Engaging Local Schools Through Cummer in the Classroom

Written by Marketing Intern Samantha Ahnen

Each year, the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens partners with under-served urban core elementary schools to promote its mission to engage and inspire through the arts, gardens, and education. Cummer in the Classroom provides PreK3 through 5th grade students with cultural experiences that fully integrate art, creativity, literacy, play, music, and parental involvement, and reflects the belief that the arts are an essential part of school readiness and success. Cummer in the Classroom is the largest educational program that the Museum offers. Students receive four to nine interactions per year, with either Museum staff visiting the school or students visiting the Museum.

Through the program, participating classes receive at least two field trips to the Museum. The first visit connects students’ grade level curriculum to the Museum’s collection. The second is focused on either a tour of the gardens or a special exhibition. Both of these options offer students an enriching experience. Touring the gardens teaches students about the environment, landscape design, and sculpture through hands-on activities and discussion, while touring the special exhibitions provides a unique experience for students, linking art from various times and cultures to the learning objectives already in place with the Cummer in the Classroom curriculum.

“Many of my students wouldn’t have the opportunity to visit the Museum without this partnership” – Denyse Cohen, Sallye B. Mathis Elementary School Teacher

In addition to field trips to the Cummer Museum, participating classes receive outreach visits from Museum Educators, which include language-building exercises, art projects using a variety of media, and appropriately chosen literary and musical components. All curricula used in these visits are developed by Museum Educators in alignment with the Next Generation Sunshine State standards, as well as Duval County S.T.E.A.M. standards (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math). Cummer in the Classroom helps students build critical thinking skills which are useful in all school subjects.

“We are very thankful to participate in this program. Our students feel as if the Cummer is THEIR museum. Students talked about visiting the Museum on weekends and how happy they were to take their entire family at no cost.” – Dinah Stewart, Central Riverside Elementary School Principal

The Cummer in the Classroom program also offers assistance to classrooms, schools, and teachers in the form of donation of art materials, lesson plans, and vocabulary lists. Principals, teachers, and administrators from all schools are also offered development workshops, education credits, and a stipend to further art education.

Additional resources are provided to students and families to enrich their experience and build a stronger community impact, including the ability to take free art classes, as well as access to scholarships that can be used towards Camp Cummer enrollment. All students are also gifted with a free Family Membership to the Museum, which gives Museum access to families who may otherwise not have it.

Cummer in the Classroom is highly beneficial not only to the Museum, but also to thousands of children and families throughout Duval County. The program has created a relationship with students that is sure to stay with them for years, as many students identify the Museum as “their museum”, a place outside of their home and school that connects them to their community. This initiative is helping to engage and inspire children from all backgrounds in the arts.