Looking at Landscape: Prompts for Extended Thinking

Looking at Landscape: Prompts for Extended Thinking

Use these prompts after your Distance Learning session or museum visit to activate creative, critical, and reflective thinking.

Grade Level:
Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12
American Art
Subject Area:
Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Fine Arts, History and Social Science, Visual Arts
Activity Type:
Distance Learning

Looking at Landscape: Prompts for Extended Thinking

Creative Thinking

Using our imaginations when looking at art can activate prior knowledge and spark curiosity. Ask students to recall their Distance Learning visit and try this activity.

Look at the artworks below. As you look, think about the challenges and opportunities these landscapes present for the people inhabiting them. Pick one person from Thomas Hart Benton’s print Threshing.  You can choose from any part of the artwork. Next, pick a person from William Bradford’s painting Scotch Whaler Breaking Through Ice. Imagine these two were to meet in person! What do you suppose the interaction would be like? What ideas might they share about the geography of North America? What might they have to explain to one another? Creatively share your ideas in the voice of each character by, for example, performing a sketch, crafting a comic strip, or writing and illustrating a story.

Thomas Hart Benton
Threshing, 1941

William Bradford
Scotch Whaler Working Through Ice, ca. 1878
Oil on canvas

Critical Thinking

Looking closely at art helps us explore viewpoints from the past. During your Evans DLP visit, students practiced looking carefully to interpret what artists can tell us about the time and place in which they lived. Ask students to try this with other works of art featuring the American landscape. Use the Looking to Learn: Elaboration Game strategy to examine some of the works below.

Based on their observations, what are some ideas your students have about how humans throughout history have related to the landscape and geography of North America?

Reflective Thinking

Thinking about our experience with art helps us connect to people and ideas across time and place. Ask students to reflect on their Distance Learning visit with one or more of the following prompts.

  • Having spent time with American Art at VMFA, what more do you know about the North American landscape and its geography? How do you imagine the artists and the people they painted were similar or different to yourself and the way you interact with the landscape in which you live?
  • What did the art NOT answer for you? What are you curious about now that you have seen some art that depicts the North American landscape?  Name three things that you wish you knew more about and why. Visit your school library and databases to research the answers to your questions.
  • Imagine you were to time travel and visit the studio of either or both of the artists whose work you examined at VMFA.  What might you see there? What kinds of questions might you have for the artist.  What about YOU and how you work and live would surprise these artists?