Distanced Learning with the Brooks

At a time when technology is invading every aspect of modern life, educators in cultural institutions are being asked an important question: How can we use technology to craft effective and meaningful experiences that inspire present and future museum audiences?

Now, more than ever, Brooks’ education team remains committed to providing learning opportunities that allow individuals of every age to discover, create, and share content related to the museum’s collection of artwork and special exhibitions – whether in-person or online. As stay-at-home orders were first introduced in March of this year, the education team began brainstorming ways that we could modify our usual events and programs to meet the changing needs of the community. Rather than mourning the things we knew we wouldn’t be able to do over the coming months — the crowded Community Days, the groups of 60 school children walking through the doors, the busy Homeschool Days — we decided to embrace the change and continue the kind of thinking that has always motivated our work: reinvention.  


Distance learning is a way of communicating knowledge in which educators and learners are separated by distance, time, or even both.


Without a doubt, distance learning has offered benefits and challenges. Though virtual learning experiences cannot replace the value of in-person visits to cultural institutions, we’ve found that they can preserve energy and time. Distance learning alternatives allow members of the community to engage with Brooks’ collection at their own pace and at any time that fits their hectic personal schedules, lowering anxiety and stress. Another benefit of distance learning is the opportunity to reach audiences that may never have had the opportunity to visit the Brooks before due to budget, distance, or physical limitations. For those learning from a distance, a series of virtual programs can build deep connections to the museum with multiple points of connection.


For many museums, virtual visits and online resources are new territory with best practices being developed in real time. As a result, we’ve connected with other educators in the cultural space to share strategies, ideas, and lessons. Here are a few tips and tricks that Brooks’ education team has found helpful over the past months while diving into distance learning. 1) Flexibility. Practicing flexibility requires a willingness to try something new, and if it doesn’t work then try something different. 2) Engagement. Hooking the learner is key for any virtual platform. Every workshop, tour, and program that we produce has a ‘hook’ and for learners right now in the virtual realm this is extra relevant because they aren’t physically in the galleries. 3) Activate. Get learners moving in the space they’re in. Have them look around their home environment to find something of a similar shape or ask them to pose like figures in a work of art. 4) Think creatively. A challenge that museums and cultural organizations often face is long, rigid workflows and drawn out timelines, meaning creative projects can take months or years to execute. Right now, as information and restrictions related to COVID-19 can change minute-by-minute, organizations are learning to adapt more quickly. We’ve found it crucial to simplify procedures and encourage thinking outside the traditional manner. It is small, experimental ideas that lead to big results. 5) Practice and planning. By their very nature, virtual learning environments and platforms are subject to technical issues, such as security, network, and bandwidth glitches. Technical problems are one of the main obstacles for virtual sessions including compatibility issues with operating systems, browsers or equipment. Make sure you’re aware of the types of issues your virtual training platform is most likely to experience so that you can prevent them from happening or if they do happen, how to quickly react to them.

We hope you’ll take advantage of some (or all!) of the distance learning opportunities offered by the education team this fall.
  • Lesson plans for our permanent collection tours continue to be available to download on our website ( as a resource for educators and families. These lesson plans compile information and resources that educators would otherwise have to gather independently to provide arts integration curriculum for their students.
  • VIRTUAL Homeschool Days

September 10, October 8 & November 12, 2020

Though we will miss seeing your family in-person at the museum for Homeschool Days, we are excited to introduce VIRTUAL Homeschool Days that can be enjoyed from home. Register online to receive FREE lesson plans for grades 1-12 delivered to your email inbox on each event date. Lesson plan activities are inspired by artwork in Brooks' collection and special exhibitions, include TN State learning standards by grade level, and encourage students to build connections between visual art, language arts, social studies, and science among other disciplines. Follow @BrooksMuseum on Instagram and check out our archived Stories to enjoy a special art-making activity led by teaching artist Molly Kennedy on each event date.

Register today:

  • Dia de los Muertos REVERSE Parade & Festival in Overton Park

Saturday October 24, 2020, 12PM-4PM

Save the date for this year's Dia de los Muertos celebration, an annual event in partnership with Cazateatro Bilingual Theatre Group that invites families to honor ancestors while celebrating the cycle of life and death. Plans are underway for a dynamic and socially-distanced event featuring parked floats in Overton Park, performances, and several take-home art-making kits – all of which can be enjoyed within the safety of a vehicle! Starting Saturday, October 10 take home your free art-making kit before the event. Register to pick up your art kits in advance here:

  • In-Person and VIRTUAL Figure Drawing

Wednesday October 7, 2020, 5:30PM – 7:30PM

Join us for the next session of our popular Figure Drawing program. We are offering two options for this class: 1) a small, socially-distanced group session in the museum’s outdoor Holly Court OR 2) a virtual session on Zoom. Both options require pre-registration and are offered on a “Pay-What-You-Can” basis. All ranges of drawing experience are welcome,

IN PERSON Pre-Registration:

  • VIRTUAL Art Therapy Access Program

We are excited to grow our art therapy partnership with Juvenile Intervention and Faith-Based Follow-up (JIFF) by providing online art-making sessions led by registered art therapist Paige Scheinberg. These virtual art therapy sessions use art and the creative process to assist participants in exploring feelings, fostering self-awareness, and increasing self-esteem.

  • VIRTUAL Group Visits               

Like school teachers in the classroom, museum educators have been asked to quickly adapt to teaching lessons virtually that would normally be taught in-person. Mary Webster, School Programs Coordinate, has fully embraced her new role as a virtual educator by offering 40minute live sessions via Zoom and Microsoft Teams which highlight artwork on view at the Brooks for groups of any age. Virtual visits must be booked a minimum of two weeks in advance and require at least 10 participants. In addition to virtual visits, Mary has also worked diligently to take Teacher Workshops and the Art Builds Creativity program for 4th graders online this fall.

During such challenging times we are particularly grateful for the support of sponsors and community members that allows us to continue offering the majority of our education programs free of charge. We cannot wait to continue connecting and growing with you this fall… even at a distance.

Until next time,

Kate Renner
Associate Director of Education