The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) is the first museum on the National Mall to be recognized as a LEED Gold building due to its construction using renewable energy sources and locally-sourced building materials. LEED or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certifications are granted to buildings and other structures that meet global standards in areas such as water use, energy efficiency, and use of sustainable materials. To minimize energy use, the architects and engineers designed the building to allow lots of natural light inside of the museum. The Corona, the ornamental bronze-colored metal lattice that covers the museum like a crown covers a head, helps to keep the museum cool by allowing some sunlight inside, but by blocking the rest. As a result, the museum uses less electricity for lights and air conditioning.
But how does it work? Have your students complete the following experiment to find out!
Put the ARTS in STEM - From Egypt to South Africa, take a brief tour of the African Cosmos and have your students discover the intersection of Art and Astronomy in the southern hemisphere. Explore constellations only seen on the African continent. See why the Goliath beetle became a symbol of rebirth for the Egyptian scarab. Learn about celestial navigation by people and animals.
Create Your Own Constellation! Request Activity sheets for your classroom.
Submit your class constellations to our Student Gallery and be a part of your own school's online exhibition!
This collection can be used as a pre- and post-resource to support the free Smithsonian Science How webcast, Exploring Fossil Ammonoids with Paleobiologist Lucy Chang. During the 30-minute program, your students will have an opportunity to interact with the scientist through live Q&A and polls.
This collection contains objects from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Many of the specimens in this collection are fossil ammonoids, but other mollusks are included for comparison. Also included in the collection is a companion worksheet for students (with teacher key) to express their newly gained knowledge about ammonoids.
Ammonoids are an extinct group of marine mollusks that belong to the subclass Ammnoidea and the class Cephalopoda. A popular and well-known subgroup of ammonoids are ammonites. The closest living relatives of ammonoids are also cephalopods like squids, octopods, and cuttlefish, while the modern nautilus is more distantly related.
Ammonoids had shells made of calcium carbonate just like today’s snails, clams, oysters, and other shelled mollusks. Ammonoid shells varied in shape and size. Some ammonoids had tightly coiled shells (planispiral), while others had uncoiled, irregularly shaped shells (heteromorphs). Regardless of shape or size, the shell provided the ammonoid with protection and possibly camouflage.
Ammonoid shells had interior walls (septa) that created chambers inside of the shell. These chambers were connected by a narrow tube structure called a siphuncle. The ammonoid could use the siphuncle to control the amount of gas and fluid in each chamber, giving it the ability to achieve neutral buoyancy and move about in the marine environment.
Although ammonoid shells are abundant in the fossil record, there is an extremely poor record of their soft parts being preserved or fossilized. Based off of their relationships to mollusks alive today, ammonoids likely had bodies that were soft. The animal would have lived exclusively in the last chamber of its shell with numerous arms extending in a ring around its mouth, eating plankton and detritus, dead or decaying matter. Scientists study the shapes and patterns of ammonoid shells and related species, fossil and modern, to learn about the extinct animal.
Ammonoids lived around the globe and were present on earth for a very long time, about 350 million years. The entire group went extinct at the end of the Cretaceous, about 66 million years ago, along with the dinosaurs.
The abundance of ammonoids in the fossil record and their long history on earth make them good fossils to study. Geologists use ammonoid fossils as guide or index fossils, helping to date the rock layers from which the fossils were found. Paleobiologists can use fossil ammonoids to learn about patterns of extinction and glean information about the group's evolutionary history.
Talk with Me!
Having conversations with young children contributes to their thinking and language development. All conversations are good, but research shows that the quality of words children hear matters more than the quantity. Further, what’s best is an exchange; in other words, talk with children, not at them.
The Talk with Me Toolkits give parents and caregivers thematically organized high-quality, authentic materials to make children their conversational partners in discussions that matter. Each online toolkit features captivating videos and real-world photographs, as well as intriguing paintings and other artworks to observe and discuss through conversation prompts. Hands-on activities and books complete each toolkit. Simple instructions appear right in the toolkits, so you can jump right in. See what interests your child and get started. There’s a lot to talk about!
To read more, see, from the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Usable Knowledge site, The Brain-Changing Power of Conversation.
This collection supports the free Smithsonian Science How webcast, "What's a Lichen? How a Smithsonian Scientist Studies a Unique Symbiosis," scheduled to air on November 14, 2019. Manu is a scientist at the Smithsonian who studies lichens, a lichenologist. She collects lichens from all over the world, depositing them into the U.S. National Herbarium, which is located at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Manu identifies the lichens she collects with observations of how the lichen looks, their DNA data and where they were found.
Lichens are a symbiotic relationship between algae and fungus. They have been on earth for millions of years, living on rocks, trees, and soil in all different habitats on all seven continents. Even though lichens are all around us, scientists are still learning about what they are, where they live, and how many different species of lichens there are.
Fungus is any group of spore-producing organisms feeding on organic matter, and include molds, yeast, mushrooms, and toadstools. Algae is a simple, non-flowering plant. Algae contain chlorophyll and produce sugar through photosynthesis, like other plants, but do not have true stems, roots, leaves, or vascular tissue like most other plants. Lichenization is a fungal lifestyle, and therefore the name of lichen is the name of the fungus component.
When you look at a lichen, what you’re looking at is the “house” that the fungus and algae grow together. Scientists call this house a “thallus.” When algae and fungus come together to form this house, we see a lichen. This partnership is called a symbiotic relationship, because it helps both the fungus and algae survive. Research has shown that lichens are not a natural biological group, meaning they do not all come from a single common ancestor, in other words, lichens have many origins. Currently there are almost 20,000 species of lichenized fungi known.
In this symbiotic relationship, the fungus and algae benefit from being associated with each other. The fungus provides the house, its shelter (the thallus). This shelter helps the algae survive in habitats where it would otherwise be exposed to the elements and possibly could not survive. The algae provide food for the fungus, in the form of sugar. The sugar is a byproduct of photosynthesis that occurs within the algae.
Lichens are very important for the environment. They are an important food source for many animals, provide nest materials for birds, and provide habitat and material for biomimicry for insects and other organisms.
Lichens are also important for humans by providing natural dyes, perfumes, litmus paper, and even food. Humans even use lichens as bio-indicators, organisms that help humans monitor the health of the environment. Some species of lichens are sensitive to environmental pollution, so their presence or absence can help us understand more about the health of the environment, like air quality.
Lichens produce over one thousand different chemical compounds, most of them unique to lichens. These compounds include acids and pigments. Some chemicals may even fluoresce under UV light, making them important components for lichen identification.
Lichens have DNA, which is used to identify lichen and compare relationships amongst and within species. DNA analysis has been an important tool for lichenologists in identifying and understanding the biodiversity of lichens.
Sign up for the Smithsonian Science How webcast to introduce your students to Lichenologist Manuela Dal Forno! The program airs at 11am and 2pm on November 14, 2019. Sign up and view the program here: https://naturalhistory.si.edu/...
Our World by Design highlights objects from Cooper Hewitt's 2018 ad campaign. Each object brings awareness to the critical role design plays in enabling people to engage and interact in the world.
This Learning Lab uses interactive virtual tours, videos, images, and much more to Celebrate the Rich Cultural History of African American History in honor or Black History Month.
Students can explore this Learning Lab independently. Learning exercises and worksheets have been provided to help enhance the exploration of the content for the NMAAHC Black Superheroes
Wakanda Learning Lab is this? #SJ2019LP
Explore Spark!Lab's invention steps through the process of a real inventor, Orla Watson, who changed grocery shopping for millions of people with his telescoping shopping cart. Then make your own cart with our final invention challenge! Click through each of the items below and be sure to read the information (i) sections.
- Understand the invention process by examining one specific invention
- Discover and critically analyze objects and primary sources from the National Museum of American History's archives and collection
The Draper Spark!Lab is a hands-on invention activity center housed at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.
This collection explores the importance and significance of religion, music, representation and art in varying cultures and races. Throughout this collection, not only will we learn about the above topics, but we will also realize the connection that runs between different cultures and the different ways these topics can be seen in each culture.
These resources were developed for use with the Smithsonian's exhibition Narwhal; Revealing an Arctic Legend. For more information about this traveling exhibition, please visit the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES).
Through this collection, students will deepen their understanding of each planet in our solar system. Pairing the See, Think, Wonder thinking routine with an embroidered quilt of the solar system will pique students' interest in the dwarf planet, Pluto. After discovering the year that the quilt was made, students can explore the website to learn the history of Pluto.
Using the provided websites, students will work in groups to research a planet. They will use the obtained information to write a headline that captures the most interesting aspect of the planet and to create a model of the planet.
With the collapse of the Roman Empire, Europe fell into the Middle Ages. During this period, strict dogmas restricted medieval literature, art, science, and technology. In the late Middle Ages, the germination of capitalism emerged first in Italy in Europe under various conditions. The commodity economy operates through the market. The choice of purchase, bargaining, and contract-making in the market are all voluntary actions after consideration. This is the embodiment of freedom. Of course, if we want to have these freedoms, we must have the freedom of ownership of means of production, and the common premise of all these freedoms is human beings. Freedom. At this time, Italy calls for human freedom, and stale Europe needs a new ideological movement to promote human freedom. The emergence of the bud of capitalism has also provided the possibility for the rise of this ideological movement. The prosperity of the urban economy makes the wealthy businessmen, workshop owners and bankers who have great success and wealth believe more in their personal values and strength, and are more full of the spirit of innovation, enterprising, risk-taking and winning.
In this collection, originally used with 4th graders, students investigate how people access clean water both globally and locally. Students will use Agency by Design thinking routines to explore watersheds as a system, focusing on the Anacostia Watershed & the larger Chesapeake Bay Watershed. They will then use observational drawings and make their own model watershed to deepen their understanding.
Students will use Project Zero Thinking Routines to take the perspective of those who live in water scarce areas and be invited to conduct their own research of a region that faces physical or economic water scarcity. Students will be encouraged to take action by creating a public service announcement explaining an issue related to clean water or by designing their own solution.
This collection contains 10 images of showing the gathering, carrying, filtering of, and lack of clean water. It has maps that show water scarcity on a global scale, and maps and diagrams of local (to Washington, D.C.) watersheds. It contains several thinking routines that can be used to examine the works as well as guide students to notice complexity. It also contains links to several articles, videos and an interactive game that students can use to conduct research on issues of water scarcity.
This collection explores Alexandre Hogue's 1933 painting Dust Bowl through a global thinking routine called "Beauty and Truth." Supporting materials help build historical and scientific context.
“Some may feel that in these paintings . . . I may have chosen an unpleasant subject, but after all the [drought] is most unpleasant. To record its beautiful moments without its tragedy would be false indeed. At one and the same time the [drought] is beautiful in its effects and terrifying in its results. The former shows peace on the surface but the latter reveals tragedy underneath. Tragedy as I have used it is simply visual psychology, which is beautiful in a terrifying way.” -Alexandre Hogue
UNSTACKED is a wonderful way to spark inquiry, analysis, and discussion. By visually exploring our images, you can bring the Smithsonian Libraries' collections into your classroom. Use UNSTACKED as a morning exercise, a way to introduce a new topic, or to discover your students' interests. Picture your world, dive into the stacks!
The research and creation of this project was funded by the Gates Foundation Youth Access Grant.
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.
Introduction to the science concept of claims, support and reasoning.
In this collection, students will explore the life cycle of stars and learn about the connection between elements and space. They'll explore real data that provides evidence for the dispersal of several elements produced by the explosion of massive stars, specifically through the Cassiopeia A supernova. Then they’ll put their knowledge into practice by navigating the remains of the supernova in the online interactive “Journey through an Exploded Star.”
- The activity begins with “DISCOVER." The students will go through a series of slides, learning first how the visible spectrum of light is only a small part of the entire electromagnetic spectrum, about the different telescopes scientists use to view the electromagnetic radiation across that spectrum, and finally how they've used that data to form a composite view of our universe, specifically through a 3D model of the Cassiopeia A supernova.
- In the "EXPLORE" activity, students examine the 3D visualization of data, compiled by astrophysicist Tracey DeLaney, to understand how and why scientists study supernovas such as Cassiopeia A: to gain a comprehensive picture of the cosmos.
- The “PLAY” online interactive then takes the students on a first-person flight through the center of this exploded star. The interactive is split into two parts: The first part is a 2 minute guided fly-through, where Kim Arcand, project lead of the original 3D visualization found in the collection, explains the different forms of light and the elements that are traceable under those spectrums. The second is a free explore option, where students are able to manipulate the different spectrums by adjusting filters as they choose. Both parts of the interactive reinforce what they’ve previously learned within the collection about light across the EMS. This interactive works across browsers and requires no software downloads. Also included is a 360 video tour that works on mobile devices and Google Cardboard.
- Finally, three extension activities are included. The first allows students to take photographs using real MicroObservatory robotic telescopes located at Smithsonian Observatory sites in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Amado, Arizona to create their very own authentic astrophotographs. They’ll use specialized image processing software to bring out visual details from images of objects like the Moon, Sun, star clusters, nebulas, and galaxies. The second, "Recoloring the Universe," is a suite of resources that use astrophysical data to teach basic coding. The third resource, "How to Be a Scientist: Careers in Astronomy" highlights the career and data visualization work of astronomer Kimberly Arcand.
This online activity could be used to augment study about the forms of radiation light can take, learning about supernovae and what happens after a star explodes, as well as learning about some of the different careers in science that are available (astrophysicists, astrophotographers, engineers, and visualization experts). As with all Learning Lab collections, it is built to be freely modified and adapted to fit your specific needs.