When Alice Austen turned 11 years old in 1877, she received a camera from her Uncle Oswald. It allowed her to express her inner thoughts and feelings; it allowed her to see the world in a new light. It enriched her life and her images continue to enrich ours. Our ambition is for our education programs to play the part of Uncle Oswald and to introduce the camera and its creative possibilities to anyone from school children to senior citizens. 


Over the past decade, the Alice Austen House has slowly but methodically built an impressive range of education programs. We began with school programs for grades 3 to 5, and quickly added summer camps.  Four years ago, we began to offer Teen Studios; two years ago we inaugurated our Senior Citizen Program; and last year, we launched a pinhole camera project as well as an immigration program.

Our education programs are built on three pillars: learning how to use the camera, learning to look, and learning to express.  The strength of these pillars depends on the program: seniors need more help learning how to use the camera, and school children need more help expressing themselves. 


School Programs

We offer three main school programs: Alice Austen, Photographer; Meet Alice Austen; and Through Alice's Eyes. These programs take place in the school or at the Alice Austen House, and are geared towards students in grades 3-5. These 75 minute programs meet NYS standards S.S - #1, 2, 3; Language Arts- #E2, E3, E4; and The Arts- #1, 2, 3, 4.

Schools and teachers often ask us to develop classroom-specific programs. Although the content varies, each custom program includes essential components: a short history of Alice Austen, looking at and discussing her photos, and learning how to use a digital camera. We recently introduced “The Best Part of Me,” where students were asked to photograph the part of themselves that they like the most. They were propmted to write a paragraph explaining what it is about that part that they like. Since digital cameras make it easy to capture dozens and dozens of images—especially compared to Austen’s glass plate technique— a great emphasis was placed on reviewing, editing, and selecting the right image.

Senior Programs

We offer five senior citizen programs, each with about 12 participants. Of the four sessions, three take place in a community center and one at the Alice Austen House. Participants learn to use the digital camera, how to capture an image, as well as critique.  Participants also bring their own photographs and discuss their meaning and importance.


Pinhole Camera Education Program

The Alice Austen House Museum has developed a pinhole camera education program. The museum participates annually in Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day on the last Sunday in April and offers a family workshop the week prior to make-your-own pinhole camera. Customized pinhole photography programs are available for groups. 


Additional Programs

-Alice Austen and Immigration: Connecting the Past to the Present through Photography

This is an integrated social studies and art program for fifth grade classes that introduces students to Alice Austen, immigration and photography. The students analyze Alice Austen’s immigration and quarantine photographs by comparing them to the photographs of social reformers Lewis Hines and Jacob Riis and then stage their own point-of-view photographs. The project culminates with a photography exhibition of the students own photographs as well as photographs taken by Alice Austen, Lewis Hines, and Jacob Riis.


-Community through Photography: Documenting the World Around Us

This is a 10 week, in-school literacy through photography program with special education first- second- and third-grade students. The students are introduced to photographer Alice Austen, stage their own photographs, put together books of their writings and photographs, and visit the Alice Austen House House. Our main target group for this project consists of three 12:1 classes with students from grades K-1, 2, and 3.


For more information, please contact Ann Marie McDonnell, Director of Education at 718 816 4506 x 13.


Our education programs are generously supported by:
The NYC Department of Cultural Affairs
New York Community Trust
The Richmond County Savings Foundation
The Staten Island Foundation
Lily Auchincloss Foundation
Con Edison

The Board of the Alice Austen House 



  • Curtis High School students and teacher visit the Austen House
  • Summer Camp
  • Teen Studio
  • School program in the school
  • Close up