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Building STEAM Skills with Hands-On Activity Collections

​Building STEAM Skills with Hands-On Activity Collections

By Cody Coltharp, Digital Interactive Designer, Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access

When I work with teachers around the country demonstrating the Learning Lab, many have mentioned the challenge of integrating technology in ways that are both engaging and easy to implement in a classroom environment. In response, I've created six "activity collections," which are teaching collections that combine Smithsonian digital resources with fun hands-on activities to develop STEAM skills:

  • Sculptris: creating a 3-D model of an insect based on specimens from the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History
  • E-textiles: combining circuitry and fabric to create wearable tech
  • Wright Flight: learning the basic engineering skills used by the Wright brothers, followed by a digital test flight of a 3-D model of the original Wright Flyer from the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum
  • ArtBots: constructing an art-making robot using motors, batteries, and whimsy
  • Botany Field Book: learning techniques inspired by a National Museum of Natural History botanical illustrator
  • CURIO: a trading-card game that challenges students to discover patterns and connections to create their own Smithsonian-inspired collection

All six activities include lesson plans containing materials lists, step-by-step facilitation instruction, and ideas for scaling the activities up or down. The STEAM activities and facilitators' guides are available at the links above for anyone interested in replicating or adapting the lessons in their own school or in an after-school program.

Click on the links above to access the individual activity collections and feel free to copy, adapt, and share them.

*These STEAM activity collections will debut at Lenovo's Global Week of Service (4/2/2017–4/6/2017) in Raleigh-Durham.


A completed project from the e-textiles Learning Lab activity collection. These catchy firefly earrings were created out of felt and glowing LED lights.

Image: A completed project from the e-textiles Learning Lab activity collection. These catchy firefly earrings were created out of felt and glowing LED lights.