Grades/Level: Lower Elementary (K–2), Upper Elementary (3–5), Middle School (6–8), High School (9–12)
Subjects: Visual Arts, English–Language Arts, History–Social Science, Science, Mathematics
Time Required: Single Class Lesson
1 to 1 1/2 hours
Author: J. Paul Getty Museum Education Staff

Activity Overview

Create your own lesson for your visit to the Museum at the Getty Center. Use the artworks at the Getty to teach subjects you are already covering in your classroom. Below are some tips on teaching in the Museum and engaging your students with art objects.

Learning Objectives

Students should be able to:
• make specific connections between works of art and the theme and/or topic you choose.

Add other learning objectives to match your specific goals for this lesson.


• Choose works of art from the Getty's online collection to focus on during your visit. You can also choose objects while visiting the galleries after attending a Teacher Orientation Workshop.
• Activity sheets you create for your students
• Map of the Museum at the Getty Center
• Itinerary sheet

Activity Steps

Step 1: Select a theme
Why have a theme?

  • It focuses your preparation by helping you make choices about content and structure.
  • It helps students consider how works of art are related.
  • It helps students connect new experience to their own lives.
  • It focuses the tour experience and keeps you and your students on task.

Qualities of a good theme:

  • It's accessible and interesting to the students, the chaperones, and you.
  • It can connect to students' past experiences.

Examples of themes
Use the Image Bank pages, linked from the Materials section, above, to find images mentioned here, which are appropriate for teaching each of these themes.

Stories in Art—Ancient Stories (Trojan War, The Odyssey, Ovid's Metamorphoses), Love Stories (Venus and Adonis, Telemachus and Eucharis), Stories from Mythology (Leda and the Swan, Medusa), Stories from the Bible (Noah's Ark, Joseph and Potiphar's Wife)

People—Portraits, daily life, children, families, mythological gods and heroes (Hercules, Achilles), people from history (Mary Seacole, Louis XIV)

Creatures—Insects, pets, dragons, griffins, sirens

Nature—Landscape, weather, plants, habitats

Architecture & Interiors—Buildings, cities, and rooms

History & Culture—The Italian Renaissance, 17th-century Holland, the French Revolution

Elements of Art—color, line, shape, texture, form

Art Making—Sculpture, vase painting, drawing, mosaics, photography, manuscripts, glass

Step 2: Pick galleries or artworks.
1. Pick a limited number of galleries or artworks for students to visit during a 1 or 1 1/2 hour period. Use the Itinerary Sheet to schedule different chaperoned groups of students. Different groups should not be in the same gallery at the same time.

2. Get inspired by different works of art by using the "Subjects: Browse by theme or topic" feature in the Getty Museum's online collections: Explore Art. Be sure the artworks you wish to view are on display; objects are sometimes removed to be repaired or go on loan to other museums. Suggested works of art are available in themed image banks—follow links in the Materials section above.

3. Choose works of art from different parts of the collection. For example, you can explore the theme of animals by looking at paintings, photographs, decorative arts, and sculpture. Consider using the architecture and gardens in addition to works of art in the galleries.

4. Gather your chosen works of art using Getty Bookmarks. Using this tool, you can save works of art for reference, and print out an itinerary listed by location.

Step 3: Plan activities.
Students should do one activity in each gallery, or with each work of art, with their teacher or chaperone.

  • Vary the format at each stop and ask students to work alone, in pairs, or as a group.
  • Challenge students with different types of activities at each artwork. Ask students to:
    • do creative, critical, or analytical writing.
    • sketch from an artwork, looking carefully at the details.
    • work in pairs to compare artworks, noting their similarities and differences.
    • divide into two groups and hold a debate (for example: each side looks at a painting and takes a position based on visual evidence).
  • Find more activities that you can use for various grade levels in our Self-Guided Visit Activities pages:

    Getty Center Self-Guided Visit Activities for Grades K–5

    Getty Center Self-Guided Visit Activities for Grades 6–8

    Getty Center Self-Guided Visit Activities for Grades 9–12

  • Create a packet for your students and chaperones. Include the following:
    1. Itinerary with stops and times (see Itinerary Sheet in Materials section above)
    2. Getty Bookmarks itinerary map
    3. A Map of the Getty Center
    4. One copy of each worksheet
    5. Instructions for Chaperones for each activity

Assess your students' work based on the activities you develop and the specific learning objectives you have for those activities.

Standards Addressed

These will vary depending on your objectives and activities.