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Teacher Resources

Learning through the arts reinforces critical academic skills . . . and provides students with the skills to creatively solve problems.
– First Lady Michelle Obama, May 2009

School Programs

The National Museum of African Art is pleased to offer another year of exciting educational programs and learning opportunities for school groups.

Curriculum Resource Guide

Alma Woodsey Thomas 1891–1978, United States A Fantastic Sunset (detail) 1970 Acrylic on canvas 120.8 x 120 cm (47 1/2 x 47 1/4 in.) Collection of Camille O. and William H. Cosby Jr.

Alma Woodsey Thomas
1891–1978, United States
A Fantastic Sunset (detail)
Acrylic on canvas
120.8 x 120 cm (47 1/2 x 47 1/4 in.)
Collection of Camille O. and William H. Cosby Jr.

This curriculum resource guide is designed to accompany the exhibition:

CONVERSATIONS: African and African American Artworks in Dialog from the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art and the Camille O. and William H. Cosby Collections


Visit the Conversations web site.

The units are designed around six themes in the exhibition developed for the purpose of teaching for content and at the same time encouraging self-expression. These classroom activities can be modified to align with Common Core and/or state’s SOLs.  They can also be customized to integrate art with cross-disciplinary units in Language Arts, Social Studies, Arts, History and Culture.

Download Pre K-K | Download Grades 1-4 | Download Grades 5-8

Stories can take us places!

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

Let'sRead“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, Washington, D.C.

Africa Book Club is designed to excite reading readiness while it underscores the contributions of diverse populations in an increasingly global world.

Materials include

  • 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 (, including The Leopard’s Drum by Jessica Souhami (Francis Lincoln Ltd, 1995) as told by Johnnetta Betsch Cole and
    Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti by Gerald McDermott (Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1972) as told by Diane Macklin.

NEW! A book for every student

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.

Sounds of Africa


This engaging and interactive pro- gram 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), cordo- phones (bow lyre), idiophones (xylophone, shekere), and the lamel- lophone (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!

Visual Arts
Studio Art Workshops

10:30 A.M. AND 1:30 P.M.

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

Choose one:

  • Asante Adinkra Stamped Cloth, Ghana
  • Fon Story Cloth, Republic of Benin
  • Senufo Korhogo Cloth, Côte d’Ivoire
  • African Pottery
  • The Art of African Masquerade
  • Ndebele Dolls of South Africa
  • Beadwork of Africa
To request a workshop email Vanessa Jones at or call her at 202.633.4641.

Professional Teacher Development

Teacher DevelopmentMinimum 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, email Vanessa Jones at or call her at 202.633.4641.

Warren Robbins Library

libraryThe 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.

Smithsonian Institution Research Information System

Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives

archivesThe 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.

Selections from the Elliot Elisofon Photographic Archives

Museum Store

storeOpen 10 a.m.-5:15 p.m.

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.