Skip to main content
Skip to navigation

Teachers, Museums Partner for Better Students

Mizzou researcher finds new way to capture students' attention toward art

Feb. 3, 2009

Story Contact:  Jeffrey Beeson, (573) 882-9144,

COLUMBIA, Mo. – With many school districts working to balance their budgets in tough economic times, school art programs can often be hit the hardest. This leaves teachers struggling for new ideas when supplies may be lacking. In a new publication, Kathy Unrath, assistant professor of art education at the University of Missouri, has found that partnerships between schools and museums create a new appreciation for art and opportunities for students and teachers.

“Partnering schools with museums allows students to experience the world of art beyond textbooks and expand the walls of their classrooms. In return, museums are laying the foundation for future visitors and patrons,” said Unrath, who teaches in the Department of Learning, Teaching and Curriculum in the MU College of Education. “The world we live in today has become so visual, that it is important to help students decode and understand their worlds. Having access to museums at an early age sets the tone for further exploration of one’s visual world by developing skills to interpret visual language.”

In her study, Unrath worked with schools and local museums to allow children to step outside their classrooms and view museums’ treasures. In addition, her art education students bring the art into the classroom in the form of children’s museums. The pre-service art education students use knowledge acquired from their museum study to make decisions about the design and construction for their own portable museums.

“Art education is more than creative production; art education allow students to view, respond and produce art that is intrinsically connected to the core curriculum in other subjects,” Unrath said. “We found that students need innovative ways to view, think about and discuss art. We want to prepare students to be successful citizens through enriched arts-focused curriculum.”

Unrath found the experience helps create an understanding of art that permits students to go beyond their immediate visual and emotional perception and encourages them to consider a work of art from multiple perspectives. Working with future art educators, Unrath challenges her new teachers to encourage students to look for meaning as well as the historical and cultural significance and the formal qualities of form, shape and color in each piece of art. 

“As our world changes and becomes more global, it is time for our art classrooms to change," Unrath said. “With smaller budgets and students being raised in a world of digital media, we can recapture the attention of students while at the same time using free local resources like art museums and galleries."

Unrath is the 2009 recipient of the National Art Education Association Western Region Higher Education Art Educator of the Year award. Her study, “Bringing Children to Art, Bringing Art to Children,” was published in the January 2009 issue of Art Education: The Journal of the National Art Education Association.