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We know the skills that VTS fosters—critical thinking, careful observation, generating inferences, and revising ideas—are also useful in fields outside of art, but do we need to modify VTS if we choose to use it with content other than art objects?

Over the past four years, VTS has been deeply involved in research to develop tools and methodologies for use in science museums. In partnership with The Wild Center, the Seattle Aquarium, the EcoTarium, and the Rochester Museum & Science Center, Yoon Kang-O’Higgins (VTS) & Kerri Ziemann (The Wild Center) led project participants on a journey of discovery, reflection, and revision. Funded by multiple grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the results of this project are an incredible array of activities, examples, and templates for creating curricula, available to subscribers to the VTS website as a toolkit called VTS in Science. In an insightful essay, Kerri Ziemann describes in detail one finding to emerge out of this work: how to adapt the first question, What’s going on in this picture? for different objects and audiences.

At the same time, educators working at The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County were attending VTS trainings (but were not involved in the same, IMLS-funded VTS in Science project) and devising their own modified version of the VTS questions and curriculum. Led by Molly Porter, Director of Education, they, too, consciously and carefully adapted VTS to their specific museum, mission, and collection. In a fascinating case of parallel development, they made many similar observations and ultimately arrived at closely related modifications to the VTS method suited to their context. In so doing, they also developed an innovative new form of the second question, What do you see that makes you say that? based on drawing conclusions rather than asking for evidence, that I believe could have far reaching implications for how we train teachers to listen and respond to student thought.

This edition of Site Specific is dedicated to sharing these exciting new discoveries not only with other science educators, but all practitioners interested in modifying VTS to fit new types of content outside the realm of art while “maintaining the integrity of VTS,” as one of our authors writes. Together, these two essays provide sterling examples of how thoughtful, deliberate, and reflective practice can help practitioners successfully adapt VTS to meet the needs of their specific learners and educational environments. —Madison Brookshire

Special thanks to Amy Chase Gulden, peer reviewer for this edition.

Madison Brookshire (he/him) is an artist and educator who lives and works in Los Angeles. He is currently a Lecturer at University of California, Riverside in the Departments of Art and the History of Art.

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