Featured Member: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: From med school to elementary school, connecting students with Mrs. Gardner's vision for the arts

Over the past two years, nearly 250 dental students have participated in an abridged program at the museum aimed at sharpening the future dentists’ observation skills in the clinical setting.

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Tobin K-8 School third graders draw around the Gardner Museum’s central courtyard. 

Michelle Grohe, the Gardner Museum’s Director of School and Teacher Programs, employs a discussion-based teaching method called Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) with the medical students—as well as students grade K-12—to help them think more critically about art. The method uses three simple questions to prompt students to make observations about particular works and then back them up with evidence: What’s going on in this picture? What do you see that makes you say that? What more can we find?

“The idea is that you’re using Visual Thinking Strategies and open ended group discussions with first-year medical students to build their observation and group communication skills, first with art, and then applying them in clinical settings,” Grohe explains. “We might go look at some textiles here and look at the different patterns that are made, or look at different paintings or sculptures with different surface textures or things of that nature. And then we go back to the medical school and a medical practitioner such as dermatologist, will show slides of close-ups of different skin conditions and wounds and basically talk the students through, What’s going on in this picture? What are some things you notice about what’s happening here?

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