Student Programs for 2023-2024

Student programs at the National Portrait Gallery bring students from Pre-K through college/university level in contact with individuals 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 2023-24 academic year, the Portrait Gallery will offer in-person and virtual student programs Monday through Friday from October 2, 2023, through May 24, 2024.

All in-person student programs are seventy-five minutes in length and are offered at 9:30 a.m., 11:00 a.m. and 12:45 p.m.

Virtual student programs are thirty, forty-five, or sixty minutes in length and are offered between 11:00am (EST) and 4:00pm (EST). There is a maximum of 50 students connecting remotely or one classroom- in school connection per scheduled student program.

For all student programs, virtual or in-person, special requests for dates and times outside of our regularly scheduled programs are considered on a case-by-case basis.

Schedule Your Class

Please use our online registration form for all school programs.

Before You Visit

Portrait Detectives

Pre-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

Exploring Identity through Portraiture

Grades 4-12, college/university level

By analyzing a variety of contemporary portraits, including self-portraits, students will investigate how the artists tell the sitters’ stories, paying careful attention to how the artists’ choices reveal some—but perhaps not all—aspects of the sitters’ identity. Using the National Portrait Gallery’s collection as a gateway, students will recognize portraiture as a vibrant means through which they can investigate, explore, and represent their own identities and make meaning of what is important to them.


Native American man wrapped in an American flag

Visualizing Democracy

Grades 4-12, college/university level

Students will visualize democracy from the colonial era to the 21st century by analyzing portraits of major figures who played a critical role—as government officials, engaged citizens, or both—in creating a democratic society for the United States. Students will investigate how portraiture can convey democratic ideals and how, as a cultural institution housed in a historic building, the National Portrait Gallery has been and continues to be relevant to American democracy.


Older woman in a brown high-necked dress

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, college/university level

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, college/university level

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 4-12, college/university level

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 4-12, college/university level

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. ​Accompanying the program is a post visit lesson plan and additional ideas for activities that allow the discussions to continue back in the classroom.

>> Voices of Social Justice post-visit lesson plan


Three African American men keeling and praying

Portraiture and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math)

Grades 4-12, college/university level

Spark your students’ curiosity, powers of observation, and inquiry skills in a program that uses portraiture as a springboard to discuss STEAM concepts. As they analyze portraits, students will discover the sitters’ stories and recognize their contributions to the various STEAM fields. There will be opportunities to examine a broad range of STEAM topics in order to forge connections with classroom learning.


man standing in a laboratory

Visual-EYES-ing a Portrait of a Graduate*

Grades 4–8

Students will investigate how prominent figures in the United States have used communication, collaboration, resilience, creativity, and global citizenship to make significant contributions to U.S. history and culture. During their visit, they will engage in communication, collaboration, and critical thinking while reflecting on portraiture. The program strives to inspire, connect, and provide relevance to each student as they work to become a successful “Portrait of a Graduate.”

*This program is aligned with Fairfax County Public School 6th grade standards and curriculum.


white haired man in the jungle


Portraiture and Social Emotional Learning (SEL)

 Grades 4-12, college/university level  | *New program

Approach portraiture with a social and emotional lens.  Consider how reading portraiture can lend itself to exploring social emotional qualities such as self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.


Young Latinx woman in a red dress

Create Your Own

Grades Kindergarten-12, college/university level

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