Skip to Content
  • Language
  • End User
  • Educational Use
  • Time Required

Found 6,880 Collections


What is Good Design?

In the Queensland Senior Design Curriculum students must describe design criteria based on the requirements of stakeholders and the principles of good design. To understand what makes design good, students must analyse how designers understand good design. They do this by exploring the ‘Ten principles of good design’ by Dieter Rams (Vitsoe 2017) and the evaluation criteria used by Good Design Australia. This learning lab collection has resources for both. The principles of good design listed in the Australia Curriculum are derived from these two resources. 

Learning Goals:

  • Explore the principles of good design developed by Dieter Rams
  • Identify the impact of Dieter Rams on past present and future designs
  • Analyse Dieter Rams objects to identify how the principles of good design are applied
  • Understand how the principles of good design can be used to develop design criteria essential for measuring the success of design ideas

Jasmine Kassulke

What is Feminist Art?

ART 252 Spring 2020

The theme of this feminist art collection is “expressions of female liberation through feminist art.” For the sake of representing multiple perspectives, this liberation is defined in a broad sense: as the ability for women to feel respected, safe, and autonomous enough to pursue their innately deserved freedoms to the fullest extent. Various pieces in this collection communicate this theme of liberation from different lenses and regarding different topics - such as education, career, media, politics, community, fashion - and from vantage points regarding such issues as acceptance, identity, race/ethnicity, repression, and objectification. This piece includes such artists as Nina Kuo, whose response to “What is Feminist Art?” reflects the attempted control of Chinese women through their depiction in popular media. Arlette Jassel, on the other hand, offers a much different narrative: one that depicts a more optimistic and sunny view of liberation as the freedom and ability to pursue whatever interests you desire. In a similar vein, Joyce Kozloff’s piece is a picture of Linda Nochlin, holding a degree in hand, and a written quote that was said by Nochlin in 1970:  “feminism is justice.” These works and others will serve to explore liberation from the point of view of a variety of pieces by different women artists, and my hope is that this collection creates a larger image of feminism as female liberation: a mental overview that broadly serves as a topographical map of the ways in which such liberation has been, and still is, dearly desired - and dearly needed.

Kristina Sanders

What is female imagery?

A mini collection of responses to the questionnaire, "What is Feminist Art?" from 1976 and 2019.

Beth Fraser


 This Learning Lab explores the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum's design thinking process. Design Thinking is a methodology used to solve complex problems and fosters creative confidence. It allows the problem-solver to pursue multiple ideas, research solutions, make connections, empathize with the end-user, test ideas and improve concepts.


Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

What Is Currency? Lessons from Historic Africa

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

Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access

What Is Currency? Lessons from Historic Africa

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

theresa hughes

What is art? #TeachingInquiry

1. Do you think art is universal in its qualities and nature?

2. WHY is art created?

3. Who decides what is art and what is not art?

Kaavya Lakshman

What is art?

This collection is connected to an introductory lesson for my Humanities 2 class, which looks at art, music, philosophy, dance, architecture, and other disciplines from the Baroque period through the present. Because much of the art of this time challenged the establishment, I want to start the course by asking students to think about what art is in their opinions and from culture's perspective.
Michelle O'Brien

What is an ecosystem?

In this collection students will compare and contrast ecosystems in order to define them.

It can be used as part of a larger study on ecosystems and interconnections.

This collection contains images and videos depicting the biotic and abiotic elements of a desert and rainforest ecosystem. The accompanying note catcher links to an article on ecosystems from National Geographic and a TedTalk about the body as an ecosystem.

Guiding Questions: Students will construct responses to the following guiding questions as they work with this collection: 

GQ 1:  What is an ecosystem?

GQ 2: What makes a healthy ecosystem?

Big Idea: As students work with this collection to answer the guiding questions, they will understand that an ecosystem is made up of the living and non-living elements of work together to create a bubble of life. Students will learn that all of the elements of an ecosystem are interconnected and that a healthy ecosystem is diverse and well-balanced.


Elizabeth Weiss

What is an American?

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?" 


Student instructions:

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?


"Letters From An American Farmer"

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 western pilgrims...

"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).

Mike Burns

What I Will Find on Mars

Here are five things I will find when I visit Mars next year!
Mandi Sonnenberg

What Goes Up Must Come Down: Plummeting Through the Layers of the Atmosphere

Alan Eustace's world record-breaking skydive started with a ride 25 miles into the stratosphere in a high-altitude balloon. He then plummeted through the increasingly dense atmosphere. Does the atmosphere change with altitude? What challenges did Eustace's team have to overcome to complete the jump? Learn all this and more on this episode of STEM in 30 from the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.

National Air and Space Museum

What effect does social media has on today's world?

What is the impact of social media on today’s youth?

Today everyone is on social media – young, old, rich and poor. Even the corporate world has jumped into the bandwagon and companies are very active online, posting updates and answering questions.  As the popularity of social media keeps on spreading all over the world, there have been mixed feelings about these social networks and their impact on today’s generation. So, how does social media affect today’s youth?

In order to answer this question, we have to look at both the positive and negative impacts of social media on the youth. First of all, with social media, young people can interact with their peers or other people around the world by just a click of a button. From the objects that I selected and collected from the Smithsonian Learning Lab, there was one article that really caught my attention.  The article describes how technology actually makes us better social beings. Though laptop users tended to be alone and less apt to interact with strangers in public spaces, Sociologist Keith Hampton says, “It’s interesting to recognize that the types of interactions that people are doing in these spaces are not isolating. They are not alone in the true sense because they are interacting with very diverse people through social networking websites, e-mail, video conferencing, Skype, instant messaging and a multitude of other ways. We found that the types of things that they are doing online often look a lot like political engagement, sharing information and having discussions about important matters. Those types of discussions are the types of things we’d like to think people are having in public spaces anyway. For the individual, there is probably something being gained and for the collective space there is probably something being gained in that it is attracting new people.”

Rosemith Metayer

What does it mean to be human in the Anthropocene?

This collection was designed to serve as a bridge between the high school biology units of evolution and ecology as students explore the evolution of humanity through both a biological and moral lens.  Students will use Project Zero Thinking Routines to examine various artifacts from the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History as they grapple with answering the overarching question: What does it mean to be human in the Anthropocene?  #GoGlobal

What does it mean to be human in the Anthropocene? : Students answer/revise their initial answers to the overarching question after gaining additional knowledge from various learning activities: 

  • Claim/Support/Question:  Students use the Claim/Support/Question thinking routine to frame their thinking around and grapple with this question.
  • Skull Analysis > Human Evolution Misconceptions: After the discussion on human evolution misconceptions, students can revise their thoughts on "what it means to be human" and begin to develop a class list on the characteristics shared by humans.
  • Constructing an Ancestral Timeline: After constructing their timeline, students will have gained additional an understanding of specific morphological and behavioral characteristics of humans. 

Using this Collection: 

  • Detailed suggestions on how to implement the learning activities are found in the "information" section of each of the Blue Activity Tiles as well as the Project Zero Thinking Routine Tiles.
  • Notes regarding the use of each Project Zero Thinking Routine are documented as annotations within each individual Thinking Routine tile and provide specific instructions on how align these routines with this collection.  

Global Competence Connection:

  • Students will be challenged to “investigate the world” both in a modern and prehistoric sense as they explore this the resources in this collection.
  • One goal of this collection is to inspire students to take action as a result of considering the impacts that modern humans have had on the planet. 

Additional Questions Explored through this Collection:

  • What (specific behaviors, adaptations, etc.) allow species to survive?
    • This question can be highlighted during the skull sorting and analysis activities in order to help students review the concepts of adaptation, evolution by natural selection, etc. 
      • Extension: Teachers can project photos of these species in their natural environments and ask students to identify the adaptations that aid them in survival. This exploration can be used to explore full-body morphological differences between humans and non-humans.    
    • This question can also be explored as students analyze the Human Evolution Timeline Interactive. Teachers can ask students to compare and contrast the adaptations of various hominid species and propose ways in which these adaptations aided species to survive in their various environments. 
  • How have climatic changes impacted the survival of species over time?
    • This question can be presented as students explore the Interactive Human Evolution Timeline. The timeline presents data showing how the Earth's climate has fluctuated over the 8 million years of human evolution and highlights the fact that some of the most important milestones in human evolution occurred during the greatest climatic fluctuations. 
    • Teachers can use this exploration to foreshadow upcoming discussions of modern climate change.
  • How fragile is human life?
    • The Human Family Tree and Human Evolution Timeline interactives allow for thoughtful exploration of this question as they provide visualizations of hominid existence, individual species' lifespans in geologic time, and extinctions. 
    • Teachers can highlight the small amount of time that modern humans have existed in comparison to early humans as well as points in history that modern humans were faced with events that nearly caused extinction and ask students to grapple with the fragility of human life.  
  • Why do we matter as humans in the anthropocene?
    • This question serves as the bridge into the study of ecology and human impacts on the environment and challenges students to deeply consider their importance to their world. 

Aleah Myers

What does it mean to be free in colonial America?

This is an inquiry-based unit on colonial America for an 8th grade US history class, and my maiden voyage using the Smithsonian Learning Lab, the #C3Framework and #TeachingInquiry , and the guiding encouragement of my summer cohort, "Teaching Historical Inquiry with Objects."

For this entire unit, my students will be “in character" as American colonists -- from New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Maryland -- starting around the year 1763. In general, I hope to challenge my 8th graders to perceive a shifting constellation of connections, relationships, and identities that drive people's self-understanding as they decide whether to side with Loyalist or rebel colonists.

Our summative performance task will be a multi-day debate between rebel and Loyalist colonists, with "fence-sitter" journalists evaluating arguments.

Supportive Question 1: “How might physical geography influence your colonial life in 1763?"

I hope this helps my students begin to grasp how the daily lives and world views of American colonists varied greatly, both within a particular colony and between colonies. They will hopefully uncover this for themselves as they plant their colonial identity in a specific colony, and begin finding their physical bearings in a coastal port city or a more rural area. Our research should help us perceive how geographical location might have affected an American colonist's early experience and opinion of British rule.

Supportive Question 2: “How might British taxes and news of the Boston "Massacre" affect your colonial life in the early 1770s?"

Once planted in a particular “neighborhood", I hope my students will really begin developing their colonial character (complete with colonial name and occupation) as they begin researching and exploring the web of economic connections they might share within their colony, and between their colony and England. We will evaluate the cultural points of view behind British and colonial opinions about taxes in the colonies, as well as contrasting newspaper accounts of the Boston "Massacre" as it is reported in colonial and London newspapers.

Supportive Question 3: “Is it time to fight for freedom from Britain?"

By 1774, I hope students are enjoying walking around in their colonial shoes (and, perhaps, identify which of their classmates might have made those shoes). Hopefully, some will perceive points of creative tension within their colonial identity, where they find themselves feeling more “British" than they do elsewhere. The formative task here, however, will be to make those opinions plain. Students will compare and contrast excerpts of Thomas Paine's Common Sense and Charles Ingliss' Loyalist response -- and begin to divide themselves (with some teacher intervention!) into rebel and Loyalist camps.

Kevin Day

What does it Mean to Be a Scientist?: The Scientific Method and Taking Good Notes

This is a  collection designed to introduce students to the history of aviation as told through the lens of the scientific method-design process. Students begin by thinking about why is flight important in our lives, and how did we get to the airplanes we now know? Students look at the many designs that planes have gone through, and discuss why perseverance and problem-solving are important skills to have. They also see that teamwork, cooperation, and a desire to succeed were necessary for the Wright Brothers to do their important work. Feel free to pick and choose from the resources in creating your own collections:

Overall Learning Outcomes:

  • Scientists use trial and error to form conclusions.
  • Scientists test hypotheses using multiple trials in order to get accurate results and form strong conclusions. 
  • Scientists use multiple data and other evidence to  form strong conclusions about a topic.
  • Scientists work together to apply scientific research and knowledge to create new designs that meet human needs. 
  • Scientists help each other persevere through mistakes to learn new ideas.

Guiding Questions for Students to Answer from this collection:

  • Why is flight important?
  • How do scientists solve problems?
  • How do scientists collect data to help them solve problems?


Katherine Dunn

What Do You Think? Dropping the A-bombs to End World War II (WW2)

This collection asks students to create their own exhibit on a controversial subject: the use of atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end World War II. Students will create a collection that includes five items reflecting their answers to the following questions:
-How should the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki be remembered?
-Was it necessary to drop the atomic bombs in order to end World War II?
Students should consider both long-term and short-term effects in their responses.
Kate Harris

What do you see? Using the lens of art to discover hidden history

2017 NCHE Presentation- Lash and Rickman

Stephanie Lash

What do you see? Using the lens of art to discover hidden history

2017 NCHE Presentation- Lash and Rickman

jorjan woodward

What do Anthropologists Do?

There are a number of lesson plans devoted to anthropology available from the Smithsonian. This collection links to several of the best lessons and teaching resources and, where necessary, provides short summaries of what each are, so teachers can easily use them in their own classrooms.

It is focused on lessons and resources appropriate for middle and high school classrooms. The last four resources reference the case of Ishi, originally described as "the last Yahi Indian," and an example of flaws in the early approach to anthropology. The Smithsonian housed his brain, which had been donated to science by the University of California, from 1917 to 2000, when it was repatriated to his tribe.
Kate Harris

What do Americans Look Like?

The concept of racial identity and stereotypes is explored through art from different periods in U.S. history. Students explore the question of "What do Americans look like?" The aim of the activity is to demonstrate how early perceptions of American identity have become deeply embedded in the American psyche, and have resulted in racial tensions and conflict that continue to affect our country today. #SAAMteach
Ellen Fisher

What did money look like under colonial rule in West Africa?

How did colonialism affect the lives and livelihoods of Africans? The kinds of money people used can provide some clues. This collection contains coins and notes introduced by the colonial powers which  Africans received in return for the sale of produce and used for paying taxes. It also includes cowrie shells, kissi pennies and manillas, which Africans often used to buy everyday goods in local markets despite colonial government policies banning them. 

NMAH and London School of Economics

What Did Gatsby's America Look Like?

Select up to five artifacts that best reflect the setting of the novel. Justify your selections by considering the information provided for each artifact. You can access the information once you select an image and press the lowercase i tab on the left.

Consider how the information from the Smithsonian Learning Lab compares to Fitzgerald's use of setting  throughout The Great Gatsby.

Reminder about setting: five key components that establish the setting:

1: time [moment/hour/morning/evening/season],

2: era, 

3. place {village/city/country], 

4: location{inside a house, at a park, on a front lawn}, 

5: occupation (of protagonist, antagonist especially)

Scott Tuffiash

What Can Boys and Girls Club Find and Do in the Learning Lab?

Let's take a journey to see what the Smithsonian has for you and your students. We will use this as a FRIENDLY challenge, and as a way to explore the types of diverse resources and features found in the Learning Lab.
Brian Ausland
385-408 of 6,880 Collections