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Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access' Collections

 

Botany and Art and Their Roles in Conservation

This teaching guide includes a lesson plan originally published as "Smithsonian in Your Classroom." It introduces students to the work of botanists and botanical illustrators, specifically their race to make records of endangered plant species around the world. The students try their own hands at botanical illustration, following the methods of a Smithsonian artist. Also included here are additional resources on the topic, a one-hour webinar and a website.

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The Universe: An Introduction

Lesson plan in which the class works together to arrange pictures from space according to the students’ best ideas of size, distance, and age. This active introduction to the cosmos can be a pre-assessment for a unit on space science. In a follow-up modeling exercise, relationships in space are brought down to a scale of two inches.
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Abraham Lincoln: The Face of War

Lessons in which Smithsonian portraits of Lincoln introduce a study of the Civil War. Analysis of the portraits—the famous “cracked-plate” photograph, two plaster “life masks,” and an eyewitness drawing of Lincoln’s arrival in the enemy capital of Richmond, Virginia—leads to an analysis of the times.
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What's Your Problem? A Look at the Environment in Your Own Backyard

Students take on a local environmental challenge in the lesson plans of this issue of Smithsonian in Your Classroom. Before deciding on a problem to tackle, they try interviewing local folks about the state of the community's environment and how it has changed through the years.

Click the PDF icon to see the Smithsonian in Your Classroom. Then check out oral-history interviewing tips on the site of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife. Also included below is an audio presentation on deer life by Smithsonian scientist Bill McShea.

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Prehistoric Climate Change And Why It Matters Today

Lesson plan introduces environmental issues while providing fun, challenging, real-world math problems. Students do the work of a team of paleontologists studying a time of rapid global warming 55 million years ago. By examining fossils of leaves from various tree species, and by incorporating the findings into a mathematical formula, they are able to tell average annual temperatures during this prehistoric time.
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Tale of a Whale and Why It Can Be Told

Multi-step lesson in which students do the work of scientists who study the endangered North Atlantic right whale. They compare photos to identify an individual whale and use a record of sighting to track this whale’s movements along the eastern seaboard.
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Mr. President

Did you know that Thomas Jefferson offered his own huge book collection as a replacement when British troops burned the Library of Congress? Or that John F. Kennedy was the youngest ever elected president—and the youngest to die in office? Click on each portrait to enlarge. Then click the paperclip icon to learn a little something about that president. You'll find such fast facts as political party, vice president, and first lady. "Mr. President" also includes a quote from each man.

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The Music in Poetry

Lessons in this issue of Smithsonian in Your Classroom introduce students to the rhythms of poetry. The focus is on two poetic forms that originated as forms of song: the ballad stanza, found throughout British and American literature, and the blues stanzas of Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes. Poetry is put into terms of movement, physical space, and, finally, music.

Click the PDF icon to download the issue. Click on the last two boxes for audio samples of ballads and blues from the Smithsonian Folkways archives.

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Introduction to the Nature Journal

Lesson plan in which students practice writing and observation skills by keeping nature journals. They observe animals on the National Zoo’s webcam and write about the behaviors they see, making hypotheses based on these observations.
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Native American Dolls

Students examine handcrafted dolls from the National Museum of the American Indian. They draw connections between these objects and Native cultures, communities, and environments.
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World War II on the Home Front: Civic Responsibility

Lesson based on posters that encouraged American citizens to contribute to the war effort. Students consider the importance of volunteerism in a free society.
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Building Up, Breaking Down

In lessons in this issue of Smithsonian in Your Classroom, students explore the weathering of buildings, which begins the minute the buildings are built. Physical breakdown (such as rock fracture), chemical weathering, and pollution are all key ingredients in this discussion of the geology of the built environment. Also included is a guide to gravestone weathering.

Click the PDF icon to download the issue.

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A Shape-Note Singing Lesson

Shape-note singing is a tradition that began in the American South as a simple way to teach the reading of music to congregations. Each note head has a distinctive, easy-to-remember shape. What a great way, then, to introduce the reading of music to children!

In this issue of Smithsonian in Your Classroom, "A Shape-Note Singing Lesson," you'll find a lesson plan and a background essay. Click the PDF icon to see the issue. Click the last box for audio samples of shape-note hymns from the Smithsonian Folkways archives.

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Every Picture Has a Story

This lesson plan closely examines four of the 13 million photographs in the Smithsonian. The pictures represent four important steps in the history of the medium:

• introduction of portrait photography
• invention of a photographic printing process
• capture of instantaneous action
• advent of home photography
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CURIO Learning Lab Game

CURIO is a trading card game that challenges you to discover patterns and connections to create your own museum-inspired collections. While the printed version of cards is available only as a special giveaway at select educational conferences and events, you can download and print the game using the PDF file below.

From Egyptian mummies to postage stamps, you'll learn about amazing artifacts and artworks in the Smithsonian while having fun collecting cards with your friends.

Players create a collection of at least three cards having a specific theme. They collect new cards by trading with other players. At the end of the game, players present their collections and have other players guess the themes. For 3-8 players.

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Tomorrow's Forecast: Oceans and Weather (1995)

This 1995 issue of Art to Zoo includes printable maps and classroom/take-home activities. Students learn how ocean currents influence weather patterns and climate. They conduct an experiment on the differing heat capacities of water and air, and find and label port cities around the globe. Below are some of the port cities represented in artworks from Smithsonian galleries.

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Teaching with Collections

This issue of Smithsonian in Your Classroom includes two lessons from the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center (SEEC). The first follows the SEEC model of introducing new concepts with familiar items. In early-algebra exercises, students organize a collection of random buttons, counting and multiplying them according to attributes. In the second lesson, the students work with a collection of seashells to see how sorting and classifying relates to the work of natural scientists.

Click the PDF icon to download the issue.

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Portraits, Visual and Written

Lessons introduce students to the lives and works of Louisa May Alcott and Samuel Clemens through portraits as well as through their writings. Students come away with a better understanding of how the events of one's life can be an inspiration for creative writing.

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How Things Fly

A lesson plan introduces students to the four elements of flight - drag, lift, thrust, and weight - through fun-filled experiments. Students "fly" for short periods and then evaluate factors that might either increase or decrease their "flight" duration.

Click the PDF icon to download the issue.

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Making Friends with Franklin

Portraits of Benjamin Franklin introduce his writings and scientific experiments in the lesson plans in this issue. Students do their own writing and conduct their own experiments. In addition, they learn about the international scientific community in which Franklin was a prominent member.

Click on the PDF icon to download the issue.

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What Is Currency? Lessons from Historic Africa

In lesson plans, students gain a basic understanding of money and economics by exploring the currency system of the Akan people of Ghana in West Africa. Click on the PDF icon to download the issue.

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Smithsonian in Your Classroom: "Under the Spell of ...Spiders!"

The issue presents curriculum-spanning ways of teaching about arachnids. Includes teacher background, lessons, and a bilingual student page. Click on the PDF icon to download.

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Winning the Vote: How Americans Elect Their President

This 1996 issue of From Art to Zoo includes activities to introduce students to the office of the presidency and the process of electing the president. Includes lessons on political campaigns, political parties, and the Electoral College. Take a look below at a sample of the collection of presidential campaign memorabilia at the National Museum of American History. Can you name the year of each piece?

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Learning About the Bering Sea Eskimo People

In the lessons in this issue, students act as detectives to unravel the mysteries of a traditional culture. The clues are everyday objects and creation stories of the people of the Bering Sea. Below is a gallery of some of those everyday objects.

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The Expansion of the United States, 1846-48

Lessons in this issue of Smithsonian in Your Classroom introduce students to events in the brief two years when the United States gained a million square miles of new territory. The students interpret historical maps and timelines in this study of westward expansion in the 1840s.

Below is a gallery of portraits of some of the players, including some who opposed the divisive Mexican War.

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The Constitution Lives! How It Protects Your Rights Today

This issue of From Art to Zoo, published in 1987, the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution, is intended to help students and teachers bridge the gaps between the document and their own world.

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Contrasts in Blue: Life on the Caribbean Coral Reef and the Rocky Coast of Maine (1996)

This 1996 issue of From Art to Zoo demonstrates how these two ecosystems, while unique and very different, also have similarities. Emphasis is on the formation of the environments and the organisms that call them home. Students consider the roles of temperature, sunlight, waves, tides, and food chains.

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Old Photographs: Windows to the Past

This 1979 issue of From Art to Zoo details the technological history and historical significance of photography and cameras. Students use old photographs to learn more about life in the past.

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Trains and Railroads: From Wooden Track to Amtrak

This 1984 issue of From Art to Zoo suggests ways of introducing the subject of trains and railroads in a social studies unit on westward expansion. Included is a pull-out page titled "Write a Story!" To get a taste of the idea: Do the three objects below suggest any certain kind of railroad story?

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Visions of the Future

In lessons in this 1995 issue of From Art to Zoo, students evaluate past predictions about the ways science would shape the future. They then make their own predictions about the world that lies before us. The present represented in the issue, of course, is not your students' present. It is the present of 1995, before they were born. As a warmup exercise, you might ask them to take a look at the sample of Smithsonian museum objects below--all produced around 1995. If the students could make a phone call back to the year 1995, what would they, the people of the future, tell those people of the past?

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Creating a Classroom Exhibit

This special issue of Smithsonian in Your Classroom takes you through the steps of creating a museum exhibit on a theme chosen by the class. It is all based on the curriculum at a "Smithsonian magnet school" in Washington, D.C.

Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access
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Smithsonian in Your Classroom: "Letters from the Japanese American Internment"

The lessons in this issue are based on letters from young people in an Arizona internment camp to a librarian in their hometown of San Diego. Students piece together a story by comparing these primary-source documents. The exercise might help to show that history is never a single story.

Click on the PDF icon to download. Please also see lesson plans on the site "A More Perfect Union" from the National Museum of American History.

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Revolutionary Money

In this issue of Smithsonian in Your Classroom, students look at paper money issued during the American Revolution by each of the thirteen new states. In a lesson, the class uses the bills to gather primary source information about the times.

Click the PDF icon to download the issue. Click the pictures here for a preview of the look of our nation's first currency.

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Plants and Animals: Partners in Pollination

Students learn about the parts of flowers (and the parts of bees) and the symbiotic relationship required for pollination. Lesson plans introduce the role bees play in the production of many of our foods--including some surprising foods!

Click on the PDF icon to download the issue.

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"Stories of the Wrights' Flight"

In a lesson plan that introduces historiography, students compare firsthand accounts of the Wright brothers' first flights on December 17, 1903, with secondary sources, including a newspaper story that appeared the next day. Included is a graphic organizer.

Click the PDF icon to download the issue.

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Final Farewells: Signing a Yearbook on the Eve of the Civil War

In this issue of Smithsonian in Your Classroom, students examine farewell messages written in an 1860 Rutgers College yearbook. The yearbook's owner was a southerner at a northern college--a Texan who would die for the Confederacy. On close study, the messages from his northern classmates reveal much about the complexities of this "brother's war."

Click the PDF icon to download the issue. Take a look at two other yearbooks here for a comparison of yearbook styles through the years.

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Perfectly Suited: Clothing and Social Change in America (1995)

The lesson plans in this 1995 issue of From Art to Zoo encourage students to think about the interaction of clothing and society. The focus is on nineteenth-century clothing and its reflection of middle-class ideals. In one activity, students try to match clothing styles with events in history of the same period. You might try a similar exercise briefly for yourself with the pictures here: three hats and three aircraft from the National Air and Space Museum. Match them up by the decades they have in common!

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Family Pride

This collection contains resources – photographs, paintings, objects, documents, and more – representing familial ideas and themes that a student could be proud of. This collection is part of an activity for Tween Tribune tied to a student reading of the article For Nearly 150 Years, This One House Told a Novel Story About the African-American Experience. A lesson plan is included in "Notes to Other Users," click on the (i) tab in the upper-right to learn more.

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Family Storybooks: Handmade Fun for the Whole Family!

The Smithsonian has joined with book artist Sushmita Mazumdar to create a series of easy-to-do book projects designed to get families talking and creating together. In this collection you'll find demonstration videos and accompanying instructions to make your own "family memory" storybook.

These designs work well as both family and classroom projects. Included in many of the collections are examples of student work, and ideas for community-based programming. Enjoy!


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Smithsonian in Your Classroom: "Lewis and Clark and the Language of Discovery"

Lesson plans in this issue focus on Lewis and Clark as keepers of journals. Click on the PDF icon to download. Please also see an interactive map on the site "Lewis & Clark as Naturalists" from the National Museum of Natural History.

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Perspectives on a Place: New York City

This collection contains artworks showing distinctive perspectives on a place: New York City.

Possible activities:

  • Have students look through resources in this collection to identify as many different perspectives as they can.
  • Choose two or three for a focused comparison and contrast activity.
  • Have students create their own artistic representation of a place they know using these works as inspiration.

Adapt this collection, or create your own "Perspectives on a Place" collection and share it with us! Write to us on Twitter @SmithsonianLab. We created this for the NAEA national convention: #NAEA2017

Remember, you can add to your collections annotations such as hotspots or quiz questions . You can upload student work in your version.


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