This immersive teacher professional development program seeks to bring arts and humanities subjects to life and shares the importance of civic engagement through object-based learning.
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Application Deadline

February 23, 2020

This program is exclusively for educators in the state of Virginia who work in 4-12th grade art, social studies, language arts, gifted & talented, special education, and ESL / ELL classrooms as well as those who teach as school librarians and media specialists. As a participant, you will gain access to historic art, objects, and resources from George Washington’s Mount Vernon, the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Reception Rooms, the American Civil War Museum, the Chrysler Museum of Art, and the Virginia Museum of History and Culture.

VDOL begins with a five-day summer professional development training (August 10 - 14, 2020) where participants work with representatives from the partner organizations to develop innovative units and lesson plans incorporating objects, art, and primary sources from the partner museum collections. The unit and lesson plans will be tied to a student-led, teacher-directed civic engagement project that addresses an issue in their community, state, nation, or the world. The professional development program will also feature special site visits, inquiry-based learning activities, and mentoring from former program participants.

Throughout the following school year, teachers will test and refine their unit and daily lesson plans and execute the civic engagement project. There will be a culminating celebration event in the summer of 2021.

In order to attend, you must apply as space is limited. Applications open on January 21, 2020, and close February 23, 2020, at 11:59 PM EST.

For more information, see our Frequently Asked Questions below or email Tess Duncan at

Frequently Asked Questions


How do I attend the Virginia Declaration of Learning program?
Participants are selected through an application review process. To apply, you must complete an online application that details how this program will enhance your teaching.

When is the application deadline?
For 2020, applications will open on January 21, 2020 12:00 am EST and close February 23, 2020 at 11:59 pm EST. Late or incomplete entries will not be considered.

Who is eligible to apply? Do I have to be a history teacher?
This local program is open to Virginia 4th-12th grade teachers of social studies/history, English language arts, any fine/performing arts, and library/media specialists. Gifted & talented, special education, and ESL/ELL educators will also be considered. There are no limitations based on school type (i.e. public, private, or charter).

Can multiple teachers from the same school apply?
Yes, teachers from the same school can apply to the program; however, educators applying from the same school will be assessed on their individual merit and not as a team.

How are participants selected? How many spaces are available each session?
The 2020 VDOL program has space for approximately 30-40 participants. Each applicant is individually assessed by a review panel composed of partner organization representatives using a rubric that looks at teaching methods, growth mindset, civic engagement interest, writing, and diversity of content areas represented in the cohort (mix between social studies, language arts, art, ESL / ELL, SpEd, GT, and librarians).

When will I be notified if I have or have not been accepted?
The 2020 application period closes February 23rd at 11:59 PM, and we need time to properly review all applications. Applicants will be notified of their selection by April 8, 2020.

All accepted applicants must confirm their spot and agree to the participant responsibilities within the time indicated on their acceptance email (typically 3-5 days).

I am on the waitlist. How will I know if a spot becomes available?
Applicants put on the waitlist will be informed individually via email. There is no set time frame – we fill spots from our waitlist as they open and until the session is at max capacity.

Costs and Accommodations

Is there a fee to attend the Virginia Declaration of Learning program?
There are no payments or fees to participate. In fact, you will earn a stipend for your participation and work building a unit, accompanying lesson plans, and leading a civic engagement project.

What expenses does the program cover (meals, travel, lodging)?
● Meals: We provide breakfast and lunch Monday to Friday for the summer PD. A welcome dinner will be provided on Monday night as well.
● Travel: We do not cover travel costs. Each individual participant must make their own arrangements to get to and from Mount Vernon.
● Lodging: Hotel lodging will be provided for all accepted applicants. Participants will share rooms, two (2) to a room.

Are there stipends available?
Yes, dependent on full PD attendance, participation, creations of unit plans and civic engagement project, and meeting programmatic deadlines – every participant will receive a $500 stipend.

I have food allergies/restrictions/am a vegetarian or vegan. What kinds of meals will be served at the summer PD?
Once accepted, we reach out to all participants to ask about dietary restrictions and food allergies. We will work with our caterer to provide meals that can accommodate your needs. If your diet is highly restrictive, you may want to pack supplementary food. If concerned, please contact us to discuss further.

I have a need for a mobility accommodation. Are the accommodations and program accessible?
We are glad to work with you to ensure accessibility for the on-site programming and off-site trips. The program may include short walks (5-10 minutes) to nearby sites. For any location visits further than a 15-minute walk, we will provide a shuttle bus for the group. If concerned, please contact us to discuss further.


Why should I apply?
The Declaration of Learning program has had a tremendous impact on educators and their students:

● 100% of the educator alumni continue to use objects and artwork in their teaching
● 96% of the educators reported that their teaching had been transformed through the program and that they plan to incorporate their learning into future lessons
● 92% of students reported that the lessons had an impact on their understanding of the importance of civic engagement, and that they were personally motivated to become civically engaged as a result of the program

What can I expect at the PD? How long are the days?
The Virginia Declaration of Learning summer professional development program is structured to provide a mix of activities including lectures, classroom activities, and site visits. Participants will be expected to attend all sessions Monday through Friday (approximately 9 am to 5 pm). Exact timing, sessions, speakers, and tours will not be set until spring 2020.

Has this program been done before?
This will be the inaugural year for the Declaration of Learning in Virginia, but it is a proven program in the state of Arkansas. In 2015, Arkansas became the first in the country to participate in the Declaration of Learning program led by the Diplomatic Reception Rooms. The Arkansas Declaration of Learning program is led in partnership with the Arkansas Department of Education, the Central Arkansas Library System’s Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, William J. Clinton Presidential Library, Clinton Foundation, and the Crystal Bridges Museum of Art. Both teachers and students enthusiastically embraced the process, lessons, and experience. The program is now in its sixth year.

What are my responsibilities as a participant?
● At the summer PD, your responsibility is to be a fully active participant in the activities and discussions. During this time, you will also begin crafting your unit and daily lesson plans connected with chosen objects from the partner collections.

● Within the following school year, you will teach and refine the lesson plans while working towards a civic engagement project with students.

● This will all be assisted by teacher mentors from the Arkansas Declaration of Learning program and meetings with partner organization staff.

Will my unit or lesson plan be placed on a website?
There is an opportunity for website publication on one of the partner sites, but this is not a guarantee.


Do you offer graduate credits or state certificated PD credits?
We currently do not offer any graduate credits or official professional development credits. Upon completion of the summer PD, you will receive a letter acknowledging 35 hours of participation in this program that can be used however you see fit within your district or school.

I am thinking about travel options. What’s the best way to get to the professional development location?
George Washington’s Mount Vernon is located at 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Mount Vernon, VA 22121

“When you give students the chance to address real issues in history and in their community today, and you give them the historical art and artifacts to analyze, and the skills to think their way to their own conclusions, your students will rise to the challenge. They want to think about things that matter and say what matters to them.”

– Arkansas DOL participant and Bryant High School librarian Marcia Lanier

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