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Virginia Declaration of Learning Connects Classrooms with Historic Art and Artifacts

RICHMOND — Secretary of Education Atif Qarni and Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane announced today that applications are now being accepted for the first year of the Virginia Declaration of Learning, a yearlong professional development program that provides selected teachers with digital access to the collections of several of the state’s and nation’s most prestigious museums and historical sites.

The U.S. Department of State coordinates the program, in partnership with George Washington’s Mount Vernon, the American Civil War Museum, the Chrysler Museum of Art and the Virginia Museum of History and Culture. Participating teachers will incorporate art and historical objects from these institutions — including the State Department’s Diplomatic Reception Rooms — into lesson plans that promote civic engagement.

“As a middle school history teacher, I saw how interacting with art and historical objects can inspire wonder, understanding and enthusiasm for learning among students,” Qarni said. “I thank the State Department, Mount Vernon, the American Civil War Museum, the Chrysler Museum and the Virginia Museum of History and Culture for creating the Virginia Declaration of Learning program so more of our students and teachers can share these experiences.”

Participation is open to public and private school teachers in grades 4-12 in the following subjects and specialty areas: fine and performing arts, history and social science, English language arts, gifted and talented, English language learner education, and special education. The program also is open to school librarians.

“This is an exciting opportunity for teachers to deepen their content knowledge and learn how to connect students with art, artifacts and resources that bring the past to life and encourage deeper learning and critical thinking,” Lane said. “I thank the State Department and its Virginia Declaration of Learning partners for creating this program and sharing their expertise and collections with our teachers and students.”

The deadline for teachers to apply is Thursday, February 23. The application form is available on the Virginia Declaration of Learning website, which also includes additional details about the program. A panel comprising representatives of the five partner institutions will review the applications and select 30-40 teachers for the inaugural Virginia Declaration of Learning cohort. Selected applicants will be notified by April 8.

The Virginia Declaration of Learning program will begin with a week of professional development August 10-14 at Mount Vernon. Participants will work with historians and curators to develop instructional units and lesson plans incorporating objects, art and primary sources from the museum collections.

Units and lesson plans will support student-led, teacher-directed civic engagement projects that address a community, state, national or global issue. The week will also include site visits, inquiry-based learning activities and mentoring.

The State Department launched the first Declaration of Learning program in 2015 in partnership with the Arkansas Department of Education, the Clinton Foundation, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the William J. Clinton Presidential Library. Virginia and Washington, D.C. were selected last year for the first expansion of the program.

For more information and to submit an application, please visit this site.

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