McMichael - Canadian Art | Collection d'art Canadien

Learning - School Visits - Educational Programs

The McMichael offers innovative tours and programs and an ideal setting for students to learn about, and truly appreciate, the world of Canadian art. To help plan your visit, please read each of the following PDF documents.

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To book your school program, call 905.893.1121 ext. 2209 or toll free 1.888.213.1121 or email us.

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NEW! Take a Closer Look: Exploring Art and Nature, Grades 4–8

Using the natural setting of the McMichael and the art in the gallery, students engage critical thinking skills and make connections between the immediate environment and the art in the gallery. By focusing on natural elements such as a detail of a rock pattern, a cloud formation, or a view of trees in the distance, students will understand the difference between a macro and micro perspective. By discussing artworks, students will gain an understanding of how micro and macro formats are portrayed through the artist’s eye. Sketching activities will also be done in the gallery and outdoors to allow students to interpret the landscape through these varying points of view.

Discovery Tour, Grades 4–12

Explore the McMichael permanent collection on a Discovery Tour. Students will have the opportunity to discuss landscape paintings, debate the meaning of Inuit print and sculptures, and explore First Nations masks and totem poles. The Discovery Tour also allows teachers to narrow in on classroom connections and tailor the tour to suit their needs. Special exhibition as well as a sketching activity can be included upon the teacher’s request.

First Nations OR Inuit Tour, Grades 1–12

First Nations, Grades 1–12

Focusing on art and culture of First Nations people in the Northwest Coast of Canada as well as Ontario, students are introduced to the historical context of the area and the divergence and connection between aboriginal and non-aboriginal cultures. Students learn about key concepts such as oral tradition, the importance of myths and legends, how masks are made and used, and the influence of natural resources on lifestyle and art making. Handling objects are passed around to bring the concepts to life. The tour is concluded with a sketch inspired by Northwest Coast totem poles in the landscape or a Woodland style painting.

Inuit, Grades 1–12

The goal of this program is to introduce students to the culture of Inuit people and the context for their art making. The tour is interactive, and involves interesting activities and discussions revolving around Inuit life and art making. The students will enjoy handling Inuit objects, discussing techniques and materials for art making and learning new legends and traditions. The culminating activity will be a pencil sketch based on an Inuit print or sculpture viewed in the gallery.

Outdoor Explorer

Outdoor Explorer, Grades 4–12
Taking place outside, this tour encompasses learning about the environment around the McMichael and incorporating the elements and principles of design into four pencil sketches. The compositions will be landscape focused, drawing inspiration from the McMichael grounds. While on tour, the instructor will engage the students with interesting and historical information about the natural setting that surrounds them.

Outdoor Explorer, Grades 1–3
This outdoor tour encourages students to interact with the landscape, artworks and historic sites surrounding the McMichael. Exploring the Tom Thomson Shack, Artists’ Cemetery and the original home of Mr. and Mrs. McMichael allows students to connect with the past, while viewing outdoor sculptures and listening to legends illustrates how different cultures utilize the land. The students also create a landscape postcard using pencil crayons, allowing them to practice drawing from nature.

NEW! Urban and Rural: Our Place in the Environment, Grades

The physical location of the McMichael offers a unique opportunity to explore the relationship between art, nature and the built environment. By comparing works of art, the natural environment, architecture of buildings, skylines and horizon lines, the students will understand the differences between landscape and cityscape. Students will gain an understanding of how nature can be an inspiration for artists by engaging in sketching activities outdoors and in the gallery spaces. Students will also sharpen their critical thinking skills by examining an outdoor scene as if it is painted on a canvas.

Looking at Landscape, Grades 1–12

In this tour, students are introduced to the Group of Seven and their place in Canadian art. Throughout the gallery students participate in interactive activities, view many paintings and have an opportunity to examine selected works in detail, helping them to develop their critical analysis skills. An emphasis is placed on the elements and principles of design, which are incorporated into the tour in a fun and engaging manner. The tour also includes a sketch based on a landscape painting in the gallery where the students are instructed on various sketching techniques.

Let’s Look at Art Tour, Grades 1–3

Students are introduced to a gallery setting and the importance of viewing original works of art. The tour provides students the opportunity to engage in hands-on activities while interacting with a variety of artworks including landscape paintings, First Nations sculptures, portraits, and Inuit prints. The students will move through the gallery to explore a variety of art-making materials as well as the elements and principles of design. The program will conclude with a sketch using their new knowledge of landscape and portraiture.

KindergARTen, Pre-school–Kindergarten

This tour and studio program allows young visitors the opportunity to participate in activities in the gallery as well as create their own multi-media collage. In the gallery, the students will learn how to create a landscape image and the major components of a painting. They will handle Inuit objects to assist in learning about life in the Arctic and discuss First Nations culture while viewing a totem pole. After this 60-minute gallery adventure, the students will participate in the studio portion of the program. Recalling the information learned about landscape paintings, the students use a variety of kid-friendly materials to create a collage with a focus on landscape.



NEW! Inventing a 3-D Garden, Grades 1–3

Through walks on the McMichael campus with sketching opportunities, students will view gardens; visualizing the shapes, colours, and textures of plants, flowers and trees as inspiration for their own horticulture designs. In the studio, the students will be encouraged to relate to the environment on a personal level and engage their creative process by designing their own garden using a variety of materials including three-dimensional elements.

En Plein Air, Grades 1–3

Outdoors, the students are engaged through a number of activities to think about the seasons and the life cycle of a tree. The educator will highlight how elements of design are found in nature and students will have the opportunity to collect objects from the grounds to use in colour matching and texture rubbings. The indoor portion of the studio involves creating a landscape painting with watercolour crayons, focusing on trees, their different shapes and lines, and how colours can tell us about the seasons. Students are introduced to the terms focal point, foreground, middleground and background. Techniques are demonstrated to assist students in using watercolour crayons.

Woodland School or Northwest Coast Art, Grades 1–12

Woodland School, Grades 1–12
Based on the paintings of Norval Morrisseau and the Woodland School, this studio encourages students to use shape, line and colour in a new way. Learning the meanings of symbols, colours and the characteristics of a Woodland painting is an important part of the studio. Students are able to apply what they have learned in their own tempera (grades 1–5) or acrylic (grades 6–12) painting. Painting techniques are also discussed to help students create their own Woodland style piece.

Northwest Coast Art, Grades 1–12
Based on First Nations imagery from masks and/or totem poles, the students will focus on the traditional use of line, shape and colour characteristic of the Northwest Coast of Canada. Mixed media will be incorporated to produce a finished artwork where an Aboriginal image will be set into a background inspired by the landscape of the area. Each grade level will be using appropriate materials and the projects will reinforce the concepts introduced about the art, culture and legends of the First Nations of the Northwest Coast.

Let’s Create Art, Grades 1–3

Inspired by landscape paintings, the students will develop a multi-media artwork utilizing both watercolour crayons and plasticine. Students work with the ideas of foreground, middleground, background and focal point to create their compositions. The focus of the painting will be a tree, and the students are introduced to watercolour techniques and fun ways to create effects with the plasticine.

NEW! Sculpture, Shapes and Weights, Grades 1–6

By exploring the outdoor sculptures on the McMichael grounds, the students are exposed to how various artworks are made and materials are used. They will examine formal qualities of the works such as balance and weight. Back in the studio, students engage with different mediums, including clay, to create a maquette (a model for a sculpture). The maquettes are inspired by the works on the grounds, and will encourage the students to think about how materials relate to one another. 

Sketch and Paint Landscapes, Grades 4–12

For this studio, the students’ artwork is inspired by Group of Seven landscape paintings. Students work on compositions that consider the foreground, middleground, background and focal point. This sketch forms the basis of their finished work, to be accomplished using watercolour crayons. Before working on this final piece, students have an opportunity to explore several techniques using the watercolour crayons.

En Plein Air, Grades 4–12

Outdoors, students will consider the conditions when an artist paints “en plein air” and how that affects their work (changing cloud formations, rain, strong sunlight, etc.). Students create a pencil sketch that becomes the basis for their final painting. They will be encouraged to consider how different perspectives, elements and principles of design, as well as positive/negative space can be used to create an interesting composition. The finished work, based on the outdoor study is accomplished in the studio. The students are introduced to various watercolour techniques and complete their work in this medium.

Inuit Art, Grades 1–12

The objective of this studio is to introduce the students to the concept of incised printmaking and to produce a finished artwork based on Inuit culture. Using age- appropriate materials, students of all grades can create their own print based on an animal found in the Arctic (grades 1–3) or a scene from life in the Arctic (grades 4–12). Elementary students will create a print by incising a scratchfoam plate, while high school students can enjoy the printmaking process by carving into a softoleum plate.



NEW! Arctic Adventure, Grade 4 (or equivalent) and up

This outdoor/indoor studio program uses Arctic and Inuit imagery to inspire students. As McMichael instructors guide participants through the art-making process, students will create art, learn about traditional Inuit culture in multi-sensory ways, and participate at their comfort level in group or individual activities.

NEW! Touch of Nature, Grade 4 (or equivalent) and up

This outdoor/indoor program helps students understand the natural world, by examining how the Group of Seven saw and painted landscape. Through multi-sensory learning experiences, McMichael instructors demonstrate art concepts. Students create their own landscapes, and can participate at their comfort level in group activities. Several art activities will be offered for various interest and levels of engagement.


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