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The Detroit Institute of Arts, a leader in education, has made a lasting impact on students and teachers at Birmingham Public Schools. Having worked with the DIA for 17 years as a curriculum coordinator, I wanted to share my experience.

You may not know the DIA hosts free professional development workshops for teachers in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties throughout the year. At Birmingham Public Schools, many of our teachers have participated in Visual Thinking Strategies Training, a research-based method that uses art to facilitate open-ended discussions.

Over the years, many Birmingham teachers have incorporated Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) into their classrooms after completing this invaluable training at the DIA. From language arts to social studies to mathematics, I have seen firsthand how incorporating art and visual thinking strategies can help kids develop critical thinking skills and improve their verbal and written communications skills.

Many Birmingham teachers have participated in immersive workshops at the DIA to learn how to apply VTS to their classrooms by practicing the strategy in the museum’s world-renowned galleries. It is a powerful learning experience for our teachers.

Trained Birmingham teachers use these visual strategies in their classrooms, incorporating the concepts into lessons and day-to-day activities. Many teachers also bring students to the DIA for field trips.

As an education leader, the museum offers free field trips and free bus transportation to thousands of tri-county students each year – which helps kids discover art, culture and history they can’t experience anywhere else.

In my experience, using VTS through the lens of the DIA’s one-of-a-kind collection has allowed our K-12 students to gain unprecedented exposure to culture and history, and become more confident in developing evidence-based verbal and written arguments.

Students who participate in VTS improve their critical thinking, speaking and writing skills because it builds their vocabulary and stimulates thinking. It also promotes active listening and supports student-to-student discourse. These valuable skills can help prepare students to thrive in BPS classrooms, higher education and future careers.

Last year, over 1,100 tri-county teachers participated in free professional development programs offered by the DIA. As a dedicated education partner, the DIA’s programs are crafted by people who understand teaching and learning.

VTS is immensely powerful and the DIA’s programs have left a lasting impact on our students, teachers and the academic experience at Birmingham Public Schools.

Bill Pugh is curriculum coordinator at Birmingham Public Schools.

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