The arts can take you places!
The primary mission of the Education Department of the National Museum of African art is to strengthen global arts and humanities education by helping to increase understanding of our world's cultural and artistic traditions through the lens of Africa and its diasporas.
MENU: Location and Museum information | In the Museum | Galleries and Workshops | Plan a Field Trip | Special Programs | Classroom Resources | Teacher Resources | Online Resources
The 2013-2014 School programs calendar is available!
Location and Museum information
National Museum of African Art
950 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20560-0708
National Museum of African Art
P.O. Box 37012 MRC 0708
Washington, D.C. 20013-7012
Hours and Admission
10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily, closed December 25
202.633.0030 Museum Store
Buses may drop off and pick up groups on Independence Avenue or on Jefferson Drive between the Smithsonian Institution Building (known as the Castle) and the Arts and Industries Building. Due to limited parking, Metrorail is a good transportation option; take the Blue or Orange Line to the Smithsonian Station.
The museum is fully accessible. Parking for the disabled is available on Jefferson Drive near the Freer Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian Institution Building. Sign language, oral, and cued-speech interpreters are available by calling 202.633.4633 (voice) at least two weeks before your visit.
The museum does not have a restaurant or a place to store bag lunches. For information about food services at the Smithsonian Institution, inquire at the Information Desk or call 202.633.1000.
In the Museum
Warren Robbins Library
The Warren M. Robbins Library at NMAfA, founded in 1971, is the major resource center in the United States for the research and study of the visual arts of Africa. Its collection of more than 32,000 volumes covers all aspects of African visual arts, including sculpture, painting, printmaking, pottery, textiles, crafts, popular culture, photography, architecture, rock art, and archaeology, and on topics relating to African art, culture and history. It also has small collections of videos, posters, maps, and a significant collection of children's books, many with the Children's Africana Book Award emblem.
Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives
The Elliot Elisofon Photographic Archives houses the largest public archives devoted exclusively to visual materials on Africa. This unique collection of photographs and other visual material can be researched through digital directories such as the Smithsonian Institution Research Information System (SIRIS). Digital access and requests for reproductions provides educators an opportunity to enhance object-centered learning with cultural context, a vital resource tool to supplement educational programming and tours when facilitating dialog and meaning-making with the museum's many diverse audiences.
Galleries and Workshops
CONNECT the ARTS with SCIENCE!
Earth Matters: Land as Material and Metaphor in the Arts of Africa
Through February 23, 2014
b. 1974, Nigeria
De money series no. 1
Fuji crystal archival print
National Museum of African Art, museum purchase, 2011-16-1
Explore the fertile ground in Earth Matters where art and science take root! Earth Matters is comprised of more than 100 works of art from more than 25 of Africa's 55 nations and organized into six sections: Material Earth, Power of the Earth, Imagining the Underground, Strategies of the Surface, Art as Environmental Action, and Earth Works, three site-specific works installed in collaboration with Smithsonian Gardens.
What do art and science have in common? Artists and scientists are both keen observers of the world around them. Teachers can engage their students in understanding basic art and environmental science through the arts and meet objectives in both subject areas.
The Earth Matters family guide is available here
Join our Earth Matters online community
PICTURES, PEOPLES and PLACES
Africa Re-Viewed: The Photographic Legacy of Eliot Elisofon
November 21, 2013 - August 24, 2014
As a photographer for Life magazine, Eliot Elisofon traveled extensively throughout Africa where he photographed the continent's diverse peoples, animals, and natural environments between the1940s and 1970s.
Integrate photography into a range of arts and academic curricula. Help students engage with the medium of photography and gain knowledge and skills through portraiture and identity, landscape and place, and culture and history.
REFLECT on DEFINITIONS of the VISIONARY
Lines, Marks, and Drawings: Through the Lens of Roger Ballen
Through March, 2014
Grades: High school (intense images and language)
Banner, from the Asylum series
Archival pigment print
90 x 90 cm (35 3/8 x 35 3/8 in.)
Collection of the artist
Photo credit: Roger Ballen
Photographer Roger Ballen uses drawing and photography in surprising ways. Focus on ways that his creative methods have evolved from documentary style and narrative elements to raw graffiti-style drawing. Students interested in photography and themes that explore the complex human psyche will be intrigued by Ballen's work. The exhibition also includes a video collaboration for the song "I Fink U Freaky" with the South African rap group Die Antwoord.
EXPLORE WORLD ARTS and CULTURES
Walt Disney-Tishman African Art Collection Highlights
Through May 2014
Senufo artist, Côte d'Ivoire
Poro society mask
Late 19th to early 20 century
36 x 17.2 x 10.5 cm (14 3/16 x 6 3/4 x 4 1/8 in.)
Gift of Walt Disney World Co., a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company, 2005-6-50
Photo credit: Photograph by Franko Khoury
Focus on questions of history and different approaches to the human ideal by considering messages of power and status conveyed through form, expression, and material.
IMAGINE FORM and FUNCTION
African Mosaic: Selections from the Permanent Collection
Toussaint Louverture et la vieille esclave (Toussaint Louverture and the elderly slave)
b. 1935, Dakar, Senegal
Museum purchase, through exchange from Emil Eisenberg and Mr. and Mrs. Norman Robbins, and with funds from Stuart Bohart and Barbara Portman, 2009-8-1
Photo credit: Franko Khoury
Learn about design and the form and function of objects in the permanent collection by exploring the exhibition and drawing in the gallery with your students. Drawing materials available upon request.
Six activities for use in the classroom or at home, can be found at http://africa.si.edu/exhibits/africanvision/athome.html.
Plan a Field Trip
Programs are scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis.
You are not registered until you receive a confirmation of your request from the museum.
Pre-registration is required for all school programs. Please make reservations as far in advance of the requested date and time as possible. Our February programs are especially popular during Black History month. All school programs are FREE of charge.
To book a tour, contact Frank Esposito at 202.633.4633 or email For workshops, contact Deborah Stokes at 202.633.4632 or email or schedule a tour on the Museum's outreach page
One adult chaperone (over 21 years old) must accompany every 15 high school students and every 10 students in elementary through junior high school. Failure to provide sufficient chaperones or to maintain order may result in the group being asked to leave the museum.
Present your confirmation slip to the staff member at the Information Desk. It is your proof of a scheduled tour or workshop. Your guide will meet your group at the Information Desk.
If a group is late, the activity will be modified to fit within the program time. Due to the large number of program requests we receive during the school year, cancellations must be made one week prior by phone; call 202.633.4633.
If you need to cancel your program, please notify the museum as soon as possible. Cancellations must be made by phone no less than one week prior to your scheduled program; call 202.633.4633 or 202.633.4632.
Maximum 40 participants
Discover the National Museum of African Art with us! Bring your students to tour one of our exciting exhibitions and learn about the museum's unique architecture. We're underground! Examine objects and ideas through a variety of age-appropriate activities. Our guides use imaginative strategies to help students learn focused looking, and they tailor their tour to the needs of specific themes, grades, and ages. Touchable objects available upon request.
Please choose from our exhibitions , or for further information, visit our website to prepare for your class trip. Tours are scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis.
To schedule a tour, contact Frank Esposito at 202.633.4633 or email. Confirmation of your tour reservation, which serves as your official registration, will be emailed to you along with related educational materials.
November 2, 2013-May 24, 2014
Date by arrangement
10:30 a.m.-12 p.m.
Sounds of Africa
Maximum 25 participants
This engaging and interactive program introduces African culture through the distinct sounds, dynamic beats, and polyrhythms of African music and percussion instruments. Award-winning Ugandan musician and educator Daniel Ssuuna uses drums (long drum, main drum/rhythm, big drum/beat), cordophones (bow lyre), idiophones (xylophone, shekere), and the lamellophone (mbira/thumb piano) to demonstrate musical sounds, patterns, repetitions, and rhythms. Students participate in a group performance with a variety of musical instruments at the end of the program!
Stories that Move Us
Maximum 40 participants
Pre K-Middle School
Building community through rich tales, storyteller Diane Macklin animates tales from different regions of the African continent. This dynamic, interactive storytelling experience is seasoned with rhythm, sounds, and movement to ignite the imagination and take the listeners on an exciting journey.
A program designed especially for Head Start and Pre K is available upon request.
Africa Book Club
"I wanted to share with you how we used the Africa Book Club passports that you gave to our first graders. . . . [They] served as the foundation of a home-reading initiative. We had great success and we owe you a very big thank you for giving us the idea and the tools to get rolling!"
John Eaton Elementary School
Africa Book Club is designed to excite reading readiness while it underscores the contributions of diverse populations in an increasingly global world.
NEW! A book for every student
- printed "passports" for each student,
- stickers to be awarded upon completion of assigned goals,
- booklist, ideas for activities, and strategies for incorporating recommended books into classroom lesson plans, cross-disciplinary connections, and reading at home with family,
- storytelling podcasts (africa.si.edu/radio_africa/index.html), including The Leopard's Drum by Jessica Souhami (Francis Lincoln Ltd, 1995) as told by Johnnetta Betsch Cole
- Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti by Gerald McDermott (Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1972) as told by Diane Macklin.
The teacher of each classroom that successfully completes the ABC activities will receive books to distribute to students so they can start their own home library. A personalized bookplate for each child is included.
Studio Art Workshops
10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Maximum 30 participants
Studio art workshops inspired by museum exhibitions and customized for school curricula are available to school groups during the week. Workshops introduce students to the historical origin and social significance of themes, including:
Woven Treasures: Explore the textile arts and cultures of Africa
Asante Adinkra Stamped Cloth, Ghana
Fon Story Cloth, Republic of Benin
Yoruba Indigo-dyed Adire, Nigeria
Kuba Grass Cloth, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Asante Kente Weaving, Ghana
Senufo Korhogo Cloth, Côte d'Ivoire
To request a workshop, contact Deborah Stokes at 202.633.4632 or email.
- The Art of African Masquerade
- Ndebele Dolls of South Africa
- Beadwork of Africa
- Earth Matters: Hand built pottery
Come Draw with Us!
Back by popular demand!
Date and time by arrangement
Maximum 25 participants
Middle School-High School
Draw inspiration from original works of art! Students sit in front of original works of art in the museum's galleries and explore line, form, and texture. They are encouraged to experiment with individual drawing styles and approaches. All materials are supplied.
To request a morning or afternoon session, contact Deborah Stokes at 202.633.4632 or email StokesD@si.edu.
Workshops by Request
Are you interested in scheduling a workshop for your active K-sixth graders or group from home school? We can design a program to support your specific teaching needs. Contact Deborah Stokes at 202.633.4632 or email.
Experience an innovative way to visit the museum without leaving your classroom! Using videoconferencing technology, elementary through high school students can enjoy an interactive program designed to cover core curriculum requirements.
To learn more and schedule a tour, visit the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (CILC) and click on Content Provider Programs. The National Museum of African Art is listed in the drop down menu. To schedule a videoconference, you must join CILC. Tour descriptions and pre- and post-lessons are available on the CILC website. For more information about the program, email Deborah Stokes.
It always helps the students learn when they have a different voice teaching them. The interactivity of the videoconference kept them totally attentive. . . . The program corresponded perfectly with what our 6th grade is studying. I was so happy to find this program. The fact that it was free made it possible. Thank you so much for such a wonderful, valuable program!
Pennwood Middle School
Teaching materials and resources, offered for many of the museum's major exhibitions, are designed to broaden and deepen both teacher and student engagement with the arts. Intended for use by K-12 teachers, these resources emphasize students' active exploration of selected cultures and encourage ongoing dialogues about the meaning of art in their lives.
Teaching materials and resources are available online. Consult with the museum's staff about ways to include African art in your curriculum. Contact Deborah Stokes at 202.633.4632 or email.
Objects in Your Classroom
Learn how our Education Teaching Collection can be part of your classroom. Our one-of-a-kind lending library of objects provides unique hands-on experiences. Contact Deborah Stokes at 202.633.4632 or email.
Outreach into Your Classroom
Date and time by arrangement
One class only per program
Museum representatives travel to classrooms, where they introduce students to a variety of African arts (e.g., masks, dress, textiles) or focus on a single African country, such as Mali, Ghana, or Nigeria. Students have a hands-on opportunity to handle objects from the museum's teaching collection.
Please submit your request at least one month in advance. The program site must be within twenty miles of the museum. Contact Frank Esposito at 202.633.4633 or email him for further detail and schedule.
Minimum 10 participants
Maximum 25 participants
The National Museum of African Art offers a variety of teacher workshops that can be customized to meet staff development needs and schedules. All workshops can be adapted for local curricula. Workshops include an introduction to African art, hands-on activities, content experts, and lesson plans.
The participating organization is responsible for organizing and registering teachers. To discuss your staff development needs, contact Deborah Stokes at 202.633.4632 or email her.
Warren M. Robbins Library
The museum library has more than 40,000 books on African art, history, and culture as well as children's literature, curriculum materials, and videos. The online catalogue is available at www.siris.si.edu. The library is open by appointment only; call 202.633.4680.
Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives
The photographic archives is a research and reference center with over 300,000 still photographic images documenting the arts, peoples, and history of Africa over the past 120 years. An online catalogue is available at http://sirismm.si.edu/siris/eepatop.htm. The archives is open by appointment only; call 202.633.4690
Visit our Museum Store!
Our museum store has award-winning children's books, musical instruments, and other teaching aides to enhance learning in your classroom.
Did You Know?
The National Museum of African Art is 96 percent underground!
EXPLORE the Smithsonian Institution Building (known as the Castle), the architecture of the Quadrangle, and the Enid A. Haupt Garden as part of your field trip experience!
LEARN about the Quad complex that also includes the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the S. Dillon Ripley Center, and the Haupt Garden, which serves as the “roof” of the African and Asian art museums. The Quadrangle was designed by architect Jean-Paul Carlhian of the firm Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson, and Abbott.
DISCOVER other activities on the NMAfA web site.
There's a medieval horseman on the National Mall!
Learn more about this ancient work from Mali and other curriculum resources developed for use in the classroom at africa.si.edu/exhibits/resources.html.
DVD and videotapes in VHS format are available for loans of up to three weeks throughout the year. Please allow two weeks for delivery and limit your request to two items. You are responsible for paying the return postage. A list of titles is available online here.
For information and to request a video, contact Frank Esposito at 202.633.4633 or email him.
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