Educator Tools

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 Tempe Draw-046Over the past ten years, the Gallery at TCA team has produced more than 30 different visual arts curriculum units for elementary and secondary teachers and parents in conjunction with a variety of exhibition themes. Each unit comes equipped with ready-made lessons, worksheets, hands-on project PowerPoints and connections to the Arizona State Standards for Arts Education (can be easily connected to the National Standards).

New to the website are several Education Guides which were originally designed to help our docent guides and educators bringing students to exhibitions. Now these guides are available for download.


Educator Guides

These workbook/guides are designed to help educators and students alike develop thoughtful questions. Whether you are touring the exhibition or studying independently, these workbooks can help enhance your experiences in understanding art. While each workbook offers ideas an samples of potential hands-on projects, the themes and questions presented in these guides can be used in conjunction with a variety of media and can be easily adjusted to fit upper elementary through secondary classrooms.

Heading Home, Emily Matyas

Walk in My Shoes Guide PDF
This workbook addresses ideas about art, empathy and understanding between people. It was inspired by an art exhibition at the Gallery at TCA in 2018. Walk in My Shoes featured regional and Arizona-based artists addressing topics about social and cultural understanding between people. (Image by Emily Matyas)




 DRAW Guide PDF 

This workbook celebrates a wide variety of creative media, styles and techniques that incorporate drawing and/or mark making. It was inspired by the 2018 DRAW exhibition at the Gallery at TCA. (Artist Monica Aissa Martinez at work)





Forbidden Planet-Monotype print-9x12-Burruel


Monster Stories Guide PDF

This guide celebrates monsters from popular culture, literature and mythology. It It was inspired by the 2018 exhibition MONSTER STORIES which featured art from local and national artists exploring the idea feeling like the “other” in society, while the toys and memorabilia from private collectors revealed the nostalgia people have for the stories and characters that scared and fascinated them as kids.  (Image by Manny Burruel.)




 Air Dragon compressed

Myths, Maps & Legends Guide PDF

This guide is inspired by the 2019 exhibition Myths, Maps & Legends. The artists follow the tradition of storytellers and old-world cartographers by creating visual narratives to share their own journeys an make sense of the world around them. (Image by Yuko Yabuki).


Quetzalcoatl 60x48 2018


 Retro Reaction Guide PDF

Artist are often asked, "Where do you get your ideas?" The Retro Reaction Exhibition and this guide explore how ten Arizona-based artists respond individually to art and ideas from the past. (Image by Fausto Fernandez)






Water Exhibition Guide PDF

Water is on a lot of people's minds these days, from concerns about conservation to plans for recreation. This PDF is a guide to how the artists featured in this exhibition respond to the theme of water.






Online Curriculum

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The Online Curriculum is developed with nationally recognized art educator Dr. Mary Erickson in collaboration with exhibiting artists and Arizona-based art teachers from a variety of schools and media specialties. Each lesson and hands-on art project has been tested by actual art teachers with their students. We hope that you will find this resource as a valuable addition to your classroom. Feel free to download and change the resources as needed. We've given you a good start, now make it your own.


 *These lessons are provided free of charge. In exchange, we just ask for your feedback and/or sample pictures of what your students made. Let us know who you are and where you teach through e-mail

STEAM Lesson Plans

bio1bio 2Biomimicry: nature inspired design
Biomimicry is a set of six lessons for both elementary and secondary students designed in conjunction with the Biomimicry: nature inspired design exhibition at the Gallery at Tempe Center for the Arts. 

steam 1steam 2STEAM: Systems within Systems

Systems within Systems is a set of lessons for both elementary and secondary students. STEAM is a movement inspired by the popularity of STEM education (science, technology, engineering, ARTS and mathematics). It incorporates and celebrates the addition of art as a tool for creative problem solving and appreciating connections both within us and beyond us.



going green 1going green 2

Going Green: Sustainability
Going Green is a three-lesson unit plan inspired by Green Revolution, a collaborative project originally created by the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry and its Black Creativity Council and is made available by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service.

birds 1birds 2Birds of Feather
Birds of a Feather is a unit plan designed in conjunction with the Birds of a Feather exhibition at the Gallery at Tempe Center for the Arts.


green and gray 1green and gray 2Green and Gray: Natural and built environments
 Green & Gray is a multi-lesson unit plan designed in conjunction with the Green & Gary exhibition at the Gallery at Tempe Center for the Arts.

arizona landscapes 1arizona landscapes 2Arizona Landscapes: Landscape art
The beautiful landscapes of Arizona feature natural wonders of deserts, forests, mountains, lakes and valleys and built environments like historic adobes, modern skyscrapers, highways, subdivisions, farms and golf courses. These sets of interdisciplinary lesson plans provide a framework for teaching students about the landscape and the creative spirit of those who live, work and play in Arizona.

Pop Culture Lesson Plans

western 1western 2Western POP: Facts and fiction of the American West
Western Pop is a set of four lessons for both elementary and secondary students designed in conjunction with the Western Pop exhibition at the Gallery at Tempe Center for the Arts. Explore the history of the old west and what the western landscape consists of today.

page to screen 1page to screen 3Page to Screen: Art and film inspired by the written word
Adaptation is a three-lesson unit plan designed inspired by the Page to Screen exhibition at the Gallery at Tempe Center for the Arts. Lesson Three is appropriate for upper elementary or middle school and lesson four is appropriate for high school students with prior experience using computer graphics applications.

american pop 2american pop 1American POP: Pop culture from super heroes to science fiction
Introduce the theme that, “Heroes are people who take action to make things better for others” by allowing students to define what makes someone a hero. Ask them to name: fictional heroes from movies or TV, real heroes from US and world history, or everyday people who sometimes do heroic deeds.

cars and guitarscars and guitars 2Cars and Guitars
People can use words and images in print and media to persuade others. Learning how images and words influence people can help individuals make better, informed choices.

chuck joneschuck jones 3Chuck Jones: It only looks easy This three-lesson unit plan focuses on learning and shows how artists learn from teachers, from other artists, on their own, from family and from the world around them. Inspired by the work of animator and director Chuck Jones.



Clay Lesson Plans

clay 1sweet treats 2Juried Biennial: Clay
This hands-on clay unit focuses on the theme of food and memory. The experience of eating food is short-lived but can hold significant meaning, especially when it relates to personal experiences. Food can also embody personal, social and/or cultural meanings.

animal crackers replaceclay 4Animal Crackers: Animals
Animal Crackers is a series of lesson plans designed for use with the Animal Crackers exhibition. The unit examines the theme life that throughout human existence people have lived around and with animals and the theme in art that many artists have chosen animals as their subject matter. 

clay beautifulclay beautiful 3Clay: Useful or Beautiful?
The unit examines ceramic art and explores how people like and dislike things for different reasons. The unit examines the theme that ceramic art can be judged both for its usefulness and its visual interest.

Media Specific Lesson Plans

merely players 1merely players 2Merely Players: Costume Design
Merely Players is a four-lesson unit plan designed in conjunction with the theatrical costume exhibition at the Gallery at Tempe Center for the Arts. Lessons one and two can be used with students of all ages, lesson three is designed for elementary/middle school grades and lesson four is designed for high school.

copper 1copper
COPPER: Art made or inspired by copper
Copper is a three-lesson unit plan designed in conjunction with the TCA Biennial: Copper exhibition at the Gallery at Tempe Center for the Arts. Both elementary and secondary projects are included. 

realism 2
Realisrealism 1m: From the International Guild of Realism
Point of View is a unit plan designed in conjunction with the International Guild of Realism: 8th Annual Juried exhibition at the Gallery at Tempe Center for the Arts. Both elementary and secondary art projects are

wood 1wood 2
WOOD: Art made of or inspired by wood
The Nature of Wood is a three-lesson unit plan that explores the materials that make up what people eat, wear and use in their daily lives. The lessons explore how artists who work with natural materials, like wood, can bring to life the rich variety and unique qualities of materials many take for granted.

glass 2glass 3
GLASS: Art made of or inspired by glass
People throughout time and around the world have made and used glass. This three-part lesson plan celebrates the glories and nuances of light and color in glass art.

paper 2paper 3PAPER: Art made of or inspired by paper
Paper is part of everyday life from newspapers to homework assignments. Almost all artists use paper in one way or another for drawing, printing or folding. For many, working on paper or with paper is at the heart of the art-making process.

masters of illusionmasters of illusion 2
Masters of Illusion: Tricks of Perfection/Tromp L'Oeil
Some artwork is so skillfully done that it looks real or as real as a photograph. This unit focuses on artists who can “trick the eye” and drawing and observation techniques students can use to create realism in their work.

 Pubplicart1Publicart2Public Art: art in public places
This unit explains the “who, what, where and why” of art in public spaces. It also presents hands-on projects that can help students build their own
modular sculptures and think about site-specific art in three-dimensions. 

Expression of Ideas Lesson Plans

Summer of Love: Tokens of Love
Tokens of Love is a three-lesson unit plan designed in conjunction with the Summer of Love exhibition at the Tempe Center for the Arts.

family matters 1family matters 2
Family Matters: Art about family connections
This set of lesson plans allow students to explore how artworks can reveal complex and simple truths about families. Students explore how they are influenced by their families.

Mixing It Up: Building an Identity (Culture)
Every culture builds its identity from shared activities, beliefs and values. Artworks can help us understand the activities, beliefs and values of our own and others’ cultures.

outsiderswithin1outsiders within 2
Outsiders Within: Personal and Cultural Perspectives
Many contemporary Native American and Latina/o artists refer to personal and cultural experiences for inspiration. This three-unit plan is about culture and the concept of multiple art worlds.

read me a picture 
Reread me a picture 2ad Me a Picture: Children's Book Illustrators
The world is filled with words and pictures that provide information. This three-lesson mini unit plan shows how artists such as children's book illustrators use words and pictures to tell stories and share ideas.

Faces 1
Ffaces 2aces: Art about the human face
This three-lesson unit plan is designed around art about the human face. Artists’ style choices are both personal and influenced by the world around them.


roy orbisonroy orbison 2Projecting Personas: The public image of Roy Orbison
This three-lesson unit plan focuses on "What is Cool." Students learn that life is full of choices and artists create designs to influence people to choose (or like) one thing rather than another.

twenty questions 1twenty questions 2Twenty Questions: What is it?
When viewing artwork, the public often asks, “What is it?” These lessons focus on inquiry skills for understanding art and include an art project inspired by artist Denise Yaghmourian using Perler beads.

Inquiry Tools

People of all ages and backgrounds can be both attracted to and intimidated by art at the same time. We've found that asking questions that start conversations is one of the best ways to put people at ease. Sure, some art is easy to approach, but some art is more difficult to understand. Just like a book, art can be appealing, serious and yes, even challenging. You and your students bring a variety of thoughts and personal preferences into the experience as well. By practicing some of the Inquiry-Based Art Education Tools below, you will find that those seemingly complicated layers of meaning and context can be pealed back and explored. Its just knowing where to look and why.

Meet one of the Gallery at TCA's inquiry mascots, Questor. Questor the bird is an art student who is curious about understanding artworks.

questor all 
Look: What can I see? Facts about the artwork.

Learn: What can I learn? Contextual facts.

: What does it mean? Conclusions about meaning.

: How does it compare? Conclusions about connections among artworks. 


Meet the Gallery at TCA's other mascot, Jack. Jack, the rabbit is an artist who jumps at the chance for new art making ideas.
Jack all


Choose: What choices will I make in my artwork 

Seek: What art ideas can I get from my own life and times? 

: What ideas can I get by looking at other art? 

: What do I want to achieve with my artwork? 



















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