Found 359 Learning Lab Collections
Context: A lesson for a U.S. History/American Literature humanities class. This lesson will come towards the end of our study of the Revolutionary period.
Essential Question: What does it mean to be an American in 1782?
- How does Crevecoeur define an American here? How accurate is his definition for that time period?
- To whom is Crevecouer making this appeal? What sort of person would be motivated by these passages?
- Who is included in Crevecoeur's appeal? Who is left out?
- How is "this new man" different?
- How does Crevecoeur help build the ideals and myths of America?
- How does this letter build on the idea of American Exceptionalism? America as the land of "new and improved"?
Students will have read Letter III before class.
Using the Smithsonian Learning Lab and the text excerpts below (or the entire text of Letter III), students will identify three key quotes or words and find artwork that connects to chosen text. Three total text excerpts and three works of art. The works of art can support, refute, or simply connect to some aspect of the quote and the idea of what it means to be an American.
Students will share their chosen artworks and quotes via the class Google classroom.
We will use the images as the basis for a class discussion on what it means to be an American.
After the class discussion, students will write a short paper on "What is an American?"
1.. Using the Smithsonian Learning Lab and the text excerpts below (or the entire text of Letter III), identify three key quotes or words and find artwork that connects to chosen text. You can use the images below as a starting point, but don't feel limited to these. The Smithsonian has an amazing and extensive collection. Take time to use the search function and explore the collection. You have all period to do so. Be original.
2. By class tomorrow, post on the google classroom your text excerpts and accompanying three works of art. The text can be a whole sentence or just a few key words. The works of art can support, refute, or simply connect to some aspect of the text and the idea of what it means to be an American. Be sure to include the title, artist, and date for each artwork. Your artwork doesn't have to come from the Revolutionary time period. The important thing is that you use your critical reading and thinking skills to make a connection between the text and the art work.
3. Tomorrow we will have a class discussion based on the images and excerpts. Be prepared to share your thinking on your choices with the class.
As always, remember to consider speaker, audience, and purpose. Who is speaking? To whom is he appealing? Why?
Not sure where to start? Find what you think are the ten most important words in the passage. Narrow it down to the top three.
Based on our studies so far, what are the different groups, ethnicities, races, religious affiliations make up the population at this time? Which of these does Crevecouer include? Leave out?
How did these people come to be in America? Does that matter in Crevecouer's writing?
by J. Hector St. John De Crevecoeur
"What then is the American, this new man?...He is an American, who, leaving
behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the new
mode of life he has embraced, the new government he obeys, and the new rank he holds. He has
become an American by being received in the broad lap of our great Alma Mater.
Here individuals of all races are melted into a new race of man, whose labors
and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world. Americans are the
"After a foreigner from any part of Europe is arrived, and become a citizen; let him devoutly listen to the voice of our great parent, which says to him, "Welcome to my shores, distressed European; bless the hour in which thou didst see my verdant fields, my fair navigable rivers, and my green mountains!--If thou wilt work, I have bread for thee; if thou wilt be honest, sober, and industrious, I have greater rewards to confer on thee--ease and independence. I will give thee fields to feed and clothe thee; a comfortable fireside to sit by, and tell thy children by what means thou hast prospered; and a decent bed to repose on. I shall endow thee beside with the immunities of a freeman. If thou wilt carefully educate thy children, teach them gratitude to God, and reverence to that government, that philanthropic government, which has collected here so many men and made them happy. I will also provide for thy progeny; and to every good man this ought to be the most holy, the most powerful, the most earnest wish he can possibly form, as well as the most consolatory prospect when he dies. Go thou and work and till; thou shalt prosper, provided thou be just, grateful, and industrious" (Letter III, 1782).
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.
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.
Each resource symbolizes a reason why Americans chose to move west. For each one, complete the following activity:
1) Source it: Is it a primary or secondary source? Who made it? When was it made? What is the author's purpose (PIE)? Hint- click the i on the left side of the screen to learn more about the source.
2) Identify at least 4 details that you see in the image.
3) Why would this resource motivate people to move West? Use a specific detail that you saw to prove your point.
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.
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 did the Supreme Court become so influential? Designed to complement the WNYC Studios podcast More Perfect, this collection explores the history of the Supreme Court and the role of the judicial branch. Starting with Marbury v. Madison, the podcast explores the humble origins of the Court and how Chief Justice John Marshall helped change that.
Students will listen to the podcast episode to learn about the history of the Supreme Court of the United States. Then, they will learn about key Supreme Court cases Marbury v. Madison, Worcester v. Georgia and Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, and the impact of the Court's decisions on the judicial branch & judicial review.
Baker v. Carr (1962) was a landmark Supreme Court case regarding the political question doctrine. The case decided that the redistricting of state legislative districts is not a political question, and thus justiciable by the federal courts. Designed to complement the WNYC Studios podcast More Perfect, this collection explores the case and the Justices central to its history.
Students will analyze this important Supreme Court decision involving the political question doctrine, and consider the opinions by the majority and the dissent. Students will also study how this case set a precedent for future cases regarding the Equal Protections Clause and the role of the Court.
In this activity, students will learn about the differences between primary and secondary sources by comparing and analyzing different resources from the U.S. Civil Rights Movement.
This collection provides ideas and strategies on how to spark discussions in the classroom about these types of resources, focusing primarily on students' interpretations of resources found here in Smithsonian Learning Lab.
Students will examine three different types of sources (documents, images, and objects). The activity consists of the following:
- In small groups, have your class examine the primary source, and have them summarize and report on its content, and discuss its strengths and limitations.
- For each primary source, review the groups' responses as a class.
- Then, have each group analyze the corresponding secondary source. Have them spot the differences between the primary and secondary source, and evaluate the reasons for using a primary source versus a secondary source.
- The primary and secondary sources in this collection focus on the same topic (the documents are about the Black Panther Party, the images feature Marian Anderson, and the objects relate to Rosa Parks)
- Near the end of the collection is the students' task to sort through sources to identify which are primary vs. secondary sources.
- The final activity will call on students to reflect on the information that they have learned from the collection and ask them to think about how they would categorize digital resources such as texts and tweets as either primary or secondary.
This collection and activity is based on the “Engaging Students with Primary Sources” guide from Smithsonian’s History Explorer, which can be found here: https://historyexplorer.si.edu/sites/default/files/PrimarySources.pdf. The guide is also included at the end of the collection, and can be used to develop other activities and/or collections on the topic of primary and secondary resources.
This collection features a series of three independent activities around one singular portrait of Bayard Taylor (formally titled A Morning in Damascus) painted by Thomas Hicks, 1855. Taylor was one of America's foremost and most popular travel writers of the mid to late 19th century.
These activities were created for my Advanced Placement World History course to practice close reading skills as well as historical thinking skills. The notations provided here are for teacher reference and would not be given to students.
This collection was created in conjunction with the National Portrait Gallery's 2017 Learning to Look Summer Teacher Institute.
A complementary collection of extension activities is available here: https://learninglab.si.edu/collections/anna-may-wong-extension-activities/Eo4txiDzJnf8arqN#r
NPG Final Project July 2017
This collection is designed to help students learn and understand the idea, artistic approach, decision making and creative processes that come to play when one creates a self-portrait.
This collection was created in conjunction with the National Portrait Gallery's 2017 Learning to Look Summer Teacher Institute.
TAGS: #NPGteach, learning to look, National Portrait Gallery, self-portrait, portrait, figurative painting
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
Lesson plan for 5th grade (90 minutes) for use with Mike Wilkins Preamble, Schoolhouse Rock video, etc. #SAAMteach
This collection is for use with an introductory lesson for a 12th-grade rhetoric course's unit on "arguments to meditate," which are defined in the text "Everything's an Argument" by Andrea Lunsford and John Ruszkiewicz as, to paraphrase, those arguments which are abstract and/or which lack a clear, explicitly stated thesis and that therefore depend on thoughtful meditation by the audience to arrive at an understanding of the rhetorician's intent. The purpose of this lesson is to (1) establish students' understanding of the definition of an argument to meditate and (2) provide students with a beginning ability to assess the thesis and supporting ideas that comprise arguments to meditate in the form of American Art. The details of the lesson itself are included in a document within the collection.
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
A collection of images focusing on the Native Americans and their vanishing cultures due to Manifest Destiny.
Bowling Green High School, Bowling Green, KY
Grade levels: 9-12
11th grade American Literature Focus for English Second Language Learners
Lesson Time: 50 minutes
1. Show the students a copy of the painting “Westward the Course of Empire Makes Its Way” by Emanuel Leutze (1861). Ask the students to spend a few moments observing the work in silence, noticing any details that draw their eyes. Ask the students to let their eyes touch every part of the canvas/picture.
2. Using the teaching strategy “See Think Wonder” ask the students to volunteer details in the work that they see. Ask them to describe only what they observe in the work (e.g. “I see a man in a fur hat holding a gun”). After the student makes a factual observation, ask the student “What do you see that makes you say that?” if the student says something that is not immediately obvious (e.g. the student sees a wooden sailing ship trapped in sea ice but describes it as a cabin). Do not correct the student. Let other students make observations and possibly correct each other through observation and discussion. After the student is satisfied with an observation, follow up with the question “What do you think about that?” Allow the student to offer any interpretations of what the detail means for the content of the work, the tone, the theme etc. Avoiding any value judgements, summarize back to the student his or her interpretation and evidential observations supplying any vocabulary the student might lack, asking for the student’s approval of the final summary. Continue this procedure until the students exhaust their observations or the class time restraints are reached. Finally, follow up with the question “What does this work (or specific observation) make you wonder about?”
3. At this point, ask the students to note anything that they do not see but would expect to be represented in the scene. Second Language Learners who have been in the USA for 2-3 years would probably have some general ideas about the history of the USA and may be able to offer such absences. If not, the teacher may need to point out that no Native Americans appear in the main scene. If the students do not notice the border of the work, point out that there are small scenes in the border that add content/connections to the main scene. Point out that two Native Americans appear there, small and crawling.
4. Ask the students to make a journal entry writing their thoughts about the work, specifically noting the Americans who are represented as moving across the land and the Americans who are not represented.
If the students have enough command of the language, the teacher can discuss representing fact versus propaganda. Discuss the painting as advertisement for the movement west despite its factual inaccuracies (e.g. the painting depicts California as visible from the Rocky Mountains although it is actually 1,200 miles away). Contrast this with a handbill distributed in the Dust Bowl areas advertising workers needed in California to pick crops (in reality the number of workers was greater than the jobs available). A possible literary connection could be to The Grapes of Wrath.
Use the painting periodically through the course of American Literature. Students’ reactions to the work may evolve as they expand their ideas of American history, manifest destiny, and the immigrant experience. Allow students to write new journal entries each time they revisit the work with new knowledge. Discuss the dialogue that gets created between the artist, the work, and the viewer based on what the viewer brings to the experience.
Objective: The student will be able to make a factual observation about the painting and offer interpretation (where possible) citing evidence from the work.
Follow-up lessons: On subsequent viewing of the work, the student will be able to identify themes in the painting that connect to texts from American Literature (e.g. attitude toward nature, the west, immigration, manifest destiny, etc.)
Rationale for using this artwork: The painting by Leutze encapsulates many themes that permeate American Literature and lends itself to an introduction to the course as well as an anchor for the course that will bear repeated viewing.
Rationale for the the methodology: The English as a Second Language student often does not bring a lot of background knowledge about American history or art. The See-Think-Wonder technique allows the student to engage with the work as an expert would: one who makes observations and interpretations that allow claims backed by evidence.
Differentiating Observation (fact) from Interpretation (opinion).
Making claims based on evidence.
Practice speaking in front of peers using the target language of English.
This lesson works best for 8th grade U.S. History, after students have learned how the original plan for government (the Articles of Confederation) was failing the newly independent America and how the state delegates met in the summer of 1787 to correct these failings and ended up writing a new Constitution.
Students start by using the VTS thinking routine to examine Preamble by Mike Wilkins, an engaging and accessible way to 'read' the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution.
After 'decoding' the words and noticing all the details they can, students use a handout to analyze the language of the actual Preamble and discuss word choice and intended meaning (they might also look at the photo of the actual Constitution at this point to compare the original with Mike WIlkins' work).
They then read and analyze 4 quotes from The Federalist Papers defending the Constitution to the states who were about to vote to ratify it as a jumping off point to discuss what the Constitution was meant to achieve for the newly formed states. Discussion about reasons why states would not want to join this union will also add to the understanding of what was at stake for each state. In addition, looking at a graphic organizer showing state and federal powers under this plan for government will help students see how this system divides power between the states and the national government.
Students then return to the original artwork, and decide if analysis of the meaning of the Preamble and the ideals of the Constitution affect how students 'see' the artwork. Using the 'connect/extend/challenge' visual routine, teachers can record what the students connected to, what new ideas pushed their thinking in different directions, and what is still challenging or confusing about the artwork or the Preamble.
Some possible extension ideas are included in the collection to highlight the differences between the states as well as their similarities/unity, such as creating another artwork using an excerpt from the Declaration of Independence (while adhering to state DMV rules for vanity plates), and comparing front pages of different states' daily newspapers. #SAAMteach
This lesson will teach students about the bracero guest worker program, as well as painting, photograph, and textual analysis. Students will use the Domingo Ulloa painting as a jumping off point for an analysis of working and living conditions of migrant Mexican workers in the United States. Photographs from the American history collection will show workers's lives in America, while a primary source will show the effects of the bracero program on an individual. Finally, students will connect the bracero program of 1942-1964 to immigration issues of today by analyzing statements made by Donald Trump in the context of the bracero program.
This collection presents three different liberty bonds primary sources dating from 1918: a postcard, sheet music/song, and a celebrity aviator's brochure. With these resources students will explore Liberty Bonds, also called war bonds or liberty loans, which were essentially loans from the American people to the U.S. government to fund the Allies' involvement in World War I. Many public campaigns presented purchasing bonds as the patriotic way to support the war from the home front. Carefully chosen words and imagery conveyed this message and persuaded Americans to act quickly, through both subtle and direct messaging.
Essential questions: What role did Liberty Bonds play in financing the U.S. WWI effort? How did persuasive language techniques and visuals lead many Americans to see Liberty Bonds as part of their patriotic duty on the home front?
Keywords: primary source, secondary source, soldiers, World War I, Great War, Ruth Law, "What are you going to do to help the boys?", army, military, Uncle Sam, WWI, persuasion, advertising
This collection was created in conjunction with the National Postal Museum's "My Fellow Soldiers: Letters from World War I" teacher workshop (July 19, 2017). It focuses on one of the many postcards from this topical collection to demonstrate its use in the secondary classroom. #NPMTeacherPrograms
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:
Introduction. In this unit, students investigate literature and art by individuals who, through their work, reflect on the U.S.-American experience. Is it the role of the artist and the writer to make us more reflective? If so, to what end? If we look at a startling image or read an inspiring story, is it a momentary thing? Do we go on unaffected or are we somehow changed? Are we supposed to do more than reflect? Are we supposed to rethink the ways we interact with others? Revise the way we live? Are we meant to take action? Our answers to these questions help us to understand the role of the author and the artist in a society that is fraught with conflict and, in a sense, put on edge by questions of identity.
This collection previews the fifth and final seminar of the 2017 Montgomery College / Smithsonian Institution Fellowship seminar series, The Struggle for Justice. Two National Portrait Gallery staff members will lead this event: David Ward and Briana Zavadil White.
Resources and questions included in this collection have been chosen by the presenters for participants to explore and consider before the seminar itself.
This collection was created in conjunction with the National Portrait Gallery's 2017 Learning to look Summer Teacher Institute. The activities, which should take 1 hour over two class days, use two photographs for student visual analysis, as well as a short reading on feminist history, to help students investigate context to further their understanding of characterization, theme, and plot elements in Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. A page of teacher notes is included at the end of the collection, outlining suggested uses of the slides.
TAGS: #NPGteach, portrait, learning to look, National Portrait Gallery