Prism.K12: Creativity and Curriculum

Hilary Katz, Manager of Teacher initiatives, shares insights on the arts integration course offered by the University of Maryland and The Phillips Collection. “Connecting to the Core Curriculum” provides PreK-12 educators with the opportunity to blend the visual arts seamlessly into the core curriculum, using the Phillips’s Prism.K12 arts integration strategies and resources. 

“This course allowed me to step back and evaluate how I use art in my classroom and gave me different perspectives on WHY I should be using art that I had not considered before.”-Teacher-participant

From October 2019 through February 2020, teachers from across DC and Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties participated in the Connecting to the Core Curriculum arts integration course. I co-taught this hybrid-learning course with Kenna Hernly, PhD Candidate in Museum Education at University of Maryland. We worked with educators teaching grades PreK to 12, and subjects ranging from dance, music, English, and history to art, ceramics, math, and robotics. A teacher-participant reflected, “Taking this course with teachers from different kinds of schools and grade levels gave me new ideas and perspectives about teaching, and now we have a collection of shared lessons I can use. It also helped challenge me to try out new ideas with my students and take risks.”

Teachers engage in group discussions about strategies for developing arts integration lesson plans. Photo: Travis Houze

Throughout the course, the educators learned and practiced techniques for integrating the arts into the curriculum to reach students with multiple learning styles. To dive deeper into a particular subject area, the educators engaged in several art techniques, including stop motion animation and contour line drawings.

Participants learn about the art of Los Carpinteros in the galleries. Photo: Travis Houze

Participants execute contour line drawings based on the artwork of Los Carpinteros. Photo: Travis Houze

Art and Ceramics teacher Christina Kunze then taught her high school students how to make contour line sculptures of their own heroes and revolutionaries, teaching students how to empathize with their subjects and express their choices. Photo: Michael McSorley

As the culminating project for the course, the educators designed and facilitated arts-integrated lessons in their classrooms using the Prism.K12 strategies and artwork from The Phillips Collection. Many of them collaborated with other teachers at their schools to integrate multiple subject areas. Discover the results in the exhibition Energizing Education: Teaching through the PRISM of Arts Integration.

Teacher participants learn how to use stop-motion animation to link the visual arts with core curriculum subjects. Photos: Travis Houze

Teacher participants learn how to use stop-motion animation to link the visual arts with core curriculum subjects. Photo: Travis Houze

Teacher participants learn how to use stop-motion animation to link the visual arts with core curriculum subjects. Photo: Travis Houze

The participants then taught their students how to synthesize math equations using stop-motion animation by re-creating artworks by John Graham in the Phillips’s collection. Photo: Nicole Entwistle

Moving forward, we plan to continue to offer this arts integration course for local and regional teachers. As a result of participating in this course, a teacher described the benefits experienced by her students: “joy and wonder of the creation process, less anxiety while solving math problems,” demonstrating the potential of arts integration to break down barriers in the classroom and open up new avenues for creation. 

Read about the course from a teacher’s perspective here

Meditation in the Galleries

Jordan Chambers, one of our inaugural Sherman Fairchild Fellows at The Phillips Collection, tells us about her fellowship capstone project, “Meditation in the Galleries.” The first event was held on February 20. The remaining two events, scheduled for March 19 and April 16, have been postponed until further notice. In the meantime, head to the Phillips’s Instagram for some #MuseumMomentsofZen and stay tuned for additional ways to connect art and wellness.

For my fellowship capstone, I designed a project that relates to The Phillips Collection’s art and wellness initiatives. My own interests and research investigate how museum spaces and galleries can promote socially inclusive atmospheres that bolster well-being among different populations in a community. My goals for this program are to offer direct well-being benefits and new experiences for our visitors; therefore, I constructed a “Meditation in the Galleries” experience. After thorough research on existing mindfulness programs in the DC area, the need for programming of this type was apparent. Collaborating with Donna Jonte, Manager of Art & Wellness and Family Programs, I launched “Meditation in the Galleries” in February 2020.

Meditation in the Galleries, February 2020

Meditation in the Galleries, February 2020

Mindfulness Meditation helps individuals slow down and focus, while increasing self-awareness and reducing stress. Living and working in DC can be hectic; meditation can offer us new perspectives and skills, a way to navigate the stresses of everyday life by connecting to the here and now. Aparna Sadananda, The Phillips Collection’s resident yoga instructor and meditation guide, thinks of mindfulness “as a practice of living each moment in a more embodied manner. When we are mindful, we are able to step out of the autopilot mode and observe the worlds within and out just as they are. This facilitates actions, born out of awareness of choices available and choosing that which is most purposeful. This could be empowering as well as relaxing while also priming us to tune into creativity, intuition, and artistic expression of ourselves.”

The pilot for “Meditation in the Galleries” consists of three 30-minute sessions that are divided between meditation and discussion, to be held on February 20, March 19, and April 16. The February program took place in the exhibition Moira Dryer: Back in Business (on view through April 19, 2020). Moira Dryer (1957–1992) was an artist from the 1980s and early ‘90s who had worked as a set designer for the Mabou Mines theater company. She stated that “the paintings are the performers. It’s really up to the audience at that point to say what the specific production is. The pieces evolve from a very personal, emotional point, but then they become entities in themselves. I give them life and then they become their own.”

The meditation sessions are guided, immersive experiences with a meditation teacher and a museum educator, during which participants connect mind and body while exploring artwork. February’s intimate group of six participants first looked closely at Dryer’s art and shared their initial thoughts with a neighbor. Led by Aparna, the group meditated, learning to destress, relax, and embrace the moment. We closed the session with reflection, sharing our new insights and questions about the artwork. Participants learned and practiced techniques for mindful looking and thinking that they can carry with them into their lives outside the museum.

Meditation in the Galleries, February 2020

“Meditation in the Galleries” builds on The Phillips Collection’s Contemplation Audio Tour and reflects the museum’s institutional goal of promoting wellness through art. Donna Jonte reminds us that “founder Duncan Phillips opened his house as a museum in 1921 determined to create a collection of art that would be a ‘joy-giving, life-enhancing influence’ for viewers. This is our vision for meditation in the gallery: we want to engage visitors with art to promote wellness, enhance life, and bring joy. Through mindful looking at art, meditating while focused on art, and reflecting on this experience, we hope that participants will connect deeply to self, community, and the world.”

Developing, documenting, and participating in this program has been an extremely positive experience that I will take with me into my museum career. I hope that “Meditation in the Galleries” will continue as part of the permanent programming at The Phillips Collection and Phillips@THEARC.

Phillips-at-home: Making Musical Maracas

Get craft with your recyclables! You can use water bottles and toilet-paper rolls to make musical maracas at home with your family. This project is fun, engaging, and accessible for all ages.

Young visitors showing off their wonderful creations! Photo credit: Joshua Navarro


  • Toilet paper rolls or water bottles (you can use both, or one or the other)
  • Beads or any dried food in your kitchen pantry, such as beans, pasta, or rice.
  • Decorative materials (colorful duct tape, tissue paper, scrapbook paper, pipe-cleaners, etc.)


  • 4 and up (possible for younger ages with adult supervision)


  • 30 minutes-1 hour


There are two easy ways to construct your musical maraca.

Option 1

Step 1: Clean, rinse and dry plastic water bottle. Any size bottle will work!

Step 2: Select beads or dried food for the inside (beads/food may be visible so think about the colors you want to choose)

Step 3: Pour beads/dried food into the water bottle

  • Tip: Use a piece of paper as a funnel to make this process easier and cleaner
  • Tip: Fill up halfway to allow room for beads to shake

Step 4: Close water bottle cap

Step 5: Decorate the outside of your maraca!

To further extend your project, create two maracas and attach a toilet paper roll in between to form a handle. Duct tape is recommended.

(Option 1 examples) Two decorative water bottle maracas. Photo: Hayley Prihoda

Option 1 examples

A large maraca with a toilet paper handle. Photo: Hayley Prihoda

Option 1 extended example








(Option 2 examples) A triangular maraca made out of a toilet paper roll (on left) and a rain stick made out of a paper towel roll (on right). Photo: Hayley Prihoda

Option 2 examples: A triangular maraca made out of a toilet paper roll (on left) and a rain stick made out of a paper towel roll (on right). All photos: Hayley Prihoda

Option 2

Step 1: Select a toilet paper roll or paper towel roll

  • Tip: A toilet paper roll will create a hand-held maraca; a paper towel roll will create a rain stick

Step 2: Pinch one end together and seal by stapling

Step 3:  Pour beads/dried food into the tube

Step 4: Close other end with staples

  • Tip: You can either pinch the edges together in the same direction as the other end or in the opposite direction to create a triangle shape (see photograph below)

Step 5: Decorate the outside of your maraca!

Re-purposing materials is a great way to save money, think creatively and reduce waste!