Looking is Learning is an educational, pod-based enrichment program for students 8 years old to High School

Looking is Learning is a visual-based educational program with an emphasis on
observation and multi-disciplinary learning. 

Looking is Learning is a method in which we approach education through observation using art, artifacts, maps, and primary sources.

We begin each class with the same question: What do you see? Through active observation, students learn about both the object and themselves.  Greater self-awareness leads to greater self-confidence.  

We follow up each observation with probes such as:

* What makes you say that?
      * What else do you see?

Students explain in detail their observations. These explanations are the foundation of a deeper analysis of the subject. Students begin to converse with each other about their insights.

And so begins the greater exploration. From each students’ individual observation, we embark on a multi-disciplinary platform of learning that bridges together art, history, science, math, philosophy, writing and literature.

Dion Wilson incorporates brain movement into Looking is Learning

Cheryl with students inside the Flatiron Prow Art Space

Artist Song Xin teaches Papercutting

Creating spirit animals with Dion for our Greek Studies Curriculum

A masterpiece of papercutting in our summer pod at Bryant Park

Cheryl with students at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine looking at architecture

Dion with our summer pod in Central Park working on brain movement, feeling our bodies in space

Creating an architectural structure from our Romanesque to Gothic Curriculum

A student contemplating her composition as she sets the shapes

Cheryl and her pod of students in conversation with Kara Walker at the Domino Sugar Factory

Cheryl brings Looking is Learning to an International Baccalaureate program.

After working with Cheryl, students quickly take leadership roles in discussing art and ideas

Cheryl with a pod of Fourth graders at the Greek Galleries at the Met.  Students are talking about what they see.

Cheryl brings Looking is Learning to an International Baccalaureate program. Discussing each student’s art work.

Students experimenting with materials as they look, learn and create.

We love using NYC for our pod field trips.  Looking and learning about art, architecture and the history of NYC.

Creating community with looking is learning, creating is doing, students of all levels and backgrounds work together and inspire one another.

Students discuss the artwork of Mark Dukes, Our Lady of Ferguson at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in the exhibit Sanctuary.

Students immediately engage in art in Looking is Learning pods and feel confident to speak and engage with what they see.

Creating a community of confident, intelligent learners.  

Looking is Learning accepts tax-deductible donations for need-based scholarships.

Looking is Learning

We empower students to sharpen their observational skills in order learn the history of the world through the experience of each culture's artwork. Striving to bring to underserved nyc students.

Looking is Learning is a fiscally sponsored project by the New York Foundation for the Arts
Looking is Learning Questions ?

Looking is Learning philosophy

Looking is Learning holds a core belief that to learn about the world is to learn about oneself. We are not a replacement of a traditional education, rather we are a supplement to it. We seek to empower students to express themselves and their ideas through the lens of academic study. We cover a wide array of subjects including history, math, writing, and art. However, we place less emphasis on memorizing facts and more on emboldening students to discover concepts for themselves. 

Our classes are discussions as opposed to lectures. Every single discussion begins with the same question: What do you see? Whether we are showing an ancient ruin or a Leonardo painting, every students’ observations and ideas that these images inspire are uniquely their own. While there are right and wrong answers, there are no wrong observations. It is the observations that lead us the answers. Everything we are taught in school, whether it be the Pythagorean Theorem or the Theory of Evolution, originated from the mind of a human being. Someone discovered the natural processes of the world just as someone created the great works of literature. It was their observations and ideas that led to their knowledge. We want to see what every student observes. We want to inspire every student to use their imagination. From there, we lead them to grounded information.

By the end of class, students will have heightened knowledge of the subjects we are studying. More importantly, they will have a greater confidence in using their observational skills and expressing their own thoughts and opinions. They will have learned more about the world and so have learned more about themselves. This method will serve them well in their education.  

Why - Letter from Cheryl to Parents and Students

Dear Parents and Students:

Welcome to Looking is Learning.  I began my career in art as a galleriest and curator.  In the early days of my work, as one of the first gallerists to identify the cultural and visual importance of Chinese Contemporary art and the cross-cultural exchange prevalent in the work, I exhibited curated exhibitions in a salon format.  The salon was a place where viewers could come and discuss the work with the artists.  The salon was based on the notion of a conversation about art. An exchange of ideas, views and opinions.  The evenings were dynamic, exciting and helped people feel connected to art based on what they saw and discussed.  

I quickly realized that what we were missing in education as a culture was the conversation to art.  Fine art had been held aloft in heady gallery spaces, ivory-tower collections and museums.  Young people often were taught some form of art making in elementary school but beyond that, were not exposed to art in their educations.  How are we going to create a culture in which art is looked at, deciphered and discussed if children are not growing up looking at it as a common practice?

Art is evidence.  It is the experience of history as it happened and happens.  Looking at art is experiencing that history.  I ask students what do they see.  It is the first question.  It is where we begin.  It is where the student finds their voice.  It is where I, based on their observations, find a pathway into the student to begin to understand how they learn and what is important to them.  From this point, we decipher and discuss the culture from which the piece was created and its importance to the history.  

All cultures have had a need and desire to express themselves visually.  From the earliest cave painting to the present moment, humankind have been telling their story since the beginning.  There is no better way to learn history and to deepen our understanding of cultures than through the simple act of observing.  When you look you learn.  You learn about the art, object, map you are looking at and you learn about yourself.  
I have found that one of the most important aspects of learning is what the student is able to learn about themselves through active observation.  Young students gain tremendous confidence as they realize how powerful their observations are.  As they observe and decipher art work that they had no prior connection and realize that they not only understand it well, they unlocked the key to it from their own practice of observation, they feel empowered in their education.  

From our youngest students, 8 years old to teen agers, college and graduate students, looking is learning is an enrichment program that created life long learners, museum goers, who become global citizens with a deep appreciation for the cultures of the world.

We are thrilled to be sponsored by the New York Foundation of the Arts so that we can offer scholarships to students.

Please feel free to reach out to discuss creating a pod or private class on zoom, in a museum, in the park (spring, summer and fall.)  

Who is Our Staff?

Here are some of our instructors
Cheryl McGinnis
Cheryl is a curator, gallerist, and educator who has been in the art world for over 20 years. Cheryl passionately believes that every child’s observations are uniquely their own and their most important tool to unlocking and deciphering art. Cheryl uses the framework of observing and understanding art as the foundation for making connections across disciplines including history, science, math, and liberal arts.
Dion Wilson
Throughout his many years as a principal dancer with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Dance Theatre of Harlem, and Broadway’s The Lion King, Dion has always been dedicated to mentoring students. He brings to his students a mind-body focus crucial to their powers of observations. He adopts dances and movements throughout history so that students immerse themselves  both mindfully and physically in the cultures they are studying.
William Faba
William is a senior mathematics major at Boston University with a tutoring career spanning seven years including work with students at the Storefront Academy of Harlem. William understands firsthand the struggles children face with academics and the importance of visual learning. His proudest accomplishments are seeing his kids blossom from frustrated students to confident learners.

Song Xin
Song is one of the world’s leading artists in papercutting. Song’s work can be found in numerous public installations around the world, including the New York City Subway.  Students will use their newfound papercutting talents as a means to further their academic understanding. Song incorporates both visual and physical learning as students will papercut images inspired by their studies, whether it be an ancient artifact or a mathematical fractal.

Jamie Ballay
Jamie comes from a long line of artists. His great grandfather was a goldsmith and jeweler. His grandmother was a painter, his father a designer, and his mother an actor and director.He sees his work as a visual artist as a compilation of all these disciplines.He is passionate about visual education and has developed a programs especially for Looking is Learning  to engage and educate young people in this important skill.

What are the Course Offerings?

We offer unique cirriculum that alligns with what students learn in their traditonal schooling classrooms. However, we bring together their knowledge across all disciplines in an engaging discussion whereby students strengthen their understanding of both their academics and of themselves. 

Whether we are in a musuem, a virtual program, an outdoor pod, or an indoor pod, whether we are in a private class or a group class, it begins with observation

New York History
From Manahatta to Manhattan 
The Fertile Crescent
From Nomad to Settler 
China, Persia, Rome
A Journey Through the Art, Architecture, and Development 
Early Humans
Speaking to us from the Caves of Lascaux 
China, Persia, Rome
A Journey Through the Art, Architecture, and Development 
Finding Balance, Meaning, and Usage in Daily Life
Romanesque to Gothic
A Search for Light and Sky  
The Greeks
Democracy, Architecture, Art & Culture

Where can I found out more?

Contact us by email, social media, or phone:

When are classes held?


Sessions are available throughout the school year as well as the summer.

Enrollment is flexible to the students schedule

How have parents responded to Looking is Learning?

Mom with 2 students

My two kids started with Looking is Learning in Spring 2020, and I don't know how our family would have weathered lockdown without Cheryl. When our beloved museums shut down, she skillfully brought them to my kids via Zoom, keeping their interest and analytical skills sharp and saving us from a quarantine slump. Under her socratic questioning, my 8-year-old son especially learned to effectively communicate his ideas with proper vocabulary and mature classroom etiquette--even in an online setting.

I saw so much growth in just a few months! We continued to take her classes in Summer 2020 when it was safe to meet in person, and she continued to ignite their interest in history with a deep dive into Manhattan's evolution.  I love that she teaches the whole child--mind, body and soul--by bringing in Dion for creative physical education! The kids always end her class feeling uplifted. Cheryl uses key pieces of art and architecture to empower her students with the facts and--what's most important in my mind-- the ability to examine what's really in front of them to find meaning and form opinions.

Father with 1 student

Our 10-year-old son took virtual classes with Ms. McGinnis this past spring and summer. Our son is diagnosed with high functioning autism. The "Looking is Learning" classes included a mix of art history, math, physical education, general history and art projects.
Our son has taken plenty of art classes in school. He never really expressed much interest in art. He has been provided with OT and PT services for years. In the past, he would start art projects but never really managed to stay focused to be able to complete them. We just thought that he did not have much interest in art. We also witnessed that because of his physical difficulties he would sometimes become too frustrated to be able to really enjoy making or learning about art.

"Looking is Learning" has definitely changed how he approaches art. These well-designed classes also changed our perspective of what we believed was a lack of interest in art or his physical challenges with making art. Ms. McGinnis' classes were wonderfully interesting, enriching and entertaining. She and her co-teachers were able to motivate him to reach new heights in art appreciation. She combines art history with the production of art in a way that leads the students, including our son, to be enthusiastic about art history. Long after the classes, he continues to research art online. When he sees an architectural design in a building, he remembers what he learned in Ms. McGinnis' classes and wants to share with us the history of such designs.

Ms. McGinnis also added a physical exercise component to her classes, which he really enjoyed. We believed this aspect of the class was so important given the virtual nature of these classes. With the physical exercises he was teaching, the instructor was able to "tie-­in" something about the art lesson of the day or talk about, for example, a famous dance performer.

When our son is doing art projects since the completion of the classes, he makes more of an effort to complete them. He is much more interested in the projects and is excited to embark on the projects. Previously, he found art to be "hard" or "boring." Now, he really dives in. He loves to use more than just pencils to do his projects. He looks to mix different materials in his art projects.

We are so grateful to Ms. McGinnis and her co-teachers for their efforts in designing the wonderful "Looking is Learning" classes for our son and kids like our son. We enthusiastically recommend your support for "Looking is Learning," so that other children can benefit from these wonderful classes taught by committed and dedicated educators.

Mom with 2 students

I am writing to you on behalf of Cheryl McGinnis, who has been teaching my two children for two years.

Cheryl’s warm personality and very broad knowledge of New York City overall made those classes something to look forward to. Cheryl’s teaching is unique. She has a genuine love for teaching and talking to children. She is a wonderful source of knowledge on everything from NYC History, Art, Architecture, Landmarks and Social Studies. My younger son, who has autism and is very anxious in social situations loves Cheryl, he has always responded her well, since he’s only received warmth and respect, never judgment nor patronizing. All the other children in the program responded very well to Cheryl’s instruction, they all felt heard and encouraged to express themselves.

The uniqueness of Cheryl’s method is “Looking and Learning”, it has cross-disciplinary features of learning from observations. Incorporating History with Science, Art and Architecture, teaching the cause and effect and logical reasoning in History and between the other disciplines opens a new world of understanding to the young - and old - minds.

My children are fortunate enough to learn with Cheryl via Zoom and in small outdoor classes. Cheryl gave us a very generous financial aid. Our children and others would greatly benefit if Cheryl could expand her program and offer more classes.

Cheryl is working with an associate teacher, Dion Wilson. Dion is teaching movement to Cheryl’s students. He is a former Alvin Ailey dancer, now is a movement instructor who truly understands how to address issues of low tone, focus and coordination. He is a gifted teacher and understands empirically how meaningful movement connects the brain and body. He specializes in movement for children with learning disabilities ranging from ASD, ADHD, small motor skills issues and focus. Dion worked in great productions, such as The Lion King and Philadancon. My children and all of his other students love him and learn with ease from him.

How do you enroll?

Prices for Looking is learning is as follows:
The prices are based on two hour per week for 6 weeks



Looking is Learning

We empower students to sharpen their observational skills in order learn the history of the world through the experience of each culture's artwork. Striving to bring to underserved nyc students.

Looking is Learning is a fiscally sponsored project by the New York Foundation for the Arts
For more information
send us an email.
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