Found 340 Learning Lab Collections
Pittsburgh Youth Activism explores the history of youth activism in Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania. Specific examples include Pittsburghers who participated in the 1964 Freedom Summer voter registration campaign in Mississippi and the 1968 Wilkinsburg race riots. This teaching resource includes two parts: a primary source exploration and conversation and the call to action. Be sure to click on the paper clip and/or info icon on each item to find out more about it.
This Learning Lab collection has been created to support the 2018 National History Day theme, Conflict and Compromise. Utilizing portraits and other resources from the National Portrait Gallery, this collection is organized by Topics within the Conflict and Compromise theme.
Be sure to check out the following at the end of the collection:
-Reading Portraiture Guide for Educators highlights close looking strategies that can be used with the portraits listed
-Conflict and Compromise In History Theme Book from National History Day 2018
The Darkest Month contains activities, primary sources, and other information to help teach students about the effect of transportation in western Pennsylvania (be sure to click on the paper clip and/or info icon on each item to find out more about it).
This resource was originally created to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the Darr and Monongah coalmining disasters – two of the worst coalmining disasters in American history. Occurring in Jacobs Creek, Pennsylvania, and Monongah, West Virginia, these devastating mine explosions revealed the overly hazardous conditions faced by immigrant coalminers drawn to the Pittsburgh Coal Seam by the prospect of work. The story of the miners who perished in December of 1907, known at the time as the “dreadful month” because of a string of mining disasters nationwide that left nearly 3,000 miners dead, affords a long overdue opportunity to discuss the historical impact of coalmining on the greater Pittsburgh region. It also illuminates larger social history themes including the interrelationship of immigration, industry, capitalism, and organized labor. The fact that these industrial disasters occurred in 1907, the peak year of immigrant arrivals to Ellis Island, underscores the centrality of immigration to the American coalmining story. With heavy attention on ethnic life, these resources show how European immigrants modeled their Old World lives within their new industrial homes and used these institutions to survive their day to day work in an extremely dangerous industry.
Technological advancements contributed to World War I costing more money and killing more people than all previous wars in history.
Students will be able to answer the question: What kinds technology existed during the First World war and what were their impacts on the war?
This Learning Lab collection has been created in conjunction with the Hispanic Heritage Month: Understanding the American Experience professional development workshop, hosted by the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Workshop Description: Whether you are a teacher of social studies, English, Spanish, or visual arts, this program will add nuance and depth to your classroom. Educators will learn how to use art and portraiture by Latino artists or of Latino figures to enhance their students’ understanding of our collective American history.
This student activity explores the Holocaust through art - three sculptures and one photograph of an artwork, with additional references to give historical context . Using two of Harvard's Project Zero Thinking Routines, students take a deeper dive into the material through guided looking and by considering the significance of the Holocaust personally, to the country and to the world.
With this collection, students can explore people's stories of moving to a new country or culture, and then walk, fly, or sail "a mile in their shoes" to imagine some of the challenges they encountered in moving to their new home.
Why do people move to a new country or place? Historians explore people's stories to try to understand their motivations and experiences. In this activity, students consider six "moving stories" from people across the globe over a span of about 100 years, to try to better understand what their moving experience was like.
Plains Native people have always depicted star images on their clothing, tipis, and containers.
Formative Task: In a class discussion list three ways Western cultures think about stars. Use this collection to discover what stars mean to the Lakota and other Native people.
Summative Performance Task: Use the star quilt pattern to create a symbolic quilt that represents your school.
This collection of items shows things like items and objects that were used to carry out religious ceremonies of the enslaved African people. This collection will also look at what exactly religion was and looked like during slavery times. The Africans that were brought over to the Americas for the purpose of slavery had no knowledge of Christianity or any other European religion. Africans had their own beliefs and since brought over to slavery, could no longer practice them freely. Slaves were eventually exposed to Christianity by their slave masters and that was the only religion that the master permitted. Slaves ultimately saw the European religion, Christianity, as possible freedom. The slaves often resisted the teachings and exposure of Christianity because of their strong commitment and belief in their motherland religion. Eventually there was a mixture of the slaves original religion back in their homeland and the newly learned Christianity. Enslaved people also eventually appealed to Christianity and turned it into a possible road to freedom. This was no good sign for slave masters, which soon leads to punishment of things like open worship and Bible reading. We will be looking at many things in this collection from items to secret gathering places that the slaves used.
This collection comes from a set of lessons plans to introduce students to the culture of Puerto Rico by looking at customs and objects - specifically masks - connected to the annual celebration of Carnival. The lessons are split into four levels, covering grades K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12. They were originally adapted from a set of activities that appeared in Our Story in History: A Puerto Rican Carnival, a website produced by the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History - also shown in a link inside the collection, along with instructions for students to make their own masks. The lessons include objects from the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian in New York, the George Gustav Heye Center, and the Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History.
This collection includes a wide range of Irish contemporary and traditional music in the Smithsonian collections, with two lesson plans for grades 3-5 from the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.
Native American Beading: Examples, Artist Interview, Demonstration and Printable Instructions for Hands-on Activity
This collection looks at examples of bead work among Native American women, in particular Kiowa artist Teri Greeves, and helps students to consider these works as both expressions of the individual artist and expressions of a cultural tradition.
The collection includes work samples and resources, an interview with Ms. Greeves, demonstration video of how to make a Daisy Chain bracelet, and printable instructions.
This collection contains assets and resources designed to help teachers (art, English, ESOL, social studies, and media technology), museum educators, and community-based informal learning educators recreate their own "Today I Am Here" project, based on the specific needs of their classroom or learning community.
The "Today I Am Here" book is a wonderful classroom activity, made from one sheet of paper, in which students can share their family stories. The design of the book works well for a K-5 classroom displays, and helps to show the breadth and diversity of the class and to encourage cross-cultural understanding. The project also works extremely well with ESOL students, although the teacher will need to be prepared for possible difficult issues to surface.
Included here are instructions to make the book, examples of student work (images and video of students reading), as well as images from classroom displays.
The book design is one of many available in another collection: Fun for the Whole Family: Making "Family Memory" Storybooks: http://learninglab.si.edu/q/ll-c/1tozk88HXhnFBU6d.
This collection includes instructions and ideas for a classroom activity designed to get children and their families talking and creating together. It is suitable for K-5 classrooms, as an art, English, or social studies-based activity. Included here are examples of student work (images and video of students reading their books), as well as images from classroom displays.
In this activity, a 1st grade teacher from a bilingual school in Washington, D.C., used what we called the "Connections" handmade storybook design to have her students share important family lessons. She described how she did the activity: "I loved the book project and found that it was a way to get parents involved in making a book with their child at home. I pre-made the books since I thought the instructions were a little tricky. The instructions were to discuss and write about a Life Lesson that their families taught them. Our students created bilingual Spanish/English books. The format was perfect for this because it could be English on one side and Spanish on the other. Students enjoyed hanging their books up outside of the class for others to read and then sharing them with the class. It really helped them to understand what important life lessons families teach them and it helped to bring students' home knowledge into the classroom. We connected the books to our Life Lessons unit and plan to do the same thing this year."
This project is based on a handmade book design that can be found, along with several others, in another collection: Fun for the Whole Family: Making "Family Memory" Storybooks: http://learninglab.si.edu/q/ll-c/1tozk88HXhnFBU6d.
This activity can be used on its own or as a starting point for an interdisciplinary exploration of the global implications of HIV/AIDS.
This collection includes a three-part activity that can be modified by choosing to spend more or less time considering other viewpoints on HIV/AIDS. It uses Project Zero Thinking Routines and several images that allow students to explore multiple perspectives on HIV/AIDS. I have also created a separate collection with more images that could be used as starting points for further conversation called “The Global Implications of HIV/AIDS - An Interdisciplinary Exploration.”
The focus of this particular collection is to allow students to begin exploring at the individual level and then keep zooming out to the global level to engage with HIV/AIDS as a global issue.
Part I: The individual and Individuals within a Society
Using a work by Felix Gonzalez-Torres and the Project Zero Thinking Routine “See, Think, Wonder,” students can begin the conversation about the toll of HIV/AIDS on the individual level. Depending on student comments, this could also involve individuals within a society. The video included here could be shown as a follow-up explanation or could simply be used to help the teacher and not shown to students. The images of the quilt panel and the poster could both be used with the Project Zero Thinking Routine “Circle of Viewpoints” to help further the society or systems approach. These images allow students to explore the political complexities and how this can directly impact individuals within a group. Again, the video included could be used to enhance teacher and/or student knowledge.
Part II: Engaging in conversations about Society and Global Issues
Students will use the Project Zero Thinking Routine “See, Think, Wonder” to explore the Gapminder HIV Chart graphic (axes have been removed). If the group of students you are working with have less experience with thinking routines in general or are less inclined to take risks in sharing out, skip to the original version of the Gapminder HIV Chart graphic instead. At either starting point, more information can be revealed as students pose thoughts and wonders about the data provided. The link to the TedTalk can help students better understand what the graph is showing and perhaps be another starting point for a dialogue on the complexities of HIV/AIDS.
Part III: Reflection
There is some reflection built into the “Circle of Viewpoints” Thinking Routine but it is worthwhile to also reflect at the end of the activity. I have provided the Project Zero “I used to think…But now I think” Thinking Routine slide but a teacher could also choose to return to the Wrap Up questions provided from the earlier “Circle of Viewpoints” Thinking Routine and revisit what the students had mentioned from Part II.
What was the role of Science in the construction of race? How can various written works and works of art begin a conversation about race as a social construct? These series of activities allow for a dialogue about this complex issue.
This collection includes a three-part activity that can be modified by choosing to spend more or less time sharing out as a group and whether TED Talks are watched as a class or individually as preparation for class.
Part I begins with a work of art to stimulate thought using the Project Zero Thinking Routine "See-Think-Wonder." Students will then read an article and view an advertisement. Another thinking routine is used here to uncover the complexities of this particular advertisement. In the next parts, students view TED Talks followed by different kinds of media. Several Project Zero Thinking Routines can be used to stimulate and record thinking.
Part I: Identifying the focus and beginning a conversation
Starting with an artwork by Byron Kim and Glenn Ligon, students use the "See-Think-Wonder" Project Zero Thinking Routine to try and make sense of the image. After a class discussion, students should be guided to read a short article about skin-colored ballet shoes that would be more representative of the skin tones of actual ballet dancers. Teachers could choose to help students digest this article or move directly into the Ivory soap advertisement. Using the "Beauty and Truth" Project Zero Thinking Routine, students can uncover the underlying complexity of this image.
Part II: The evolution of skin color and telling the story of a work of art
After viewing the TEDTalk by Nina Jablonski about the illusion of skin color, students can reflect individually by answering the question "Why is it problematic to view race as a biological concept and categorize individuals based on skin color?" Then, using Project Zero’s "The Story Routine," students can create meaning for a work of art. Students can share out in pairs first or simply share out to the whole group depending on class size, etc.
Part III: Photography, an essay on color and race and a work of art from that essay
Angelica Dass’s photography challenges how we think about skin color and ethnic identity. The TEDTalk describes her Humanae project and allows for further dialogue about the complexity of skin color. Teachers could choose to help students identify important aspects of the talk or move directly into silent reading of Zora Neale Hurston’s essay "How It Feels to be Colored Me." Students can use the "Step inside-step out-step back" Project Zero Thinking Routine to identify perspectives addressed in this essay. Glenn Ligon created a work of art using this essay and students can use this piece to further the conversation with the same thinking routine or simply as part of the reflection. A final reflection about skin color and the social construct of race can be completed either as a group or individually using the "I Used to think…; But Now I Think…" thinking routine. Teachers should consider providing a more focused prompt that suits the goals/objectives of their lesson.
Soul Soldiers: African Americans and the Vietnam Era explores the events of civil rights and the Vietnam War as they impacted African American life and culture. The mid 1950s to the 1970s was an era of great change in America as new social, political, and cultural perspectives began to reshape the American landscape. In Vietnam and at home, African Americans were impacted by these events resulting in a greater expression of political and cultural identity. This was the era of street demonstrations and court battles; of protest and musical expression; of Black arts and Black Power. African American men and women, Soul Soldiers, battled on two fronts, for equality at home and democracy abroad. Their service in war was valor and their activism in civil rights was historic.
This collection of materials was designed by the Heinz History Center for classroom use. Be sure to click on the info tab and/or paperclip icon on each time for additional information and suggested learning activities.
This collection was created to support a workshop on integrating primary sources and student writing for teachers at Peters Township High School. These resources can be used to design a document-based question to answer the following inquiry:
Were Pittsburgh's urban renewal programs in the 1950s and 60s ultimately helpful or harmful?
Teachers may want to excerpt the documents included in this collection before giving them to students to use. You may also want to introduce students to the concept of "purposeful annotation" as they read through the documents (resources included).
Finally, an articles on urban renewal today and a lesson plan from Global Oneness Project on gentrification and urban renewal in Seattle provide additional resources for teachers.
Tags: C3, Inquiry, urban renewal, demolition, construction, slums, Teenie Harris, Charles Olmstead, Pittsburgh
With rich primary sources including family photographs, advertisements, and historical maps, Making a Home: Changes through Time, 18th-20th Century teaches students about regional homes and the families who lived in them (be sure to click on the paper clip and/or info icon on each item to find out more about it).
Look through the photographs. Spend a few minutes looking at each one, then pick three photos and consider the following questions: What are the common elements of the photos? During what time period do you think the photos were taken? In what part of the world were the photos taken? How are they similar? Different? You will record your observations on the quiz at the end of the photograph section.
As you investigate the artifacts, images, and readings in this collection, consider how the environment has been impacted by the development of canoes/boats? How were animals (birds, mammals, reptiles) affected by the launching of canoes/boats? How is the land affected by canoes/boats?
By using the pictures, students will be able for how the first canoe development may have affected the environment; students will construct an explanation of how the environment has since been impacted. They will then work to design solutions for ways of making less of an impact to the environment based on factors that can lead to the disruption of the protected waterways.
Meaning of Canoe:
The word 'canoe' originated from the word 'kenu' - meaning dugout. These seagoing boats were used by the Carib Indians of the Caribbean islands, and were made of large tree trunks which were shaped and hollowed, and were strong enough to travel between the islands.
Students will be able to:
1. Activate students’ prior knowledge. Tell students that they will learn about human-related impacts that threaten the environment.
2. Use a model to explore how the use of canoes effects the environment.
3. Construct explanations and design solutions for impacts of boating on healthy waterways.
4. Identify ways individuals can influence impacts of the boating industry.
1. What are the advantages and disadvantages of the development of the boating issues based on the use of the canoe?
2. How do we assess the environmental, social, cultural, and economic benefits and drawbacks of various solutions to a problem?
3. How do we ultimately decide what solution is the 'best'?
4. What are the major concerns of using the waterways for leisure activities and for business?
- Computer lab with one computer for every student (computers should have Internet access) and the equipment to project onto a screen or white board
- One pair of audio headphones for each student
- Access to the Learning Lab Collections
- Review articles that emphasize the impact of environmental damage do to boating
- http://www.pbs.org/wayfinders/...This website has an activity that will help the students understand the building of the canoe
Through this collection students will learn about how people exposed systemic societal issues to advocate for change in policy and change in thought. The thread that brings these practitioners together is that they slowly looked at the issues, exposed the truth, and did not only rely on data but a combination of people, stories, to back up their claims and advocate for change and education.
This unit explores different historical artifacts and the stories they tell. Students will investigate a range of objects, ranging from prescriptions to buffalo hides sourced from different Smithsonian collections.
Guiding Questions: How do humans shape the narrative of History? Whose History is being told? Is it possible to have multiple versions of the “past”?
The collection consists of 5 sets of artifacts, connected by some aspect such as culture, time period, event or movement. However, these objects each tell a very different story.
Working individually, in pairs or in small groups, students choose a set to explore. The students spend time quietly and carefully looking at the sources and investigate what they can tell us about our world, both locally and globally. This activity encourages students to reveal the multiple layers of meaning in an artifact from the most visible story to what it helps us to understand about the lives of our fellow human beings.
Students can share their ideas in pairs, or small groups, before coming together as whole class to share their findings.
Time: 40-60 minutes
As a follow up activity, students reflect on what new connections and information they discovered, new ideas that came to light, and what they found puzzling.
Students can complete the handout individually, in pairs or groups.
Time: 30-50 minutes depending on the length of the follow up discussion.
It might be interesting for students to watch the brief video included, where anthropologist Candace Green and curator Emil Her Many Horses, discuss the Lakota Winter Count as a form of historical record.
The duration of the video is just under 5 minutes.
For more information about the thinking routines visit:
This collection consists of three activities exploring different aspects of invention. Students are invited to examine how inventions are linked, the impact of innovation on society, and the ethical implications of innovation. Although designed to work as a unit, the lessons can be used individually.
Guiding Questions: What factors influence innovation in science? How do humans use science ? To what extent is science a group or individual process? Are all discoveries good or can they have a potentially negative effect?
In the first activity, students consider the process of invention by looking closely at images of inventions and exploring the connections between them. Students might consider which object was invented first, the microscope or the spectacles or investigate the relationship between glass, the telephone and the computer.
Students then view the short video on the manufacture of fiberglass, which looks at the process of innovating the glass manufacturing industry and the social and economic factors that propelled the invention of fiberglass.
Time: 50 minutes.
Building on the student’s earlier thinking about innovation, in this activity they explore how new inventions shape our understanding of our world and their impact on our daily life. Students are invited to explore images from artwork, advertisements, and leaflets and explain what each reveals about our changing world in both positive and negative ways.
This activity can be done individually, in pairs or in small groups followed by whole class sharing.
Time: 50 minutes, depending on the number of images explored.
The final activity delves into the ethics of invention and innovation, taking a broader look at the purposes and intended/unintended consequences of progress. This activity could also form the basis for further research into other inventions and their implications.
How does Art shape our knowledge of the world? What is the purpose of Art? What shapes our ideas about Art?
These are some of the questions students will explore in this collection. The focus of this collection is on visual art, including images drawn from photography, painting and sculpture. The 17 images are drawn from a variety of Smithsonian museums.
I use two activities, built on Project Zero thinking routines, to guide and scaffold the students' thinking. For more information and resources visit,
The activities can be done sequentially or individually over two 50-60 minute class periods, depending on how far the teacher would like to extend the follow-up discussion after the first activity or the number of images explored in the second.
The first activity, “What makes you think that? invites students to identify their own ideas about art, what they consider “good” art and to reflect on how they arrived at their conclusions. Students are invited to sort the works into two categories, "good" or "bad" art. Once they have sorted the works, they document the reasons for their choices and then compare with a partner, followed by whole class sharing.
It is interesting for students to think about where their beliefs come from and the discussion may extend to the influence of culture, perspective, religion, or personal versus public opinion.
In the second activity “Parts, Purposes, Puzzles students delve deeper into individual works. Students make careful observations, analyze component parts, consider the purpose of the artists choices, and pose questions.
The activity can be done individually or in groups.
As a concluding activity, students might find it interesting to revisit their initial rankings, and consider what they might now change and why?