMA in the spring to exercise their new skills in front of real works of art. At the end of the school year, participating students receive free family memberships to the IMA with the hope that they will share their new skills with friends and family.
The Viewfinders Program meets many existing Indiana Academic Standards. Check back soon for more information about Viewfinders and the Common Core State Standards.
For more information about the Viewfinders program, contact the Coordinator of School Collaborations.
The spring field trip visit to the IMA is the capstone experience for the Viewfinders Program. These specially designed field trips offer students the opportunity to visit the museum as a class and practice VTS in front of real works of art. Separate field trip experiences are designed for each grade level since some students may visit year after year. Find your grade level below for more information about your field trip.
Please note that all field trip requests must be bade no less than three weeks in advance, and all requests must be submitted through our online school tour request form. Field trips can be scheduled beginning at 10 am Tuesday through Thursday, and 11 am on Fridays.
GRADE 1: ART BASICS (45 minutes) The Art Basics tour exposes students to a wide variety of artworks and art concepts. In addition to practicing their VTS skills, students may also be asked to think about how artists use different techniques to communicate their ideas.
GRADE 2: FOCUS ON FACES (45 minutes) The Focus on Faces tour highlights the ways in which artists represent faces in a variety of art forms (portraits, sculpture, masks, etc.). In addition to practicing their VTS skills, students may also analyze how faces are used to show emotions, tell stories, and illustrate different ideas.
GRADE 3: VIEWFINDERS YEAR 1 (90 minutes) During the Viewfinders Year 1 tour students will spend half of their time touring the galleries and having VTS discussions. The other half of the field trip visit is dedicated to making artwork in the IMA’s studio classrooms. Students experiment with new materials as they complete a souvenir artwork in the form of a Watercolor Postcard.
GRADE 4: VIEWFINDERS YEAR 2 (90 minutes) During the Viewfinders Year 2 tour students will spend half of their time touring the galleries and having VTS discussions. The other half of the field trip visit is dedicated to making artwork in the IMA’s studio classrooms. Students explore the possibilities of paper as they complete a 2-dimensional Paper Place.
GRADE 5: VIEWFINDERS YEAR 3 (90 minutes) During the Viewfinders Year 3 tour students will spend half of their time touring the galleries and having VTS discussions. The other half of the field trip visit is dedicated to making artwork in the IMA’s studio classrooms. Students think about how things change as they illustrate and compose a Transition Book
The IMA is grateful to the teachers, parents and other adults who take the time to join their children and students in their Viewfinders field trip experience. We value your time, and we believe that you can play a key role in making your child’s visit more enjoyable and educational.
The focus of the Viewfinders field trip is on the students and their abilities to look at and talk about the art they see. They have been working with their teachers and have had several discussions using a method called Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS). VTS allows students to build critical thinking, observation and communication skills through careful looking and thoughtful conversation. The students have been working hard with their teachers throughout the school year and are at the museum to practice their thinking and looking skills in front of real works of art. Please allow only students to participate in these docent led discussions. Read more about chaperone guidelines for field trip visits: