Found 321 Learning Lab Collections
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?
How does fishing, pollution and human activity affect the energy balance in the ocean?
The oceans are an important resource for much of humanity. In the United States alone, about one in six jobs has something to do with the ocean. Unfortunately, while humans depend on the ocean for many different things, their activities can also have a negative effect on the ocean and its wildlife.
OVERFISHING OF SPECIES
One of the biggest effects humans have on the ocean is through fishing. An increasing demand for protein has led to an increase in large-scale fishing operations, and throughout the 20th century, many countries failed to put safeguards into place to prevent overfishing. As a result, the populations of a number of large fish species have dropped by as much as 90 percent from their preindustrial populations. This depletion has led to disruptions in ocean food chains, removing predators and allowing other populations to grow unchecked. As the populations of targeted fish decline, many operations move down the food chain to other species, and over time this can cause significant alterations to marine ecosystems.
POLLUTION AND DUMPING
Human pollution also has a significant effect on the oceans. In the 1980s, travelers passing through the Pacific Ocean began to notice areas containing a high concentration of plastic trash, apparently collected by the ocean's natural currents into one area. The so-called Pacific Trash Vortex may contain up to 1.9 million pieces of trash per square mile, and a similar patch of garbage exists in the northern Atlantic. In addition, oil spills such as the one resulting from the Deepwater Horizon fire in 2010 can contaminate large stretches of the ocean, wiping out entire populations of fish and other species and affecting the regional ecosystem for decades.
Air pollution also affects the oceans. As the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases, the ocean absorbs some of the excess. The gas reacts with seawater and reduces its pH, increasing the acidity of the water. Since the industrial revolution, the pH of the ocean has decreased by 0.1 pH, representing a 30 percent increase in the acidity of seawater. This affects the growth of animals and plants in the ocean, weakening coral and shellfish.
Organic waste dumped into the oceans can have a devastating effect on ecosystems. Excess nutrients from fertilizers and sewage runoff flow into the ocean via rivers, and this sudden abundance of organic material can disrupt the balance of life in affected areas. Organic pollution can cause algae blooms, a rapid increase in certain species of microorganisms that may produce toxins or consume the free oxygen in the region, killing off or driving away other species.
How was migration affected by the use of canoes/boats?
The earliest human migrations and expansions of archaic and modern humans across continents began 2 million years ago with the migration out of Africa of Homo erectus. This was followed by the migrations of other pre-modern humans including Homo heidelbergensis, the likely ancestor of both modern humans and Neanderthals.
How do canoes work? How do they float/move in the water?
An object will float if the gravitational (downward) force is less than the buoyancy (upward) force. So, in other words, an object will float if it weighs less than the amount of water it displaces. This explains why a rock will sink while a huge boat will float. The rock is heavy, but it displaces only a little water.
What does the weather do to the ocean currents?
Ocean water and currents affect the climate. It takes a greater amount of energy to change the temperature of water than land or air; water warms up and cools off much slower than land or air does. As a result, inland climates are subject to more extreme temperature ranges than coastal climates, which are insulated by nearby water. Over half the heat that reaches the earth from the sun is absorbed by the ocean's surface layer, so surface currents move a lot of heat. Currents that originate near the equator are warm; currents that flow from the poles are cold.
The Great Ocean Conveyor Belt
The great ocean conveyor belt is an example of a density-driven current. These are also called thermohaline currents, because they are forced by differences in temperature or salinity, which affect the density of the water.
The great ocean conveyor belt begins as the coolest of all currents - literally. At the beginning of the conveyor belt:
The Gulf Stream delivers warm, and relatively salty, surface waters north to the Norwegian Sea. There the water gives up its heat to the atmosphere, especially during the frigidly cold winters. The surface waters cool to near freezing temperatures, at which time they become denser than the waters below them and sink. This process continues making cold water so dense that it sinks all the way to the bottom of the ocean.
During this time, the Gulf Stream continues to deliver warm water to the Norwegian Sea on the surface. The water can't very well pile up in the Norwegian Sea, so the deep cold water flows southward. It continues to flow southward, passing the Equator, until it enters the bottom of the Antarctic Circumpolar current. It then drifts around Africa and Australia, until it seeps northward into the bottom of the Pacific.
Technology, despite its modesty in the seventeenth and eighteenth century, played a large role in the battle between the Native Americans and the European settlers seeking to eradicate them. The tools used for everyday tasks, as well the weaponry used for war, while less effective in comparison to that of the Europeans, are impressive in their creativity and usefulness. This collection seeks to exemplify the simplicity, yet efficiency, of the agricultural tools as well as the arms used by the Native population for protection and offense in battle.
Native American's tribes vary in culture, however many of these tools are used by numerous tribes in different locations. Natives, some nomadic and some settled, used different tools for their day to day activities such as hunting and gathering food. These tools, similar to those used today and in Europe at the time, were still sturdy, effective and efficient enough to provide for the tribe. What is often discussed is settler's possession of guns and gunpowder provided by the French and British, while the natives relied on sharp spears, bow and arrows, as well as blunt instruments that required close range to be effective. With time, through conquering lands and trading, guns slowly worked their way into the possession of the natives, however the majority remained dependent on the tools displayed below. These weapons, although less forceful, were accurate, quiet and discreet: qualities that helped Natives win many battles over the course of their feud.
This collection contains a series of photos from Camilo Jose Vergara. The students will be asked to rate a series of photos for their chronology and how those photos can be interpreted by the viewer. In the end, students will be asked to document an important part of their family history through photo journalism and then write about their choices and the importance of their selected art. #SAAMteach
How do photographers represent places and other people? What is the goal?
What are the ethical considerations in that representation for photographers?
How can we use images and photography to convey a message and persuade?
How have photographers throughout history used their images to create social change?
How can media, especially photography, raise awareness for social problems and challenges?
The lesson will provide examples of how analyzing and creating documentary photographs can foster deep thinking about global and local issues. Additionally, students will consider how to use digital photography and other digital media tools to communicate ideas or persuade an audience. Students will look at photos from social reformer Jacob Riis who documented the poverty and poor living conditions of immigrants to New York City. His work led to social change and reforms. His images also raise questions about the ethics obtaining photos and representation. The collection also includes images from the Smithsonian’s “Down These Mean Streets” exhibit. Students will consider a view of New York life through documentary street photography and how place and city life are represented in photography.
Time- 1-2 class periods with optional extension activities
Warm Up/ Engagement:
Have students do a chalk talk on chart paper on the following terms:
immigration, urbanization, sweatshop or factory, New York City
These concepts will be important for students to consider and have some familiarity with prior to discussing the work on Jacob Riis.
Next, show a photograph from Jacob Riis using the Project Zero Global Thinking Routine, "The 3 Ys" to analyze the story the image tells about living conditions for immigrant workers in New York City.
Students should consider why someone might be taking this photograph and who the intended audience might be.
Additionally, students might read some primary sources from that period written by Jacob Riis or others about the living conditions for immigrants on the Lower East Side of New York in the late 1800s.
Next, have students consider or take on different perspectives in the image by drawing the scene to include the photographer.
Have students read the Smithsonian article about Riis and watch a short video about his life and work. Alternatively, there’s an article from the Click! exhibit on Riis that students can read about how photography changes our awareness of poverty.
What did Jacob Riis intend to communicate through his photographs? Do you think his images are respectful of immigrants and poor people? Why or why not?
Today’s work focuses on exploring images from the “Down These Mean Streets: Community and Place in Urban Photography” exhibit. Allow students time to explore the gallery and identify photos that are meaningful to them.
In small groups, have students work in groups of two or three to analyze an image of their choosing in the collection using the “3 Ys” routine. Have students share their findings with the group.
As a reflection, have students consider some of the guiding questions about how photographers choose to represent places and communities.
What associations does the viewer have with these photographs?
What mood is created with these photographs?
How might you be able to create a sense of place with photography?
Additional resources related to Jacob Riis:
- Have students complete their own documentary photo essay on their own neighborhood or community.
- Have students read excerpts from ‘Down These Mean Streets’ and connect them to the images in the collection.
- Join the Out of Eden Walk community and have students document their neighborhood and gather stories.
Images in this collection represent the Nature of Science (NOS) learning statements found in each of the Topic 1 (cell biology) subtopics of the IB Biology curriculum (2016). The images and descriptions can be used as an introductory activity to illustrate the depth, variation and cultural relevancy of biological discovery and technological advancement that is part of the IB Biology course. Or, the images could serve as a revision activity before the end of course exam; students pair the image to the corresponding NOS learning statement.
makes something Scottish and who decides this? Using the
Smithsonian archives this collection features a range of objects and
images, some traditionally Scottish and some less so, and asks
students to consider how we represent countries and what problems
that can present. See 'Information' button for lesson plans.
This collection supports the January 2017 Google Hangout facilitated by the National Portrait Gallery in coordination with the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access.
Samuel Langley was the director of the Allegheny Observatory very near the city of Pittsburgh. Langley focused his telescope on the sun each clear day hoping to find its secrets and energy output.
During the 1830s, George Catlin and his team produced over five hundred images of native American life on the western plains. Nearly half of his work consisted of exquisite portraits of Indians of many different tribes. Some tribes like the Hidatsa disappeared before any other visual representation of them could be made.
Long before the camera went west, artists like George Catlin were preserving the images of the native Americans on the western plains. Catlin's paintings are numerous and divide into two genre: the group activities and portraiture. This learning lab focuses on group activities of many plains indians including hunting, traditional dances, and recreation.
The early years in Virginia's first colony were fraught with starvation and illness. Many of the Jamestown colonists were not "survivors". Most were gentlemen searching for gold and riches and had no experience living in the wilderness. America was a challenge: the forest primeval had never been cut, there was no available farmland, few had experience at fishing or hunting and gathering. Our story about tells about the ultimate in desperation.
Edward Hicks' paintings reflect the same quality and style. More advanced in technique than Grandma Moses but still simple if compared to the work of the Hudson Valley School.
This collection includes a multi-day lesson plan built around Childe Hassam's Tanagra (The Builders, New York), 1918, and is designed to explore the effect that gender inequality can have on identity. Lessons are designed for an eleventh-grade, American Studies, Humanities-style course, and the historical context is the Gilded Age and the Women's Suffrage Movement. The plan for this mini-unit includes the analysis of visual, literary, and historical texts, and while it has a historical context, the goal is also to make connections to American life today. The essential question for this mini-unit is this: How can unfair gender norms affect what it feels like to be a human being? Included, you will find a lesson plan as well as digital versions of the artistic, literary, and historical texts needed to execute that plan. #SAAMteach
Photos and paintings of Algonquin Provincial Park are grouped with Tom Uttech's "Mamakadendagwad." What is the impact when someone or something enters an environment or ecosystem? Lesson could be an introduction for multiple content areas. In science, students could study mammals, birds, and insects of Ontario, Canada; ecosystems; and invasive species. In history, what is the wilderness? It could be paired with Charle C. Mann's argument about Native American and European impact on land in Jamestown. It could also be paired with Juane Quick-to-See Smith's painting "State Names" to consider how humans name places they settle. English students could extend the discussion by reading Iroquois creation myths and Joseph Bruchac's "Snapping Turtle." #SAAMteach
What does your hair reveal about your identity? This guided lesson and image gallery invites students to explore their identity and to interrogate the role that hair plays in the presentation of self. Using artful looking techniques, students can think critically about the dynamic between the subject and the artist.
This collection was created in conjunction with the National Portrait Gallery's 2017 Learning to Look Summer Teacher Institute.
#NPGTeach #Hair #History #SocialStudies #Afros #Identity
This collection examines artwork paired with both primary and secondary sources that illustrates the complications of mobilizing the American homefront between 1942-1945.
Benjamin West began painting in America during the late colonial period. His works represented a variety of styles. He was equally good at portraiture which was what most customers wanted and romantic renditions of battle scenes. Later in his career he devoted much of his time to Greek and Roman mythological themes.
This curriculum pack was produced by the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania and includes everything you need to teach about the Great Strike of 1877 in Pittsburgh. The five lessons can be used as a group or individually, and guide students towards creating their own documentary about the subject--click on the paperclip to find the activities that make up each lesson. Primary sources are also included (be sure to click on the paper clip and/or info icon on each item to find out more about it).
This curriculum pack was produced by the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania and includes everything you need to teach about the growth of democracy and impact of the Constitution in Western Pennsylvania. The student text includes readings that you can give directly to your students, and the info tabs on items throughout the collection includes suggested teaching activities. Primary sources and biographies are also included (be sure to click on the paper clip and/or info icon on each item to find out more about it).