Student Programs, 2019–2020

Student programs at the National Portrait Gallery bring students in contact with the men and women who have shaped our nation. 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.

For the 2019–20 academic year, the Portrait Gallery offers student programs Monday through Friday, from October 1, 2019, through May 29, 2020. Unless otherwise noted, all student programs are seventy-five minutes in length and are offered at 9:30 a.m., 11:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Special requests for dates and times outside of our regularly scheduled programs are considered on a case-by-case basis.

Explore! The Foundations of Portraiture


Introduce the youngest students to the world of portraiture through the Explore! The Foundations of Portraiture. This new program combines time in the galleries with a visit to the National Portrait Gallery Explore! Space, which allows students to engage in various hands-on activities that reinforce the concepts of portraiture. 

Note: The Explore! Program, which is fifty minutes in length, is only offered Monday through Thursday, at 9:30 a.m.

Child stacking wooden blocks that have faces on them

Portrait Detectives

Kindergarten-3rd grade

Become a Portrait Detective! Young students will search for and analyze clues in portraits to learn about some of the most historically significant Americans. Through discussions, sketching, and writing activities, participants will look closely at a wide range of portraits while comparing and contrasting works across the collection. If your classroom is studying specific individuals from American history, National Portrait Gallery staff can customize this program to include relevant figures. To schedule a program that is tailored to your class, please select “Custom Portrait Detectives” when completing the online registration form and indicate the portraits that you are interested in seeing by listing them in the dialogue box.

Painting of horses pulling carriages

Shaping America

Grades 4–8

Meet the politicians, reformers, inventors, authors, soldiers and others who shaped the course of American history from the colonial era to the end of the Civil War. Students will analyze portraits to learn about the diverse and significant contributions to American society made by individuals in the Portrait Gallery’s collection.

Native American man in a turban with a tablet

America’s Presidents

Grades 4–12

How has presidential portraiture changed since the days of George Washington? The National Portrait Gallery is proud to hold the only complete collection of presidential portraits outside of the White House. This program introduces students to the “America’s Presidents” exhibition and investigates the diverse ways in which presidents have been portrayed in portraiture over the past two centuries.

Man in a dark suit against a brown background

The Art of Portraiture

Grades 4–12

How do artists create portraits? Students will take a close look at modern and contemporary portraiture through the lens of artists’ decisions, paying particular attention to the different approaches that artists take to their subject matter and the different processes that they use in making their art.

*NEW:  If you would like your students to sketch during this program, please let us know when registering for The Art of Portraiture.

woman in a white dress against a blue background

Portrait Conversations

Grades 6–12

Travel through the Portrait Gallery’s broad and diverse collection! Students will compare and contrast visual elements in portraits across different historical eras, paying particular attention to differences in style and media and to the variety of historical contributions represented.

Painted portrait of Eunice Kennedy Shriver on beach with mentally disabled children

Voices of Social Justice

Grades 6–12

In Voices of Social Justice, students will learn about some of the major figures who struggled to obtain civil rights for disenfranchised or marginalized groups. They will listen to stories of social justice and analyze portraits of individuals who broke barriers——from key nineteenth-century reformers to modern leaders—and will likely be encouraged to consider how they, too, can become civically engaged.


Three African American men keeling and praying

Create Your Own

Grades Kindergarten-12

Can’t find what you are looking for? Don’t worry, we’ll be happy to customize a student program to meet your curriculum needs.  Please choose Custom on the student programs registration form and let us know what exhibitions and/or portraits you are interested in seeing, as well as any specific looking strategies you would like us to use.


woman in a red dress and hat