Shaping Our World Through Art: A Teacher’s Story

Your gift gives educators training and resources to teach cultural competence through art.

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Portrait of educator Lesley Younge, she wears an orange top, and her hair is in thin braids.As a middle school educator and interdisciplinary teacher, Lesley Younge has always looked to connect the dots between art, history, and culture. At the National Museum of Asian Art, she has found like-minded educators and a trove of resources to support her teaching philosophy.

“What I’ve really appreciated about the education department specifically is their respect for teachers, their respect for what we do, and their respect for our expertise. That’s one of the reasons the teacher-in-residence program was so powerful for me—it was an honor. It was the Smithsonian saying, ‘Because you are a teacher, and because we value your contributions, we want to invite you into this world.’”

Then, the pandemic hit. Confronting revised curriculum, new technology, and stressed families and students has made the already difficult job of teaching even more of a feat. But Lesley already sees opportunities for embracing new classroom technologies and for building exciting new connections with Asian arts and cultures.

“Right now, teachers feel really beaten down. I think that an organization that wants to support us, wants to improve our work and partner with us, is where money should be going.”

And in this changed world, Lesley believes the lessons being taught at the Freer and Sackler are more crucial than ever.

“Museums like the Freer and Sackler allow people to break down stereotypes through art by putting the art in context and helping people understand culture. They help people build global competence. Right now, we need that so much. Communities are interacting more, but they’re interacting without any understanding of one another. And then when something like the coronavirus happens, misleading stories come out and people don’t have the resources to think critically about any of the information. So there’s a lot of work that needs to be done, and I think that art is a wonderful way to do it. Getting people engaged and connected is how that empathy will be built and how things will change.”

You can build these bridges of understanding by supporting the education programs at the National Museum of Asian Art.

“We are creating future global leaders in our classrooms right now. An investment in our work is an investment in them—it’s an investment in the relationships that we are going to have around the world for generations to come. I think it is a great return on investment to invest in teachers and kids and education because that impact is going to last.”

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Your gift at any level is a vital investment in global competence and cultural exchange.

Learn more about the many ways you can support the National Museum of Asian Art.