Bata Shoe Museum Foundation

For every shoe, there’s a story. Although feet are the same around the world, what people choose to wear on their feet is incredibly diverse. It is in this diversity that some of the most interesting aspects of culture are revealed. The Bata Shoe Museum strives to share these compelling cultural stories by using footwear as the point of entry into the cultures of the world. Particular strengths of the Museum’s collection include important holdings in Circumpolar, 18th century European, Indigenous North American, and Asian footwear.

Bata Shoe MuseumOur Impact Why We Exist

To illuminate human history and culture through shoes.

Collections Storage RoomOur Story What We Do

The Bata Shoe Museum is proud of its charitable and community outreach programs. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, these programs aid public access to the arts through the removal of financial barriers.

Notable Accomplishments:

  • Established education programs: the Step Ahead Fund provides subsidized field trips for students in priority neighbourhoods (9,590 participants since 2009);
  • The Bata Shoe Museum’s weekly Pay-What-You-Can evening is an opportunity for individuals and families to experience one of the world’s most unique collections without financial barriers;
  • Each year, the Bata Shoe Museum’s Warm the Sole Sock Drive collects much-needed socks for the homeless and donates them to shelters;
  • More than 2 million visitors, including over 203,000 student visits from GTA schools;
  • A long-standing volunteer program that has included more than 900 volunteers, contributing over 100,000 hours of service to the Museum since 1992;
  • Community art projects and partnerships with Nuit Blanche, Anandam Dance Theatre, Vibe Arts for Children and Youth, Christie/Ossington Neighbourhood Centre, Sketch, Toronto Loves Kicks, and Unity; and
  • Charitable Partnerships with the Annual Giving Tuesday campaign, and Imagine Canada through participation in National Philanthropy Day.

Children displaying artworkOur Programs How We Do It

Introducing Step Ahead – The Bata Shoe Museum’s Program for Students from Priority Neighbourhoods

The Bata Shoe Museum is dedicated to providing access to the arts for children from Toronto’s priority communities by subsidizing field trips to the Museum.

BSM developed Step Ahead in 2009 after having created successful and well-received educational programing since 1995, and in response to increasing evidence on the role of the arts in improving the lives of economically disadvantaged children. Students from JK to Grade 12 participate in an Ontario curriculum-based program that includes a guided gallery tour, hands-on artefact session where they have the unique opportunity to handle authentic museum objects, and a studio component where they paint a Dutch clog to take home. Teachers receive suggestions for pre- and post-visit activities to further enrich the museum experience.

The Step Ahead program has provided access to the arts for over 9,590 students (208 schools) from economically disadvantaged parts of Toronto since its launch in 2009. On average, the program subsidizes 850 students each year, city-wide; in the 2016/2017 school year, generous funders enabled the program to reach its capacity for the first time in its history, providing just over 2,000 students with access to the BSM.

Step Ahead is grounded in cutting-edge arts education pedagogy and is available to students from the Toronto District School Board’s (TDSB) 128 Model Schools and the Toronto Catholic District School Board’s (TCDSB) 17 Priority Schools. Model Schools are inner city schools identified by the TDSB’s Learning Opportunities Index, and have the largest concentration of students living in poverty. The Model Schools currently serve more than 80,000 students.

Research done by the TDSB Model Schools indicates that children living in poverty have less exposure to cultural, recreational and enrichment programs, and are less likely to achieve recognition in the arts than are economically advantaged children. Anecdotal feedback from teachers reiterates this problem, with many noting that their students are lacking opportunities to experience the rich cultural resources that the city has to offer. A grade 8 teacher at Danforth Gardens Public School writes: “Students at our school come from families who have trouble affording the basic necessities. Step Ahead allows them to go to the museum to learn about history and the world in a way that they normally would not be able to due to lack of funds”.

Many of the students that participate in Step Ahead have never visited a museum. As a result, an emphasis is placed on museum literacy to give students the confidence they need to become life-long users of the city’s cultural institutions. The Model Schools research also states that parents living in poverty often face many barriers that prevent them from taking part in school activities, and that a key factor in student success is parent involvement. Numerous teachers have shared with us the barriers that prevent parents from accompanying their children on field trips. In order to encourage family bonding experiences at the museum, participants are given a family pass so that they may visit again with their families and share all that they have learned.

BSM is constantly reviewing the Step Ahead program for new learning opportunities and community partnerships and we are proud of the shared values of the Toronto Foundation as stated in the 2016 Vital Signs Report:

  • Percentage of children (ages 0-17) living under the LIM-AT (After Tax Low-Income Measure) in Toronto: 29% (2014)
  • Exposure to arts education for young people can build capacity for imaginative and critical thinking along with open-mindedness, important skills for living productive lives as adults
  • Innovative community-based programs can help bridge the gap between rich and poor

We have recently completed a successful three-year community partnership with the TDSB’s Toronto Foundation for Student Success (TFSS) and their beyond 3:30 program, which allowed us to extend Step Ahead to an additional 18 groups from grades 6-8 from Toronto’s priority communities.

We are excited about the following new initiatives, which are being developed for the 2017/2018 school year:

  • Step Ahead Summer Fun: there is as much of a need in priority neighbourhoods for summer programming as there is for in-school programs. We are reaching out to local community groups to offer subsidized access for 250 children to our popular Summer Fun programming.
  • Teacher Development Workshops: teachers from TDSB Model Schools and TCDSB Priority Schools will be invited to take part in specially designed teacher education workshops (elementary and secondary levels). Workshops will equip teachers with the skills and resources needed to effectively implement object-based learning and museum literacy strategies into their teaching. Participants will receive a certificate of completion to add to their teaching portfolios.

What You Can Do

Demand for Step Ahead grows every year. Only a small percentage of the TDSB’s Model Schools or TCDSB’s Priority Schools have access to this program due to funding limitations, and dozens of teachers who want to bring their students are turned away annually. Your donation towards the Bata Shoe Museum’s Step Ahead fund will help grow and sustain the program, and support the following program goals:

1) Short-term Goal

Participant Funding: reach program capacity annually ($19.40 per student, with a program goal of 1,750 students);

2) Mid-term Goal

Online Engagement Tools: A greater online presence promoting interaction will enhance the experience of current participants, assist educators using innovative technological strategies, extend reach to larger online audiences, celebrate the success of the program, enhance community involvement, and encourage new forms of donor support. This will be achieved through the continued development and implementation of two online components to be integrated into the BSM website:

  • A web page dedicated to promoting awareness of Step Ahead, showcasing the success of the program to the community and potential donors.
  • An online lesson plan gallery allowing teachers to contribute to and share lesson plans, teacher resources, and examples of student work.

3) Long-term Goal

Generous donors will ensure the continued success of BSM’s education programs for children from priority communities.

  • A donation of $5,000 annually will allow 258 students to visit the BSM for a Step Ahead program
  • A donation of $33,950 annually will allow 1,750 students to visit the BSM for a Step Ahead program, and fund the two teacher development workshops.


Catherine M. Hurley, CFRE
Head of Development
Charitable Number: 119215168RR0001

Finance & Governance


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