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Tess Porter

Digital Content Producer
Smithsonian Office of Educational Technology
Smithsonian Staff

I'm the Digital Content Producer at the Smithsonian Office of Educational Technology. Here, I focus on the use of digital museum resources to support teaching and learning.  I train educators on using digital museum resources and the Smithsonian Learning Lab to support student learning, research and develop learning experiences in collaboration with educators at the Smithsonian and other cultural institutions, and support the development of new tools and features to improve the Lab.  I hold a B.A. in Anthropology and a B.A. in Art History from University Colorado Boulder, and am currently pursuing an M.S. in Museums and Digital Culture at Pratt Institute.

Tess Porter's collections


Investigating: Civil War Portraits

<p>In this student activity, students will investigate nine portraits of people involved in the Civil War, both from the Union and the Confederacy. Through these portraits, students will gain an understanding of: experiences of people on both sides of the war; why these people are seen as historically significant; and how portraiture can communicate how a person wanted to be seen, or how others wanted them to be seen. Included with each portrait is a video that explains the historical significance of the person depicted.  Activity extension ideas can be found by clicking "Read More."</p> <p>Big Ideas: </p> <ul><li>Why are these people, and the developments they shaped, seen as historically significant? </li><li>How does portraiture communicate how a person wanted to be seen, or how others wanted them to be seen?</li></ul><p>Keywords: thomas stonewall jackson, william tecumseh sherman, john pelham, elmer e ellsworth, george armstrong custer, jefferson davis, abraham lincoln, clara barton</p>
Tess Porter

Civil Rights Sculpture: Claim Support Question

<p>Using the Project Zero Visible Thinking routine "Claim Support Question," a routine for clarifying truth claims, students will examine a portrait of Rosa Parks, a prominent civil rights activist whose refusal to give up her bus seat to a white passenger prompted the 1955-56 Montgomery bus boycott. After discussing the portrait with their peers, students will learn more about the arrest this sculpture depicts by reading the original police report, with notes by a Smithsonian curator.</p> <p>Created for the 2016 National Portrait Gallery Summer Teacher Institute.</p> <p>Keywords: african-american, black, civil rights movement, female, woman, women, segregation, NAACP, justice, arrest, #BecauseOfHerStory</p>
Tess Porter

Looking at Ancient Civilization through Objects

<p>This teacher's guide provides suggestions for facilitating student investigation of archaeological remains. Includes examples of objects to use (Ancient Chinese oracle bones) and a handout on artifact analysis that adapts close reading strategies to explore cultural objects. This concept can be replicated for other artifacts and cultures.</p> <p>Use the handout to brainstorm supporting questions for students - ie. "What knowledge or experience did the maker have?" "Who were the intended users?" Answers to these questions give students the knowledge to answer larger, compelling questions, like "What can archaeological remains reveal about early Chinese urban society?" </p> <p>Keywords: China, archaeology, archaeologist</p>
Tess Porter

Lalibela, Ethiopia: Teaching Resources

<p>This topical collection gathers teaching resources on Lalibela, a UNESCO site in Ethiopia famous for its rock-hewn churches built in the 12th and 13th centuries CE. Christianity was established early in Ethiopia, and orthodox Christianity became the official religion of the Axumite Kingdom in the 4th century CE. Includes a video, a website, objects, and a contemporary painting from the National Museum of African Art.</p> <p>Keywords: ethiopian, africa, african, christian</p>
Tess Porter

African American Artists and Ancient Greek Myth: Teacher's Guide

<p>This teacher's guide explores how myths transcend time and place through three modern paintings by African American artists who reinterpret Ancient Greek myth to comment on the human experience. Collection includes three paintings and a lesson plan published by the Smithsonian American Art Museum, which includes background information on myths and artists, as well as activity ideas. Also includes a video about the artist Romare Bearden and his series 'Black Odyssey.' The video details his artistic process, the significance of storytelling in his art, and the lasting importance of 'Black Odyssey.'</p> <p><strong>Objectives:</strong></p> <ol><li>Demonstrate that myths transcend time and place</li><li>Recognize the use of classical myth in contemporary art</li><li>Discuss myth as commentary on human experience</li></ol> <p>Keywords: greece, alma thomas, bob thompson,</p>
Tess Porter

Compare and Contrast: Personal Perspectives in Portraiture

<p>In this activity, students will explore how portraits reflect both the personality of the subject and the artist's personal view of the subject. They will examine two portraits - both painted by James McNeill Whistler of his patron (and eventually ex-patron) Frederick Richards Leyland. Using looking strategies, students will compare and contrast the artist's perspective of his subject before connecting the portraits to music as a final activity.</p><p>Big Idea: How do portraits reflect both the personality of the subject and the artist’s view of their subject? How can visual art and music communicate similar messages?</p> <p>This collection was created for the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) Arts Professional Development Day. It was created in collaboration with the <a href="">Education Department at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery</a>.</p> <p>Keywords: Peacock Room</p>
Tess Porter

Flashcard Activity: Conflict, Identity, and Place in American Art

<p>This collection contains a selection of artworks related to the themes of conflict, identity, and place.  They may be used for a variety of purposes; here, we use them as a catalyst for discussion.  In small groups or as a classroom, have students select one artwork they find meaningful or interesting and discuss the following:</p> <ol><li>Why did you pick this artwork?  </li><li>What do you see?  Name specific aspects of the artwork you notice.</li><li>What do you think about what you see?</li><li>What does this artwork make you wonder? </li><li><em>Optional</em>: How might the artwork connect to the themes of conflict, identity, and place?</li></ol> <p> </p> <p>This activity works equally well online or using printed flashcards (see <a href="">the resource tile</a>).  You may also replace or pair the above activity with a Project Zero Thinking Routine found in the final section of the collection. </p> <p><em>This Smithsonian Learning Lab collection contains artwork selected by <a href="">Phoebe Hillemann</a>, Teacher Institutes Educator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, to be featured in the 2018 Smithsonian American Art Museum Summer Institute for Teachers, "Teaching the Humanities through Art."  The activity is adapted from Project Zero's See / Think / Wonder routine.</em></p> <p>Keywords: printable, flash card, project zero visible thinking routine, New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, NJPSA, saam</p>
Tess Porter

Immigration Policies and Legislation Affecting Asian Pacific Americans

<p>This topical collection includes resources about immigration policies and legislation that affected, or specifically targeted, immigrants and those with ancestry from Asia and the Pacific Islands.  The policies and legislation profiled in this collection are not the only ones that did so by any means, however, they are some of the most significant.  Collection includes newspapers, objects, portraits, articles, and more.</p> <p>Teachers and students may use this collection as a springboard for classroom discussions, such as those about immigration policy and/or discrimination. This collection is not comprehensive but rather provides a launching point for research and study. </p> <p><em>This Smithsonian Learning Lab collection received Federal support from the Asian Pacific American Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. </em></p> <p>Keywords: chinese exclusion act, 1882, wong chin foo, immigration act of 1917, literacy act, asiatic barred zone act, angel island, japanese incarceration, japanese internment, executive order 9088, 1942, world war ii, world war 2, immigration and nationality act of 1965, hart-celler act, immigration act of 1990, h-1b visa</p> <p>#APA2018 #EthnicStudies</p> <p><br /></p>
Tess Porter

Flashcard Activity: Tools and Innovation

<p>This collection traces innovation in various types of tools over time.  Approach in small groups or as a classroom to have students explore the essential questions: What makes something innovative?  How do you define innovation? </p> <p>Supporting questions and activity implementation ideas are located under this collection's Information (i) button.  This activity works equally well online or using printed flashcards (see <a href="">the resource tile</a> at the end of this collection). <br></p> <p>Keywords: invention, flash cards, conceptual understanding</p>
Tess Porter