Back to School at the Portrait Gallery

Backpacks. Lunchboxes. School supplies. Classroom setup. Back to school is an exciting time of year, especially at the National Portrait Gallery. It is the time when all of our preparation over the summer comes to fruition and we begin to welcome students and local teachers back into the museum.

Students in the galleries
Students in the galleries 

Teacher feedback is crucial to the success of both our student and teacher programs. Teachers evaluate teacher workshops and student programs directly after attendance, which allows us to tweak programs throughout the school year. As a final look at how the academic year went, teachers complete an end-of-year evaluation once they have had a chance to further reflect on their own and their students’ experiences. Each summer, Portrait Gallery education staff then make changes to existing student programs based on this feedback, and plan the upcoming year’s teacher workshops based on what teachers are most interested in.

We have a robust offering of teacher workshops this year, and the first one is only a few short weeks away! Here’s a taste of some the questions we’ll be exploring in our workshops: How can we use portraiture to explore the presence of absence? How did silhouettes democratize portraiture?  How can you use graphic novels to explore identity?

Learn more and register for a teacher workshop here.

Student program registration is officially open, and if you haven’t already registered for a program this year, now is your chance. Please note we have added a 12:30 p.m. time slot for student programs. Through analysis of the visual elements of portraiture, students explore biography, art, and the American experience. Each standards-based, themed gallery tour is facilitated by specially trained gallery educators and complements curricula in art, history, social studies, and language arts. If you don’t see exactly what you are looking for, choose “Custom” program, and let us know your goals and what you hope to see during your visit.

Can’t make it to the Portrait Gallery? Don’t worry. New to our Classroom Resources page are:

  • Portrait Spotlights highlight a variety of portraits from the collection. Each highlighted portrait includes information about the subject, the artist, observation and interpretation questions, and activity ideas.
  • Teacher Guides include self-guides (for in-gallery or in the classroom) as well as worksheets for all of our tried and true looking strategies!

We love hearing from teachers!  If we can help bring portraiture to your classroom, please email