Who We Are

The National Association of Museum Schools (NAMS) is a newly formed corporation dedicated to supporting current museum schools, future museum schools, museums, arts organizations, schools and other community organizations in the development of effective hands-on, real-world learning opportunities for children and young adolescents.

NAMS is specifically designed to support and impact:

  • Museum school staff and students
  • Non-museum school staff and students
  • Museums, zoos, centers, and other organizations interested in meaningful partnerships with local schools
  • Educators within school districts and Colleges of Education
  • Founding boards and community groups interested in opening a charter school

There are approximately 40 museum schools across the country, representing a variety of student populations and communities. These museum schools partner with countless museums to bring learning to life for a diverse group of P-12 students. Though each school is unique, they all prioritize the building of partnerships with museums to engage students in learning opportunities that are interactive, engaging, and meaningful. Museum schools, housed in urban and rural settings across the US, successfully serve students that represent a variety of cultural, geographic and economic experiences.

NAMS is situated to bring museum schools and museums together to share their experiences and expand impact throughout the country. Drawing upon the extensive partnerships among current museums and their museum school partners, NAMS strives to expand this impact by sharing the unique pedagogy and best practices of museum schools and their museum partners with all schools and all museums.

As a member of the National Association of Museum Schools, museums and schools have the unique opportunity to learn with like-minded partners that value museum/school partnerships and their significant impact. Members also have access to and support implementing the scalable features and elements of successful K-12 museum/school collaborations.


On average, students nationwide are not meeting grade-level expectations. National average Reading and Math scores for Fourth, Eighth, and Twelfth graders show a consistent trend: the majority of students are performing lower than proficient achievement levels.

2019 NAEP Data

Percent of students that performed at or above the NAEP Proficient Level

2019 NAEP Data


Based on state standardized assessments, Museum school students typically outperform their peers at traditional schools, locally and statewide.


Expand the museum model into more classrooms and schools so that a greater number of students can learn through and benefit from this proven model.


Over the past two decades, numerous researchers have conducted studies on museum schools in an attempt to define the museum school model. Some definitions include:

  • schools that partner with museums and institutions to get students out of the classroom and engaged in hands-on learning,
  • schools where the instruction and curriculum are aligned to a cultural or scientific organization and,
  • schools that have established relationships with museums, offering students instructional opportunities through a museum style of learning.

Though unable to establish a specific, universal definition of a museum school, researchers agree that there is a significant need for a museum school network.

In July 2014, The Museum School of Avondale Estates saw a dire need to bring together museum schools and the museums with whom they were partnering. TMS was awarded a $150,000 competitive Charter School Dissemination grant from the Georgia Department of Education. The primary goal of the dissemination grant program is to promote the sharing of charter school best practices with other schools.  The dissemination grant provided TMS with the opportunity to begin the process of building a nationwide Museum School network and increase teacher access to museum school related curriculum materials and resources. The identified Museum School Network was invited, along with a broad contingent of K-12 educators to attend the Inaugural Conference of the National Association of Museum Schools (NAMS) in June 2015 to share best practices in museum education and provide input on the future direction of the newly established National Association of Museum Schools.

The conference sold out (200 attendees) and entertained a lengthy wait list of hopeful participants.  Attendees represented over 5 states and more than 25 schools, districts, colleges, and universities, including staff from over 8 museum schools. Numerous Atlanta-based museums were also in attendance. Through the network of museum schools created as a result of this grant, the best practices and resources were shared with schools local to TMS but also nationwide both through the NAMS conference and the newly created NAMS website.

The grant funds were exhausted in fall of 2015. Without dedicated funds and a dedicated staff, NAMS remained dormant for several years.

Our Board

Katherine Kelbaugh, Ph.D.
Katherine Kelbaugh, Ph.D.

Executive Director

Andy Huff
Andy Huff


Kaleen Tison Povis, PhD
Kaleen Tison Povis, PhD


Terence Washington
Terence Washington


Chris Delgado
Chris Delgado


Joel Lowy
Joel Lowy

Partner Organizations

American Alliance of Museums