What is CALTA21?

CALTA21 is an intervention model initiative that builds professional capacity to empower adult immigrant English language learners (ELLs). The foundations of CALTA21 are the Professional Development Institute and the curriculum “Identity, Portraiture and Photography.Evaluation demonstrates that participating ELLs have improved their language skills and taken ownership of museum experiences in the curriculum’s 30-hour process of transformative learning, which culminates in students curating successful museum visits for families and friends. Through CALTA21, literacy instructors have the opportunity to gain new understanding of the value of authentic, art-based discussions and strengthen teaching practices when hearing students’ immigrant narratives in spaces of public value. CALTA21 encourages museum educators and docents to embrace the philosophy of shared meaning-making. It builds communities of global learning and civic engagement, while strengthening the immigrant voice and helping museums to maintain their relevance and cultural roles.

Guiding Principles:

CALTA21’s guiding principles are reflected across the curriculum and support every unit.

Principle One:

Every person has the right to equal access to aesthetic encounters with art and to museums in a meaningful and independent way and institutions have a responsibility to engage all community members. The curriculum empowers participants to embrace art and museums as resources for learning, enjoyment and global understanding.

Principle Two:

There is inherent value to all points of view and backgrounds. Participants’ personal stories as imimigrants are at the core of the curriculum and are used as the springboard for acquiring new knowledge. The curriculum encourages students to access prior knowledge and experiences and see them as an asset and not a deficit.

Principle Three:

Teaching and learning should be a dialogue based on shared authority. Every participant in CALTA21 (students, teachers and museum educators) has an expertise and has an opportunity to share it with their fellow participants and learn from each other’s knowledge.

Principle Four:

Art and culture are powerful catalysts for developing literacy skills. Art addresses complex issues. Adult participants access higher order thinking skills using their senses (perception), emotions and cognition (often thinking in their native language) to look at and find meaning in art. The curriculum offers them the opportunity to collectivelly explore complex ideas and to think in abstract, to speculate and to infer while they build lower order thinking skills in their acquired language, such as vocabulary and sentence construction.

Principle Five:

Situated and contextualized learning fosters transformative experiences. The curriculum prepares students to become teachers and facilitators for their families and friends in a public environment, such as a museum. Visual literacy and art anchor the learning experience and the practice of literacy and critical thinking skills is set in a real life environment.

Principle Six:

Museums must embrace their new expanded roles – inclusion, access to knowledge, civic engagement and democratic practice. The curriculum encourages the strengthening of the immigrant voice and full civic participation. Participants shape their cultural identities while they recover their personal immigrant narratives and engage in relevant art discussions in a space of public value. CALTA21 provides museums with an opportunity to include an underrepresented audience in a meaningful and sustainable way.


The CALTA21 IMLS National Leadership Grant Period 2011-2014

Institute of Museum and Library Services

CALTA21 is a model initiative funded through a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The intent of this initiative, led by Queensborough Community College of the City University of New York (CUNY), is to build the capacity of museum-community college partnerships, to empower adult immigrant English language learners (ELL) while strengthening their literacy and critical thinking skills through visual literacy and simultaneously assisting them in enriching their social and cultural capital.

Under the leadership of Patricia Lannes, Project Director and QCC’s two Principal Investigators, Professor Kitty Bateman and Dr. Margot Edlin, CALTA21 will be implemented with its four partnering museums: El Museo del Barrio, the Rubin Museum of Art, The Godwin-Ternbach Museum at Queens College and the Katonah Museum of Art.

During this grant period (2011-2014), CALTA21’s development and implementation process includes:

  1. A continual cycle of testing, revision and redesign of the two project cornerstones: our professional development institute and the curriculum
  2. The creation of a manual to serve as resource guide for museums and community college literacy programs when launching a partnership
  3. The design and implementation of a dissemination plan that focuses on national implementation opportunities and includes this website where all materials will be available free of charge
  4. A culminating symposium will gather participants to share their experiences and evaluators to share their findings for future replication of the model

Who does CALTA21 serve?

The project’s target audiences are:

  1. Adult English Speakers 0f Other Languages (ESOL) seeking to develop their English literacy skills and their families
  2. Museum professionals and volunteers
  3. Faculty from community college literacy programs and staff of community based organizations

What does CALTA21 do?

CALTA21 uses art and museums as catalysts for learning. It is based upon the premise that visual literacy skills are transferable to other literacies and that art can be a powerful conduit to finding meaning in text. While looking at art and participating in facilitated discussions and recreating their immigrant stories, adult ELLs build new vocabulary, strengthen critical thinking skills, engage in dialogue, develop intercultural capital, articulate interpretations and develop a voice that draws from their wealth of experiences and background knowledge. CALTA21 builds an intercultural community of global learning and civic engagement.

How do we do it?

CALTA21 is a model initiative, resulting from a continual cycle of design-implementation-evaluation and revision of its two main cornerstones: a professional development institute (PDI) and the curriculum Identity, Portraiture and Photography. 

What are the outcomes of CALTA21?

Measurable outcomes and resources include:

  1. Improved literacy skills and increased social/cultural capital for ELL participants and their families
  2. Capacity building for museum and literacy educators
  3. The  inception of museum-community college partnerships both regionally and across the nation
  4. New practices, materials and resources to support the ongoing implementation of CALTA21, all of which will substantially extend the benefit of IMLS’s National Leadership Grant (NLG) investment and increase museum access and participation for thousands of America’s newest residents

Who supports CALTA21’s implementation and dissemination?

CALTA21’s implementation and dissemination plans are coordinated by:

  1. The project team, Queensborough Community College, CUNY, the CUNY Office of Academic Affairs Language and Literacy Programs under the leadership of Dr. Leslee Oppenheim,
  2. Visual Understanding in Education (VUE), the organization that created and supports VTS
  3. The participating museums during this grant period: El Museo del Barrio, The Rubin Museum of Art, The Godwin-Ternbach Museum at Queens College and The Katonah Museum of Art.
  4. Extensive presentations in local, regional, national and international professional conferences by Patricia Lannes and Kitty Bateman

Aligned with IMLS’s goals of creating models that can be implemented nationally, CALTA21 will develop a national network of organizations interested in implementing the model. By virtue of the collaborative implementation of CALTA21, partnerships will form and grow open pathways for some of the country’s newest residents to enhance language skills, develop cultural and social capital, facilitate access to higher education, and support workforce development, while simultaneously helping each institution expand its reach and maintain its relevance in increasingly diverse communities.

For more information on becoming a CALTA21 implementation site, please contact Patricia Lannes, Project Director or phone her at 516-313-1091.