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Teacher Feature: Undergraduates Use Museum Resources for Lesson Development

Teacher Feature: Undergraduates Use Museum Resources for Lesson Development

By: Ashley Naranjo, Manager of Educator Engagement, Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access 

Teacher Feature is a new series on promising practices in using digital museum resources in the classroom. Interested in contributing your approach? Send us a note!

The Smithsonian Learning Lab team is always thrilled to hear about the many ways that educators and learners across the country are using the platform. Amy Trenkle, a long-time collaborator with the Smithsonian and 8th-grade U.S. History teacher in District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS),  avidly looks for ways to connect museum resources to classrooms. As an adjunct professor at American University (AU) since 2007, she teaches pre-service teachers in a Secondary Social Studies Methods Course.

Here’s a snapshot of how her student-teachers are using the Smithsonian Learning Lab to prepare for lessons and add interactive engagement to classroom work.

Every spring, Trenkle introduces the Smithsonian Learning Lab to her students to prepare them for leading their own classrooms. Trenkle hopes to equip her students with new tools for their teaching.  Through the Smithsonian Learning Lab, she sees ways for soon-to-be teachers to access, save, and share primary sources, such as objects, documents, and recordings of oral histories. More than that, she emphasizes the importance of asking essential questions that support critical thinking as student-teachers begin developing their own curricula.

Through the use of the Lab’s interactive features, her student-teachers have modeled how to use museum resources as evidence. In a collection about the dropping of atomic bombs in World War II, learners were assigned to share their perspectives but cite specific evidence from texts and images that supported their claims.

In a collection about the Women’s Suffrage Movement, historical sources helped learners explore the differences and similarities in the U.S. and British movements.

Another collection created by one of the AU student-teachers asked learners: which technological advance was most helpful to the success of the Inca Empire?

There are great benefits for the student-teachers to familiarize them with a tool like the Smithsonian Learning Lab; these collections can:

  • be revised as the student-teachers try them out with their learners
  • serve as a digital portfolio for the student-teachers demonstrating how they use primary sources in their classroom and their abilities to author curricula, and
  • help other educators find content and strategies that they can modify for their own classroom needs.

The Schoolroom

Image: The Schoolroom, by Henry Raleigh. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Olin Dows.