Staff Development

Support Tools and How-To

Inclusive practices support all students as they plan, build, and transform their stories with fine arts and digital media. Visual supports can promote independence and literacy skills needed for student directed projects. These projects should provide choice making and collaboration, as well as have potential to transform thinking.

Students with disabilities may need alternate methods to access learning. Learn more about Universal Design for Learning & Adaptive Design. Scaffolding techniques can help individuals by providing tiers towards a big question that the directive will investigate.

The following tools integrate Adaptive Design solutions for children with special needs, but benefit a wider audience of students because they utilize principles of Universal Design for Learning. These tools below have been developed with specialists, children, caregivers, and CMA Teaching Artists.

Tools for Social Skills

Job Cards

Download and share the document “Filmmaking Jobs”

Set expectations about collaborative work as a shared experience where everyone takes turns. Job cards scaffold directives so that each person understands their role and makes transition to a new job easier.


Games that include passing around an object can promote turn taking, listening, sharing ideas, and focus. Source ideas form art forms such as Improv, Theater and Movement. Connect the experience with art making when possible. For example, toss a ball of yarn around and across a circle of people introducing themselves in a art game we call “the Human Web.”

Tools for Visual & Media Literacy

Visual Vocabulary

Share the Visual Vocabulary of key terms and concepts that the course will explore. Some programs might include images, places, spaces, and people involved in the project. This tool can include multiple languages for English Language Learners. Refer to the document often to help make connections. This tool can be used in the gallery, schools, and community spaces. Boxes can be left blank for students to build their own visual vocabulary; while providing an alternative assessment method to check for understanding.

CMA’s Animation Terms supports media literacy and can be used across programs.

  • CMA’s Inclusive Saturdays Media Lab class is an inclusive program for children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Students build community through media arts, some students are meeting Teaching Artists for the first-time. The Visual Vocabulary created by staff supports both social and education goals. Children meet in the Fine Arts Studio for introductions, then explore an artwork together in the gallery that will then inform the animation project in the Media Lab. Animation requires children to make small movements. Download CMA’s Inclusive Visual Vocabulary

Tools for Wayfinding


CMA’s walls are color-coded to help with wayfinding in the museum and can be paired with the CMA Map.


CMA’s Media Lab has also created a color-coded key for our keyboards to help direct students’ attention.

Download CMA’s Color-Coded Keyboard

Welcome Guides

Social narratives are wayfinding tools that help ease anxiety for children with disabilities. This is a popular support used with children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder because it introduces a child with sensory issues to a new space and shares behavioral expectation.

Tools for Instruction

Visual Checklists

Graphic organizers, checklists and modeling can be used to chunk instruction into smaller steps.

Visual Checklists: CMA’s Media Lab Tutorial and Checklist documents promote independence on Mac or iPads and breaks down techniques. These are documents students can refer back to as they build skills.


During public hours, visitors participate in gallery workshops which provide hand-on learning opportunities for children to understand concepts or techniques implemented by featured exhibition artists. This is an example of Project-Based Learning.

  • Makesheets compliment the workshop to support the museum’s mission of promoting side-by-side learning.
  • Visual Instructions with words and pictures provide a way for children to problem solve through an existing design.
  • How-To-Tuesdays takes gallery projects into the larger CMA online community and extends the museum services to children who may not be able to visit CMA. This is an accessible program featured on our blog and shared on social media. The program pairs How-To instructions with pictures and text with an accompanying video modeling of the process. 

Tools for Modeling

Video Modeling

Video Modeling is a research-based strategy used to teach skills to children with disabilities. Children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder and those with Learning Disabilities benefit greatly by having a tutorial that brings a sequence of images together but can also be paused and rewinded to review a technique for mastery.

  • CMA’s How-To Videos are a great example of a video modeling tool that brings parts of a sequence together. The videos have a soundtrack that can be muted. The video is accessible to a wider audience since it does not require the learner to read text or process auditory instruction. These videos are inclusive of the ways young children use media tutorials as well.

Watch the Video Tutorial: How to Make a Stop-Motion Animation at the Media Lab

Tools for Tactile Learning

Tactile Tours and Tactile Models

Museum accessibility for the general public in a contemporary art space can be intimidating for any visitor. At CMA, our target audience is children ages 10 months to 15 years old. We are faced with tackling accessibility with physical and psychological barriers.

Tactile Tours: Tactile Tours provide an opportunity to “see” by activating the users senses. In order to preserve, or keep safe, the artworks in our galleries, we provide tactile materials to explore the works of art without actually touching them. Young children learn by engaging all of their senses.

Tactile Models: CMA’s Teaching Artists craft creative solutions to many of the museum’s access issues, such as creating a model or object which can be checked out at Visitor Services for self-guided tours. Former Teaching Artist Lindsey Kessler created a book with tactiles similar to those in the exhibition with accompanying activities to understand terms and techniques explored by the featured exhibition artists.

Tools for Investigation

Inquiry Methods

An aspect of museum education is based on the belief that hosting programs in a community space empowers participants by allowing that space to become a long-term, independently used community resource for the family. Even after the relationship with the program facilitator is over, the adult and child’s positive and profound relationship with the space can continue.

Various research-based strategies exist in museum education to teach ways to investigate art.

Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) is a model of asking questions to draw from the participant’s own experience and wealth of knowledge when exploring their own artworks or those in the gallery. This model’s success is based on its encouragement of cognitive thinking skills, curiosity, and respectful listening of multiple perspectives. In VTS, facilitators create an environment of validation, connectedness and good listening by using three open-ended questions:

  • “What’s going on in this picture?”
  • “What do you see that makes you say that?”
  • “What more can we find?”

Processing artworks with another person builds both verbal and nonverbal skills of acceptance and re-evaluation, and creates possibilities.

Interactive Displays

A drawing horse display in CMA’s Gallery (in front of artwork by Hank Willis Thomas)

Curatorial, education, access, and community staff studied visitor usage of multiple self-guided tactile experiences as part of our Art for All initiative. The above featured drawing horse has been converted into a tactile station. Each art space must arrive at a sustainable and equitable model for museum-wide purposes. This interactive display bundles our departmental priorities with our inclusion initiatives. The drawing horse features sensory materials providing additional access points for exhibition content paired with guiding questions for parents/adults to explore the contemporary works with their child. These drawing horses represent the first tool for looking provided to artists when they chose to study art- now we are providing that tool for our young artists to “look with all of their senses” with their first teachers (i.e. their adult, parents, teaching artists) in our space. Ultimately, this interactive display means to empower parents to explore works in the gallery by removing the first barrier to accessibility, “the fear of not doing it right” or “not understanding.” The drawing horse also supports the desired behavior in the museum: adults learning side-by-side with their child.

A drawing horse display in CMA’s Gallery in front of Hank Willis Thomas’ “Uprising” during the “Game On!” exhibition.

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