Smithsonian Hosts an Education Conference Unlike Any Other This Summer

The 4th annual National Education Summit is a one-of-a-kind, signature three-day program hosted by the Smithsonian, featuring inspiring keynotes, deep-dive sessions, hands-on workshops and an evening networking reception

A group of teachers gather around a large blue billboard of the Summit schedule
Educator participants from the 2023 Smithsonian National Education Summit gathered together to take a look at the extensive session line-up.This year's Summit includes over 100 speakers and over 40 session options to choose from. Norwood Photography

As any educator at the Smithsonian will tell you, one of the great strengths of the world’s largest museum, research, and education complex is its ability to help us explore topics and tell stories across wide-ranging disciplines—often finding unexpected connections— that provide a rich opportunity for deeper learning.

At the fourth annual Smithsonian National Education Summit (July 16-18, 2024), a community of over one hundred Smithsonian educators, classroom teachers, researchers, and partners are leading sessions exploring relevant topics that cross disciplines with a goal to inspire lessons and teaching practice, and spark new ideas and conversations across classrooms, libraries, museums and other learning spaces.

This year's theme, "Together We Thrive: Connecting at the Intersections," emphasizes the power of interdisciplinary approaches to effectively engaging students with complex and challenging content. By addressing multifaceted issues through diverse perspectives, the Summit aims to share effective strategies and practices to enhance learning and improve student engagement.

Educators can register for free, with selections from both virtual livestreamed and pre-recorded sessions, as well as sessions hosted at Smithsonian museums and spaces in Washington, D.C. All virtual sessions include American Sign Language interpretation and closed captioning. Smithsonian Office of the Under Secretary for Education

With free registration now available, here’s a preview of key themes and a sampling of the Summit sessions:

Using Art to Connect Past and Present

These sessions will examine the ways in which history and culture are depicted through various art forms and media. Sessions will demonstrate the role of art in mirroring historical events, social movements, and cultural shifts, and offer practical methods for educators to use visual media analysis and creation to engage students in connecting past and present. 

Highlights in this session track include:

  • An in-person,hands-on session, "Inclusive Pathways for Exploring History and Art" hosted by the Smithsonian American Art Museum highlighting student-centered approaches for linking historical movements to contemporary issues and spotlight the new Fighters for Freedom: William H. Johnson Picturing Justice exhibition as a springboard for learning.
  • An online session, "Nurturing Multicultural Voices Through Art" from the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Office of Educational Technology and Fairfax County Public Schools (Virginia) highlights a decades-long collaborative project with local English language learner (ELL) families and details how they've used museum objects, artmaking, and storytelling to explore issues of migration, belonging, and community-building. 

Inclusive Storytelling

These sessions will emphasize the importance of diverse perspectives in storytelling. By recognizing absence, asking questions that ensure the inclusion of diverse voices, and intentionally sharing more equitable stories across subject areas and grade levels, educators provide insights into the value of multiple perspectives and experiences in teaching and learning. 

Highlights in this session track include:

  • An online session, "What’s the Story with National Stories?" hosted by the National Museum of the American Indian asks "How do we learn and teach national stories?" and offers resources for incorporating Native narratives and more comprehensive histories in classroom teaching.
  • An online session, "Deepening Connections: Art, Music, and AI Conversations" from the Smithsonian's Our Shared Future: Reckoning with Our Racial Past initiative brings together expertise and insights from three Los Angeles-based museum leaders at the Japanese American National Museum, LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, and Chinese American Museum, sharing how they deepened their inclusive storytelling practices to local and national audiences by confronting and connecting history.

Thinking Globally, Acting Locally

These sessions highlight how educators are equipping students with the knowledge and skills to understand the world’s most pressing issues and to become agents for change in their own communities. From climate change to global migration and from bioethics to energy, these compelling issues provide a motivating context in which students can learn scientific practices that will better serve them as active citizens in their communities and a global society. 

  • An in-person, hands-on session, "Design and Game Play to Cultivate Changemakers" from the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum explores the habits of designers and changemakers with case studies, design challenges, and a board game to cultivate problem-solving skills with students. 
  • An online session, "Educating for Sustainable Development" brings together expertise from the Smithsonian Science Education Center, the Afterschool Alliance, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to share findings from a global study related to sustainable development and resources on topics such as clean energy, biodiversity, climate action, and biotechnology. 

Youth Taking Civic Action

These sessions will spotlight models of learning that require students to use what they have learned to inspire, change behaviors, solve a problem, or serve an audience through civic action. While the process of taking informed action is content agnostic, it often requires students to consider different perspectives on an issue, ways to address it, and the potential impact of their actions. Examples range from art activism used to inspire and inform, to historical case studies providing context to contemporary issues, to advocating with local community members and stakeholders through presentations or novel approaches.

  • An online session, "Environmental Justice: Leaders through Community" highlights the Anacostia Community Museum's Environmental Justice Academy, which champions communities of color as the primary driving force in creating leaders of tomorrow. The program currently serves participants in the Anacostia watershed and is a compelling case study for highlighting national environmental justice issues on a local scale. 
  • An in-person, hands-on session, "What Do You Meme? Art, Civic Action, and Students", features educators from the Smithsonian American Art Museum introducing ways to use art, memes, and close looking to get students thinking about themselves, the issues that face their communities, and ways that they can effect change.

Two speakers on stage with a large banner behind them saying "Smithsonian National Education Summit"
Each year, the Summit attracts thousands of educators from across the globe at all levels of the education ecosystem. Sessions are led by nationally-recognized experts, Smithsonian educators, classroom teachers, and other leading voices in education.   Norwood Photography

Keynotes will include leaders across different fields, ranging from education technology to art and literature, English as a second language, and STEM innovation, sharing how they use their strengths and skills in these spaces to create lasting change in their communities and on a national (and sometimes, even global) stage. 

The Smithsonian National Education Summit is an opportunity for educators to come together this summer. Best of all, this high quality professional learning experience is offered free of charge. Join us in Washington, D.C. or online for three days of finding meaningful connections at the intersections.

For more details on the 2024 Smithsonian National Education Summit, visit the Summit website at