Student Group Visits

The museum offers a variety of guided and self-guided experiences for students to learn about the rich, complex, and dynamic histories and cultures of indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere.

Pre-K–3rd Grade Group Visits

Looking for unique hands-on learning experiences for pre-K–3rd grade students? Native peoples have always used the natural environments around them to meet their needs, and today, many Native innovations and inventions are part of daily life for millions worldwide. At the imagiNATIONS Activity Center, students can explore some of these ingenious adaptations through a variety of hands-on activities.

Register group visits to the imagiNATIONS Activity Center

imagiNATIONS Activity Center Hours for Student Group Visits

Monday: CLOSED

Thursday & Friday: 10 AM–1 PM (registered groups only)

Tuesday–Friday: after 1 PM (walk-in groups welcome)*

Saturday: 10 AM–4 PM (walk-in groups welcome)*

Sunday: 11 AM–3 PM (walk-in groups welcome)*

*Non-registered groups are welcome to visit during walk-in hours; however, due to space restrictions, it may not be possible to accommodate large groups at one time.

Please note:

  • Visiting the imagiNATIONS Activity Center is FREE.
  • Registration is required for group visits on Thursdays and Fridays, October 15–May 1, 2020, excluding federal holidays.
  • Group visits to the imagiNATIONS Activity Center are limited to Pre-K through 3rd-grade groups.
  • Registration is for 30-minute timed increments (Thursday and Friday, 10:15–10:45 AM; 11–11:30 AM; 11:45 AM–12:15 PM; 12:30–1 PM).
  • Each group will receive a 10- to 15-minute guided program during their registered visit.
  • Registrations can accommodate 30 students per timed entry; a minimum of 10 students is required for group registration.
  • For groups Pre-K–3rd grade, the museum requires one (1) chaperone for every five (5) students.
  • Registration is required for groups of more than 40 during walk-in hours.
  • Walk-in groups are self-guided only. All walk-in groups must adhere to the 5:1 chaperone ratio and 30-minute timed entry.

Programs During Registered Group Visits

Each 30-minute registered group visit begins with a guided 10-minute program on a particular theme.

Native Games of the Americas

American Indians have played games since time immemorial. Games are an integral part of Native community life. In this fun and active program, students play games from different areas of the Americas and gain a deeper understanding of the games' origins and significance.

Native Knowledge/Native Authors: Storytelling Tradition

Indians have used and continue to use stories to teach children history, traditions, and cultural values. This interactive program gives young students a chance to hear a story from a Native community throughout the Americas and to engage hands-on with objects that deepen their understanding of the community represented in the story.

  • Berry Magic by Teri Sloat and Betty Huffman (Yup'ik)
    Based on an Inuit short story, Berry Magic is about a Yup'ik girl, Anana, who knows everyone in the village is tired of crowberries, so she thinks of an idea to bring new flavors to the tundra. The rich Yup'ik language introduces students to elements of Inuit culture including reindeer-skin bags, muskrat parkas, and the "ice cream" called akutaq.
  • The Goat in the Rug by Charles L. Blood and Martin Link
    This fun story is told by Geraldine, a goat whose wool is woven into a rug by her Navajo friend Nasbah. Through Geraldine's quirky observations, The Goat in the Rug teaches the complex process of creating Navajo rugs in ways children can understand and appreciate.
  • How Raven Stole the Sun by Maria Williams (Tlingit)
    This story introduces the trickster Raven from the oral traditions of the Tlingit and other Native groups along the Northwest Coast. Students learn that Raven is often portrayed as a creator and trickster and is used to teach lessons about important aspects of cultural histories that link people to their land and environment.
  • Island Below the Star by James Rumford
    In this exciting story, five brothers journey thousands of miles in their outrigger canoes without any modern navigational instruments, depending solely on the sun, moon, stars, ocean currents, wind, and weather patterns. Students learn how Native Hawaiians used their observations of nature to navigate the ocean.
  • Kiwala Goes to the Jungle by Ana Maria Pavez and Constanza Recart
    In this Andean story, a llama, Kiwala, and her friends are on a mission to save their village from sickness. Students join Kiwala on her journey to the rainforest to find a healer and learn about the traditional medicines that can be made from plants, as well as the geography of the Inka empire.
The Importance of Place: People of the Arctic

Focusing on the Inuktitut people of Northern Canada and Greenland, this program features these communities' vast knowledge of and adaptations to their environment. Students explore Arctic cultural objects and have the chance to build an iglu.

Bison: One-Stop Shopping

American Indian tribes from the Great Plains were shaped by the plants and animals in their environment. In this interactive program, students explore how a tipi is constructed and learn how Native peoples on the Great Plains made their housing, food, and clothing.

4th Grade–12th Grade Group Visits

Guided Gallery Programs

Discover new perspectives on American Indian history, culture, and contemporary lives through a shared experience, facilitated with dialogue, in the museum's exhibitions. In these programs, the museum's educators invite students with varied experiences and differing perspectives to engage in an open-ended conversation that leads to personal and collective learning.

Register for Guided Gallery Programs and Cultural and Performing Arts Programs

Please note:

  • Guided gallery programs are FREE, but advance registration is required.
  • Programs are available for students grades 4–12.
  • Registered group visits are available Monday–Friday from September through May, excluding federal holidays.
  • Each guided program is 60 minutes; program start times are 10:15 & 11:30 AM.
  • Most programs can accommodate 60 students, except where noted; a minimum of 10 students is required to register.
  • For groups Grade 4–12, the museum requires one (1) chaperone for every ten (10) students.

Guided Gallery Program Themes

Powerful Images, Powerful Words

American Indian images and names are everywhere in American life, from the Land O'Lakes Butter maiden to the Tomahawk missile. Do these images and words keep American Indians visible or invisible in our society? In this program, students explore the ways in which Indian names and images—both historical and contemporary—continue to shape how we think about American Indians.

Related educational resource: Americans: A Dialogue Toolkit for Educators

Telling the American Story

The American story has been profoundly shaped by American Indians, yet the stories told about Indians are often false and almost always incomplete. What do we gain by telling stories that may not be true? What do we lose? In this program, students examine three key events in American history—the first Thanksgiving, the life of Pocahontas, and the Battle of Little Bighorn—to uncover the hidden stories behind them.

Related educational resource: Americans: A Dialogue Toolkit for Educators

Facing Our Treaty Promises

American Indian treaties with the United States have had enormous and permanent effects on the lands, cultures, and populations of America. Should the United States keep the promises made in treaties? Can we ask a nation to sacrifice development opportunities in the service of protecting treaty rights? In this program, students examine three treaties—the Treaty of Canandaigua, the Treaty of New Echota, and the Horse Creek Treaty—to more fully understand the American experience.

Related educational resources:
The Trail of Tears: A Story of Cherokee Removal
Northern Plains Treaties: Is a Treaty Intended to Be Forever?

Bridging Differences: Inka and American Values

This program can accommodate up to 30 students per time slot. Our values are the underlying reason for all of our actions and behaviors, but we don't often stop to name them. Learning to identify our values and the values of others can help us understand each other better. How could understanding someone else's values affect things like conflict, interpersonal relationships, and policy? Which one of your personal values do you think our society could use more of? In this program, students examine their own personal values while learning more about the Inka value of ayni, or communal responsibility, and its role in traditional building practices.

Related educational resources:
Q'eswachaka: A Living Legacy of Inka Engineering
Q'eswachaka: Una Maravilla de Ingeniería Inka
The Great Inka Road: How Can a Road System Be an Example of Innovation?
El Gran Camino Inka: ¿Cómo un sistema de carreteras puede ser un ejemplo de innovación?
The Inka Empire: What Innovations Can Provide Food and Water for Millions?
El Imperio Inka: ¿Qué innovaciones pueden proveer alimento y agua para millones?

Cultural and Performing Arts Programs

This new series of dynamic and engaging cultural and performing arts programs offers unique, one-of-a-kind immersive experiences including cultural experts, vibrant performances, demonstrations, and activities.

Please note:

  • Cultural and performing arts programs are FREE, but advance registration is required.
  • Program capacity varies (see listings for details); a minimum of 10 students is required to register.
  • For groups Grade 4–12, the museum requires one (1) chaperone for every ten (10) students.
  • Programs are added to the registration calendar as they become available. Check back for additional programs throughout the year.

Cultural and Performing Arts Program Themes

Hear Me Say My Name

Recommended for students grades 5–12
Select dates from November 2019 to May 2020 | 10:30 & 11:30 AM
Duration: 35 minutes
Capacity: 300 people

"I am not your mascot, and I don't live in a tipi. See me for who I am, hear me say my name." How do American Indian stereotypes, prejudice, and identity shape the discussion of what it means to be a young person in our country today? This original multimedia play, created in collaboration with Smithsonian Associates Discovery Theater, tackles America's assumptions about American Indians and starts a conversation with audiences reclaiming rich history, challenges, hopes, and dreams. After the play, students are invited to explore the exhibition galleries with self-guided materials to learn more. This program is generously supported by the Rasmuson Foundation.

The Mush Hole

Recommended for students grades 8–12
March 13, 2020 | 10:30 AM
Duration: 60 minutes
Capacity: 300 people

Choreographer Santee Smith (Mohawk) presents a contemporary dance piece that focuses on stories shared by students from Six Nations of the Grand River who attended an Indian boarding school nicknamed by students, "The Mush Hole." The Mush Hole explores the lives and spirits of children who were forced to attend the Mohawk Institute residential school in Ontario through song, dance, and theater. It is about survival, resilience, and embodies enskwakhwahshón:rien (we will feed your hunger); kwè:iahre (we remember you); and kwanorónhkhwa (we love you). This program is generously supported by the Rasmuson Foundation.

Through Her Eyes: Celebrating Indigenous Women of the Andes

Recommended for students grades 4–12
March 19 & 20, 2020 | 10 AM–1 PM
Capacity: 300 people

In celebration of Women's History Month, this program amplifies the stories, experiences, and perspectives of indigenous women in the Andes. Cultural and content experts will lead a series of vibrant performances, demonstrations, and activities to give students a window into the rich traditions and contemporary realities of these indigenous communities.

Pure Native

Recommended for students grades 7–12
May 1, 2020 | 10:30 AM
Duration: 120 minutes (15-minute intermission)
Capacity: 300 people

This two-act play by Vickie Ramirez (Tuscarora) is a collaboration with the National Autry Center and tells the personal story of a Native entrepreneur starting a bottled water company on his reservation. Brewster White returns to the reservation with a plan to convince the tribal council and clan mothers to lease "rez" water rights to a large food conglomerate that wants to sell Pure Native bottled water. The only problem is that his close friends and family aren't on board, and his old love, Connie, is fiercely opposed. Will the community vote to change their recipe for traditional life with a proposal to bring hundreds of jobs to the rez if it risks dramatically changing their daily lives? Or will they hang on to tradition? This program is generously supported by the Rasmuson Foundation.

Self-Guided Visits to the Museum

Registration is not required for groups exploring the museum's public spaces on their own. General visitor information is available on the Visit page. Individuals and groups may also choose to use the museum's Self Guides and other educational resources related to current exhibitions:

Chaperone Policy

Adult chaperones are required for all student groups. Chaperones must supervise and remain with their groups at all times. The museum reserves the right to cancel programs for groups that do not meet the chaperone policy. Groups that are inadequately supervised during their visit may be asked to leave the building. Groups of students Grade 3 and below require a ratio of one (1) chaperone for every five (5) students. Groups of students Grade 4 and up require a ratio of one (1) adult for every ten (10) students.

Native Knowledge 360 Educational Resources

Looking to extend the learning? Native Knowledge 360° offers educational resources and online lessons that provide a richer and more inclusive discourse about American Indians.