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From the Castle

Object Lessons

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Our 20-month-old daughter, Carolina, attends the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center (SEEC), an early childhood education program with museum-related, themed activities such as comparison visits to a bird exhibit at the National Museum of Natural History and to Miró's Lunar Bird, a larger-than-life sculpture at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. SEEC also advises similar centers around the country. More than 2,000 graduates of the SEEC's Learning Through Objects seminar—early childhood specialists, museum professionals and classroom teachers—work with museums in their own communities to create art and science activities for pre-K through middle school students. SEEC also provides professional training for entire school systems, collaborating with local museums, including those that have become Smithsonian Affiliates.

Many think of the Smithsonian as a place to visit. But it is also an educational outreach enterprise. We are using online learning games, educational Webcasts and other media to bring the Institution to millions of classrooms. Students explore the universe through the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory's MicroObservatory project. On its Web site (mo-www.harvard.edu/MicroObservatory), a student can request a live telescopic photograph of an object in space. Once it has been posted on the site, the student is notified.

The National Science Resources Center, a joint project with the National Academies, has created long-term partnerships with leaders in more than 2,000 school districts to help teach elementary and middle school students to think critically and solve complex problems using scientific observation and evidence.

The pioneering Iwonder program at the Museum of Natural History's Naturalist Center enables students to use center artifacts and specimens to learn about biodiversity, biomes and classification. Millions of teachers use our more than 1,200 online resources (smithsonianeducation.org), and more than 2,000 of them visit our annual Teachers Night, from which they can take home free materials.

We also partner with the Council of Chief State School Officers to provide professional development for the National and State Teachers of the the Year. The National Museum of American History, with George Mason University and the Thinkfinity/MarcoPolo Consortium (thinkfinity.org), offers over 45,000 K-12 lesson plans and other classroom resources based on museum objects, documents and other primary sources. Our lifelong learning center, the Smithsonian Associates, which presents lectures, tours and activities, offers a master's degree in the History of Decorative Arts through the Corcoran College of Art + Design. Through these programs and partnerships, the Smithsonian joins America as it heads back to school.

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