Found 569 Learning Lab Collections
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.
This student activity explores Luis Cruz Azaceta's "Shifting States: Iraq" using two Project Zero Thinking Routines to help students think critically and globally. The work is a metaphorical representation of the unrest taking place in Iraq, and more broadly, an exploration of the human condition during times of crisis.
Included here are an image of the work from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, an explanatory video with curator E. Carmen Ramos, two Thinking Routines - "See, Think, Wonder" and "The 3 Y's" - from Harvard's Project Zero Visible Thinking and Global Thinking materials, an array of prompts and Learning Lab tools, and an assignment. This collection is adapted from a larger teaching collection on the same theme (Luis Cruz Azaceta's "Shifting States: Iraq" ( http://learninglab.si.edu/q/ll...), that includes extension activities.
This collection was originally designed for a workshop for pre-service teachers at Trinity Washington University. It is intended to demonstrate, and asks workshop participants to consider, various ways to use the Learning Lab and its tools. #TWUtech
Keywords: #LatinoHAC, Latinx, Latino, global competency, competencies
This Collection contains resources to help students understand the three branches of government in the United States.
SWBT identify and describe the purposes of each branch of the United States government.
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.
Answer the questions based on the documents. Remember to observe the picture/writing first and then move toward analysis.
Keywords: poverty, rural, urban, new deal, inquiry strategy, global context, 1930s, 30s, dust bowl,
Overview: Within the new realm of STEAM learning, students explore transdisciplinary themes connecting Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math in new ways, finding similarities and differences. The overall goal of STEAM learning is to link the subjects for 21st century career paths.
Use this lesson as a provocation to a unit on planet Earth, our solar system, and/or space and the human interaction within those topics. This will get students thinking about how we translate the world around us and motivate them to dig deep when researching.
Use the thinking routine: Beauty and Truth for an engaging discussion with students. The discussions will help you assess students’ prior knowledge of space, Earth, and our solar system.
Purpose: In this lesson students explore their knowledge of science and art. Students are asked to make connections with the two as they use a Project Zero thinking routine: Beauty and Truth. This lesson can be adapted to students Grades 5-12 to work collaboratively and enhance their communication skills within the regular classrooms or Design Thinking and Maker Space learning workshops when available.
History connections: This collection offers a historical perspective of the synergistic role of art and sciences for innovations used for human exploration both on Earth and in space. The images and artifacts have been selected to capture science and art from the early 20th century to current times.
Directions: In order to allow student led learning, model the activity (described below), then allow the students to explore the activity. The very last resource in the collection is a video entitled “Heaven and Earth”. Use this as a tool for a reflection discussion in the beginning and end of your lesson. Please feel free to modify the lesson. Note that it is imperative to discuss Science and Art before and after the lesson to show the growth of understanding from beginning to end.
A sample discussion to get students thinking about how to describe art and science can use the following questions: "Where do you see art in these images? What, to you, makes it "art"? Where do you see science? What, to you makes it "science"? Let's look deeper, could you say that what you thought was art could have aspects of science? What could make it science? And now the opposite, could you say that what you thought was science could have aspects of art? What could make it art?" As a teacher, document the descriptions on the board for the students to see the words they are using. Create a Venn diagram of the words used, each circle being science or art with the overlap being similar descriptions. Use your personal style to dig deep in the discussion, working on the students' abilities to communicate effectively and with metaphors. Highlight when they use powerful metaphors or challenge them to make associations when speaking to best express themselves.
Teacher will demonstrate a sample first: Choose two images (Art and Science): one that you think best demonstrates concepts in science that you are interested in and one that best demonstrates art concepts that you are interested in. Please explore the artifact by exploring the tabs that display more information about the piece.
The teacher demonstrates the thinking routine to analyze the images: Beauty and Truth. Document both beauty and truth evidence for each image. Compare the list and see if there are similarities. Then the students pair up to do the same: choose two images and explore Beauty and Truth for each image. Have them chart using 4 squares to get the beauty and truth observations for each of the two images. After, share out their findings and have a reflection discussion for any similarities amongst students. The main goal is to have the students realize on their own that science and art overlap in many ways, and that beauty and truth can be extracted from each.
The purpose of first exploring science vs. art and then beauty and truth is to increase the sophistication of the discussion and students' abilities to communicate effectively and clearly. After all four words are analyzed for the two images, students will have both exercised their communicative abilities and their reasoning of the world around us created and real. This challenges their point of view of the world around them and calibrates their critical reasoning skills.
This should lead some rich discussions as well as powerful creative expression and scientific reasoning. These are the skills that students need to analyze the world around them to further extend their STEM skills and best prepare for the 21st century workforce. Take your time to use this as a platform for discussion in your classroom and continue to have student discuss their perceptions of the world.
- Literacy: Have the students write a persuasive paragraph that promotes either of the images as more beauty or truth with multiple reasons why and concrete examples to demonstrate.
- Science: Have the students research more about the science they observed. You can even combine literacy by having them complete a technical article where they place themselves within that time period of the scientific discovery and write a “Breaking News” article telling the general public about the amazing new science discovery.
- History: Create a timeline for 5-10 images. Discuss the progression of discovery and innovation. Discuss the impact on society and humans.
- Use design thinking to extend the learning. Pretend there will be a circus coming to town that gets everyone excited about STEAM. Use graphic design tools to combine both images and create a promotional poster.
- Create a model or diorama of the scientific discovery.
Let the learning take you on an STEAM adventure.
Enjoy this lesson!
Ages: Grades 5-12, scope per ability
- Students understand the similarities and differences of science and art.
- Students learn historic scientific discoveries.
- NGSS - Use these objectives after using this lesson as a provocation to learn about our Earth, the Universe, and the solar system. Sample science units can include the following learning standards:
- Develop and use a model to describe the role of gravity in the motions within galaxies and the solar system. Grade: Middle School (6-8)
- Develop a model based on evidence to illustrate the life span of the sun and the role of nuclear fusion in the sun’s core to release energy that eventually reaches Earth in the form of radiation. Grade: High School (9-12)
- Construct an explanation of the Big Bang theory based on astronomical evidence of light spectra, motion of distant galaxies, and composition of matter in the universe. Grade: High School (9-12)
Cultural Connections - Global Perspectives
- Investigating the world: With prompting and support, I can ask a question about an idea that is important to my community.
- Recognizing perspectives: With prompting and support, I can identify when someone else has an idea that is different from my own.
- Communicate Ideas: I can speak and write to share my ideas with others. This means with help I can look at my audience, speak loudly and clearly, and share my ideas so that my audience can understand them.
#GoGlobal #STEAM #STEM #designthinking #makeractivity
Students will explore these sources to spark inquiry and investigation about how the Civil War impacted American society.
- Students can complete the sorting activity to categorize the images.
- Students should select one source they find most intriguing and generate questions about the source and its related topic by completing the quiz question.
This collection has images of the Vietnam War to background the novel The Things They Carried. This collection should help to answer the compelling question; was the Vietnam War justified?
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 peak 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.
The focus of this collection is architecture around the world. Ancient Roman architecture in particular, has influenced the way more modern architects design buildings all around the world. My interest in architecture comes from the time I spent in Italy in 2016. I visited Rome, Florence, and all around Tuscany. As I saw during my stay there, and also what we have learned in class, is that the most important features in Roman architecture were arches, columns, and very thick walls. Columns were erected to show victories in wars and arches were pivotal in Rome’s success. Without arches, they wouldn’t have been able to build expansive buildings or roadways from Britain to the Middle East. Aqueducts contain arches which serve as a nice physical feature, as well as hold a strong material in place for many many years. Romanesque style influenced Gothic style, which contained high pointed vaulted and a more vertical appeal. There is so much detail in every piece of architecture and every building tells an individual story. Much of the architecture standing where we are today, tells a story of what we know about Romans.
In this activity, students will examine a painting of Mexican guest-workers, known as braceros, involved in the Bracero Program (1942-1964), the largest guest-worker program in US history. Started as a temporary war measure to address labor demands in agriculture and railroads, the program allowed Mexican nationals to take temporary agricultural work in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, and 24 other states. By the time the program ended in 1964, over 4.6 million work contracts were awarded.
Using a Project Zero Global Thinking Routine - "Step In - Step Out - Step Back" - students will examine the perspectives of those depicted in the painting, consider what it means to take the perspectives of others, and explore avenues and methods to learn more about Braceros. Resources for learning more about the Bracero program are located at the end of the collection and include: Bittersweet Harvest, a digital exhibition about the Bracero Program; the Bracero History Archive, which includes oral histories, objects, and more; and a Learning Lab collection of photographs documenting the Bracero Program.
Keywords: laborer, immigration, work, migration, migrant workers, agriculture, reform, politics, government, photojournalism, activity, inquiry strategy, global competency, global competence, latino, chicano, 1940s, 40s, 1950s, 50s, 1960s, 60s
From the beginning of mankind, since our lives began on this earth, humankind has preserved its norm of following a system of faith and worshiping something, whether it be some deity or something materialistic existing in the world with us with hopes of some kind of personal gains. Religion has certainly evolved massively from the beginning of our existence in this universe, and art has had and still has a significant impact on our relationship with religion and it helps us make connections between the belief in some kind of God, atheism, and all other forms of beliefs. It helps to understand religion in ancient times versus modern ways of following religion.
This collection will be looking at the evolution of religion through the perception of art in various forms, throughout the different ages of mankind and the way religion has developed over the course of time. It is specifically going to focus on the religion Islam, a religion that hasn't started too long ago compared to Hinduism, the oldest religion that mankind follows, as we navigate through the collection. It starts from various ways in which the belief in religion started, to how Prophet Muhammad (SM) started the religion Islam, which is now the youngest of the world's major religions.
Memories can evoke strong feelings and inspire artists to tell stories in their art. Look at a selected image with a partner or table group and discuss:
- What is the story?
- How do you think the person or people feel about this experience?
- What do you see that makes you think they feel that way?
- Have you ever had the same feeling?
This collection will examine examples of art as a form of communication between the human and spiritual worlds. These forms of communication may include examples of direct communication — in which an individual or group uses art to speak to and influence the spiritual world — as well as examples that serve to document practices, beliefs, and the place of spiritual practices in society at large.
The form and focus of these communications expressed through art can help to explain the values of particular cultures or individuals, or may serve to question or enforce certain cultural beliefs. This type of art may be the expression of the needs of a social group or culture, such as prehistoric cave paintings that might have functioned in rituals to ensure successful hunts or plentiful game. It may serve to enforce a political agenda such as the Law Code of Hammurabi. Or it may express an individual's personal interpretation and experience of spirituality such as the illustrated poetry of William Blake. However, form does not always imply the expected function: the 19th century English painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti sometimes drew on religious subjects or themes and much of his work has a mysterious and mystical atmosphere. Yet Rossetti, describing his spiritual beliefs, called himself an “art Catholic,” implying that if he engaged in a spiritual dialog through his art, it was with art itself (Faxon, 1989).
This collection will look at examples
from the prehistoric era through the early 20th century. These
examples help to contextualize the inner lives of individuals, and
the collective inner life of the cultures, their environments, wants,
needs, and values, to foster a greater appreciation of and respect
for these peoples and cultures.
Although there is only limited firm evidence of the purpose of cave art found at sites such as Lascaux, Chauvet, and Les Trois-Frères, scholars generally agree that it served some religious purpose. Various theories have been proposed to provide more specific explanations. Cave art, particularly Paleolithic cave art, depicts almost exclusively animals. Hunting was crucial to the survival of early humans, and it is possible that the images were created as part of hunting rituals. Images of animals superimposed over each other many have represented fertility rituals aimed at increasing the amount of game animals. Some images appear to have been deliberately scratched or gouged with spearheads — in some cases blood was painted flowing from these wounds — suggesting that the images may have been intended as a type of sympathetic magic giving hunters power over and protection from large and dangerous animals (Benton & DiYanni, 2012).
Other images are less easy to explain and have given rise to controversial theories such as the bird-faced human figure in the Lascaux Shaft Scene, that combine elements of humans with other animals in a single figure. The Shaft Scene appears to describe a narrative although the exact meaning is not completely clear. A wounded bison stands ready to charge; the animals intestines appear to be pouring out of its abdomen and a spear is shown near its hindquarters. In front of the bison is a stick figure human with a bird's face. The human figure appears to have fallen or been knocked over. Just below this odd figure is a line topped by a bird, perhaps an object belonging to the bird-faced man. This figure and others that combine humans and other animals into one figure such as The Sorcerer in Les Trois-Freres may document early humans' mythology, and could suggest the origins of certain beliefs and practices (Curtis, 2006).
The meaning of the Law Code of Hammurabi is less ambiguous — the spiritual and the legal/political aspects of the culture are united. The stele dates to approximately 1760 BCE and is divided into two sections. The lower section, which takes up the majority of the stele, consists of the code of laws in effect at the time. The relief at the top depicts the Babylonian king Hammurabi receiving the laws from the god Shamash. The implication is clear: the law itself is a religious document and the social rules it describes are the will of the gods — and Hammurabi whose authority is bolstered by the approval of the gods (Benton & DiYanni, 2012).
The spiritual is not always a numinous experience in a cave. Some early laws and social codes were framed as divine communications that enforce social norms and rules — even now, witnesses in courts are generally sworn in by placing their hand on a Bible. Communication with the spiritual in examples such as the Law Code of Hammurabi is aimed at establishing and enforcing order and lending it a weight of legitimacy. It is as critical for the members of an urban culture, such as Babylon, to abide by rules to maintain peace with their neighbors as it was for the Paleolithic peoples to ensure successful hunts. And, kings such as Hammurabi believed it was critical to protect their power. By aligning themselves with gods, they could borrow some of the gods' power in the minds of the people and make rebellion or betrayal a kind of sacrilege. Hammurabi, in fact, was declared a god in his own lifetime (Van De Mieroop, 2005).
Music may also function as a form of communication between gods and humans. In pharaonic Egypt, religious festivals appear to have prominently involved music and dance. Music may have been used in religious rituals to communicate with the gods, invoke deities, or as a medium to transmit offerings. Some instruments were associated with specific deities: the sistrum with Hathor and Isis and the tambourine with Bes. Sistrums may have been played during rituals associated with Hathor to invoke her — and to placate her. Although images of deities playing musical instruments are relatively rare in Egyptian art, Bes is frequently depicted dancing and playing a tambourine. Unlike the other gods, Bes used music to communicate with humans. Bes was associated with the home and family — the front rooms of Egyptian homes appear to have contained shrines to Bes — and he remained a popular deity among the people throughout Egypt's history. Bes was believed to protect people, particularly women in childbirth, by playing music to frighten away evil spirits. Amulets of Bes dancing and playing a tambourine appear to have been a common type of protective amulet worn around the neck. It is worth noting that depictions of Bes differ markedly from depictions of most other Egyptian deities: he is represented in lively motion. In contrast to the image of Egyptian religion based primarily on royal tombs and, therefore, focused on death and the elite members of society, Bes was closely tied to life and the lives of common people (Simmance, n.d.).
Composed by the poet Valmiki in India the fifth century BCE, the Rāmāyana relates the deeds and adventures of Rama, an avatar of Vishnu. According to J. L. Brockington, in Indian tradition the Rāmāyana is designated the ādikāvya, which may be translated as “the first poetic work,” and is regularly referred to as being sung as opposed to spoken in contrast to the Mahābhārata. In one version of the framework story introducing the Rāmāyana, Rama is described as the perfect human being. His behavior is therefore worth emulating, and it is likely that as early as the first millennium BCE that was in a sense being done literally through plays and dances reenacting the story (Brockington, 1998). In that sense, the Rāmāyana represents a complex, evolving dialog, a lived experience of both artistic and spiritual expression.
Euripides' tragic drama The Bacchae is another example of theater acting as a complex dialog between the human and the spiritual worlds. The plot of The Bacchae revolves around the arrival of the god Dionysos in the city of Thebes where his ecstatic worship is opposed by Pentheus, the king of Thebes. As Segal writes, the play is morally ambiguous and may have been designed to implicate the audience in the action. Although Dionysos is a disturbance to Thebes, Pentheus' response is heavy-handed and unsympathetic. However, as the drama unfolds, the audience that may have been rooting for Dionysos is confronted with a climax that sees the god orchestra Pentheus' gruesome death. It is important to note that Dionysos was a well-established and liked god in Athens and that Classical Greek drama was written to be performed during annual festivals in Dionysos' honor. As Vellacott writes, during the festival a statue of Dionysos was brought from a shrine to the amphitheater to watch the plays. As Segal notes, it is unlikely that the play is meant to be critical of Dionysos (his actual worship was much more restrained than depicted in the play or the myths it was based on) but its presentation, at a fundamentally religious festival with the god literally in the audience, could not but have sparked another dialog within the audience, a reflection on their relationship to the god and the sometimes overwhelming forces he represents.
Temple of Isis at Pompeii declares both the strength of her
worshipers' belief and the endurance of her cult in the face of
repeated official sanctions. The temple was damaged in an earthquake
in 62 AD but was rebuilt by the time of the eruption of Vesuvius in
79 AD; in fact, it was the only civic building in that area of
Pompeii that had been completely rebuilt (Hackworth, 2006).
The apparent preference for a foreign goddess in a Roman city is all
the more significant in light of imperial persecutions and
prohibitions against her worship dating back to Augustus and coming
to a head in 19 CE when Emperor Tiberius exiled thousands of freedmen
who were adherents of the religion (Heyob, 1975). However, the cult
of Isis continued to flourish. By the time of Pompeii's destruction,
her worship appears to have included individuals from all classes of
society, from members of the imperial family and municipal officials
to freedmen and slaves (Takacs, 1995). The remains of the temple can
still be seen on the original site and at the nearby Museo
Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli. Although Egyptian decoration was
incorporated in the design of the temple and cult objects, the plan
of the building and the style of the frescoes was Roman (Moorman,
2011). The navigium Isidis fresco appears to show a distinctly
Egyptian scene, Isis resurrecting her husband-brother Osiris, but in
a purely Roman style. The Pompeiian worshipers of Isis were part of
Roman culture but may have been seeking an opportunity to engage in
personally meaningful spiritual communication outside of the
state-sectioned venues and deified emperors (Hackworth, 2006).
Early Buddhist art avoided direct representations of the Buddha. The first iconic representations of the Buddha were likely not created until approximately the 2nd century CE in the area of Gandhara, in modern-day Pakistan, under the influence of the Kushan emperors. After their conversion to Buddhism, the Kushan produced distinctive images of the Buddha that drew on Greco-Roman traditions while creating an iconographically unique image that was clearly identifiable as the Buddha (Benton & DiYanni, 2012).
Many of these early sculptures of the Buddha depict a serene, sublime figure, perfectly proportioned and untouched by time or the rigors of his life. However, a small group of statues presents a radically different image of the Buddha. One of these statues, Fasting Buddha, created between the 2nd and 4th centuries CE, depicts the physical effects of the Buddha's forty-five days of fasting and meditation before achieving enlightenment. In an interview with Hyperallergic in 2016 when Fasting Buddha was seen publicly at an Auctionata sale, Dr. Arne Sildatke, Auctionata's head of Asian art, explained that although the Fasting Buddha and similar images can be compared to depictions of the crucified Jesus Christ, the Buddhas are not images of death and resurrection. Instead, they are meant to communicate to followers Buddhism the concepts of self-empowerment and the overcoming of suffering, according to Sildatke. Despite the figure's protruding bones, sunken stomach, and hollow face, the image expresses the strength of the Buddha's will (Voon, 2016).
The Ajanta caves in Maharashta state, India, contain some of the finest examples of Indian Buddhist art and represent several centuries of complex artistic spiritual expression. The caves were created as a monastery and decorated in the Gupta style of sculpture and painting. The Gupta style moved away from the Greco-Roman influence and embraced a more fully Indian style in which characteristics of physical beauty associated with Indian art are adapted to symbolize spiritual beauty (Benton & DiYanni, 2012).
The monks' work on the caves was likely supported during its later phase by wealthy patrons, including the 5th century CE Emperor Harisena and his courtiers. These patrons sponsored the construction and ornamentation of specific caves to honor the Buddha and earn religious merit, as well as worldly praise, for themselves. According to Spink, Cave 1, created in the late 5th century CE, was sponsored by Harisena. Cave 1 contains some of the most sumptuous and well-preserved murals in Ajanta. It is likely that these images, including the Bodhisattva Padmapani, are so well-preserved because Cave 1 was never used for worship. Spink theorizes that Cave 1 was not used because Harisena died suddenly before the cave could be dedicated. An undedicated cave could not be used for worship; therefore, if the cave was indeed left undedicated, Harisena would not have achieved the religious merit he desired (Spink, 2008). In that case, Harisena's attempt to communicate with the spiritual, to have his faith validated, and his attempt to communicate his spiritual virtue to the human world were both left unfulfilled.
Rich ornament and stylization was also used to signify spirituality in European Christian manuscript paintings. As Christianity spread through Europe, representations were adapted to the local Celto-Germanic styles, which bore more in common with the luxurious, symbolic, and stylized Byzantine art than the naturalistic Greco-Roman tradition. The Book of Kells is an illuminated gospel created c. 800 CE by Irish monks. A figure of St. John on one folio is an exercise in elaborate stylization, a purely two-dimensional figure made up of patterns of decorative lines, emphasizing the image's spiritual rather than physical reality (Benton & DiYanni, 2012).
An illuminated gospel such as the Book of Kells was not merely a book — as the chalice used in Mass is not merely a cup — it was created as a sacred object (Calkins, 1983). Like the images in Chauvet cave or the ceremonial sistra used in Egyptian religious ceremonies, it formed part of the necessary accouterments of communication with the spiritual. And, therefore, its form and image took precedence over its physical practicality (Calkins, 1983). In that light, the entire object itself, not only individual folios, can be seen as a translation of spiritual experiences and a vehicle for spiritual communion.
Liturgical music has been a key part of Christian ritual since the earliest days of the religion. Most early Christian music was woven into the services and often consisted of chants based exclusively on scripture. Over time, the scope of music in Christianity grew and original pieces were composed. One notable composer in the Early Middle Ages was Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179). Beginning in early childhood, Hildegard experienced intense visions. She entered a community of nuns when she was eight and became a poet, composer, and playwright (Benton & DiYanni, 2012).
Hildegard also wrote several books detailing her mystical visions and theological instructions derived from them. One of these, Scivias, contained sections that Hildegard later adapted to the Ordo Virtutum, a sacred music drama (King-Lenzmeier, 2001). The plot revolves around the struggle between the devil and the Virtues for a human soul. The Ordo was not written to be performed as part of the Mass or liturgy and does not depict biblical events: the allegorical story is adapted directly from her personal visionary experiences (Potter, 1986). When performing the Ordo, the nuns were embodying and participating in Hildegard's visions by bringing these invisible spiritual experiences into the human world (Davidson, 1992).
The Unicorn Tapestries were made in Brussels c. 1500 and depict the hunt, capture, and death of a unicorn. The tapestries may have been made as a wedding gift and may have been intended to communicate a multilayered message that combined romance and fertility with Christian doctrine (Benton & DiYanni, 2012). The chivalric tradition of courtly love had introduced the idea that romantic love was a symbol of God's love: Marie de France's Eliduc employs this symbolism to suggest that when two individuals loved each other completely they could leave each other for God, separating to live in different religious communities (Potkay, 1994). In The Unicorn Tapestries, Margaret B. Freedman explores the complex interweaving of secular and religious messages encoded in the tapestries, including references that syncretize polytheistic deities into Christian mythology. For example, the fountain in the tapestries may be a symbol of the Virgin Mary, who was compared to a fountain in many medieval hymns, as well as Venus and Cupid, who were frequently depicted holding court in gardens dominated by a fountain. The highly detailed flora in several of the tapestries also simultaneously references Christ and Venus. In Freedman's analysis, the tapestries can be understood as symbolizing and communicating the doctrines and values of the overlapping Christian god of heaven and the god of love, a concept that was well-established by the late medieval period. In the context of the tapestries as a wedding gift, this dual meaning is perfectly appropriate to express, reminding the newlyweds of their spiritual, personal, and social duties and rewards.
In 15th century Florence, a renewed interest in and availability of Classical Greek and Roman scholarship fueled the development of Neoplatonism, a new school of philosophy that sought to merge the principles espoused by the Classical Greek philosopher Plato and the Roman philosopher Plotinus with Christian spirituality. Platonism and Christianity are dualistic and perceive a separation between the physical and the spiritual that humans should strive to breach. According to Neoplatonist thought, this could be done by recognizing the spark of the divine — the work of God — in beautiful things in the physical world; therefore, the love of beauty was a form of worship (Benton & DiYanni, 2012). Florentine Renaissance ideals of beauty were heavily indebted to Greco-Roman traditions that emphasized harmony, rationality, and balance. Therefore, in art and architecture, this could be performed by using geometry as a symbol.
The elaborate geometrical floor pavings in the Medicis' private chapel, the Chapel of the Magi, may be a deliberate geometric code that communicated Neoplatonic ideals and functioned as a type of devotional communication. Cosimo de' Medici, who commissioned the chapel, and several of the artists and architects involved in the design and construction of it were closely involved with the founding of the Accademia Platonica in Florence, an influential group of scientists, artists, and philosophers and which was the cradle of Neoplatonism. The chapel's pavings following distinctive, complex geometrical patterns and ratios tied to Neoplatonic thought. The chapel was constructed for the use of the Medici family and those close to them — it was not intended as a place of worship for the public. Therefore, the Medicis and the artists, scientists, and intellectuals close to them could freely express in a precise geometric language certain beliefs and modes of thinking that were not completely orthodox. In the carefully measured, sumptuous marble pavings of the chapel, they could demonstrate theories of elevated scientific and religious though: divine harmony communicated through mathematics (Bartoli, 1994).
The 17th century English poet John Donne combined sexual language and spiritual subject matter to express his concept of ecstatic love. In this concept, an individual achieves unity of body and soul and reaches spiritual truths through sexual union with another individual they love. The soul is capable of awareness and growth only through love, and during sex the souls of the individuals mingle, each soul gaining greater knowledge of itself in relation to the body. The individual is then a complete self: a being that is a synthesis of its physical and spiritual aspects (Thommen, 2014).
This concept is described in Donne's poem "The Extasie":
see by this it was not sex,
We see we saw not what did move;
But as all several souls contain
Mixture of things, they know not what,
Love these mix’d souls doth mix again
And makes both one, each this and that
“The Extasie,” therefore, communicates Donne's own understanding and experience of spiritual communion. Like the Neoplatonics, Donne's efforts to interact with the spiritual are focused on resolving the perceived conflict between the physical and the spiritual by seeking the divine in the physical — but uniting body and soul by being united with another individual.
Communication with the spiritual is also blended with sensuality in Gianlorenzo Bernini's Ecstasy of St. Teresa (1645-52). The subject of the sculpture, St. Teresa of Avila, was famous for her ecstatic visions as described in her writing, particularly her c. 1567 Autobiography. Teresa described a process of mental prayer that resulted in spiritual union with God and produced visions and intense physical and emotional responses. As quoted by Thommen, Eleanor McCann pointed out that St. Teresa and Donne's descriptions of communication with the spiritual through the experience of physical ecstasy and union are, despite the author's differences, remarkably similar.
Bernini's sculpture is based on the episode from St. Teresa's Autobiography when an angel appeared to her and thrust a golden spear into her heart, producing an intense pain and an “infinite sweetness” that she described as the “sweetest caressing of the soul by God” (Benton & DiYanni, 2012). The sculpture, therefore, is in the interesting position of relating mystical communication third hand. Unlike the nuns in Hildegard of Bingen's community, Bernini had no direct contact with St. Teresa and his translation of her experience was inevitably colored by his own experiences and personality and the preferences of his patron. Although Bernini emphasized the sensuality of St. Teresa's experience, the sculpture occupies a supernatural sphere, distinct from the related sculpturing groupings that are placed firmly in the physical world and the space occupied by the viewer (Wittkower, 1980). The viewer is invited to witness the point of contact and communication between the physical and the spiritual (Boucher, 1998).
In The Book of Urizen, published in 1794, English poet and painter William Blake communicated a profoundly personal, visionary spirituality that expressed his major moral and philosophical concerns. Blake, like Hildegard of Bingen and St. Teresa of Avila, experienced visions. He saw himself as a prophet and believed that the duty of a poet was “To open the Eternal Worlds, to open the immortal Eyes of Man inwards into the Worlds of Thought” (Benton & DiYanni, 2012).
The Book of Urizen is a creation myth structured along the lines of Genesis but with Blake's Urizen in place of God. Urizen is a god of reason and logic and law — a deity of pure materialism, enslaved and enslaving who creates the world so that he may have something to rule. Urizen represents both dogmatic, essentially materialistic religious laws and Newtonian reason. To Blake, these were both forces that blind humans to the spiritual by trapping and circumscribing human imagination, thereby preventing them from communicating with the spiritual, creative world that would otherwise be their birthright (Frye, 1990). By creating The Book of Urizen and his other illuminated books of poetry and painting, Blake attempted to communicate his experience of the spiritual and warn of the consequences of either rejecting personal communication with the spiritual and imagination or of ceding that direct, personal experience to a higher, worldly authority.
Communication between the human and the spiritual is not always easy nor does a familiar form always imply the expected function. These points are illustrated in the works of the English poet Christina Rossetti and her brother the painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
Christina was deeply religious and often used her poetry to explore both the rewards and struggle she associated with faith. Unlike St. Teresa of Avila, Hildegard of Bingen, or William Blake, Christina's experience of the spiritual was not mystical. Rather than communicating with the spiritual through ecstatic visionary experiences, Christina's efforts to communicate and achieve union with the spiritual were the result of the effort of her faith, and that effort, and her doubts, are expressed in her poetry. In “Alas, my Lord,” (1874), Christina describes the difficulty of this process and expresses her doubts as well as her desire for spiritual affirmation — some communication, a response from the spiritual, that her efforts are not in vain (Avery, 2014).
Alas my Lord,
How should I wrestle all the livelong night
With Thee my God, my Strength and my Delight?
How can it need
So agonized an effort and a strain
To make Thy Face of Mercy shine again?
How can it need
Such wringing out of breathless prayer to move
Thee to Thy wonted Love, when Thou art Love?
In contrast, her brother Dante Gabriel was not a practicing Christian, although he used Christian iconography and language, particularly in his early works. Dante Gabriel referred to himself as an “Art Catholic,” implying that his interest in the imagery of encounters with the spiritual was largely aesthetic (Faxon, 1989). In addition, he often used Christian iconography and language in the context of secular love poems (Roe, 2010). In Dante Gabriel's art, such as The Girlhood of Mary Virgin (1848-1849), representations of the spiritual were not strictly religious but rather an iconographical shorthand for the artist's sincere, personal communication with their imagination. Particularly in his early career when he identified as a member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, he believed that medieval art was more sincere, more closely connected to the natural world, in opposition to the British Academic tradition embodied by Sir Joshua Reynolds, which he believed was formulaic and insincere (Faxon, 1989). Therefore, the religious subject matter so prominent in medieval art took on a new meaning and the spiritual was transferred from the Christian God to the artist's quest for genuine inspiration.
The Dream of Geronitus, Op. 38, composed by Edward Elgar in 1900, is a powerful sonic portrait of an encounter with the spiritual. Set to the text of a poem by John Henry Newman, it describes the death of a man, Gerontius, and his soul's journey to the throne of God to receive judgment. A dramatic and technically challenging piece, it explores communication with the spiritual as a psychologically complex, and not always pleasant, experience. The rapture Gerontius experiences is counterpointed by the appearance of devils and his own doubts that his soul is worthy to face God. The Judgment scene, in fact, depicts that ultimate communication with the spiritual as an almost unbearable experience. For the scene when Gerontius beholds the glance of God and receives judgment, the score instructs: “For one moment, must every instrument exert its fullest force.” (Burton, 2003).
In 1974, The Dream of Gerontius figured heavily in Penda's Fen, a film written by David Rudken and directed by Alan Clarke for the BBC. The film's protagonist Stephen, writes about The Dream of Gerontius in the beginning of the film, which then unravels his nationalist and orthodox Christian certainty through visionary experiences that lead him to reject his former beliefs. Stephen's encounters with the spiritual challenge the priggish patriotism and the national and moral myth he embraced, embodied by a middle-aged couple who have successfully campaigned to ban a film exploring Jesus as a man rather than as a god. At one point Stephen plays the Judgment scene from The Dream of Gerontius on the organ in his father's church, triggering a vision of cracks appearing in the church floor, the crucified body of Jesus, and a voice commanding Stephen to unchain Jesus from the strictures of conservative Christianity. Later, he experiences a vision of King Penda, the last pagan king of England, and, grasping that his culture is ultimately a hybrid one comprised of a mingling of various religions, languages, and peoples, rejects his former beliefs (Sandhu, 2014). The experience is as unsettling for the viewer as it is for Stephen. in Penda's Fen the spiritual intrudes on assumptions and certainties and by irrupting reality leads both Stephen and the viewer to question their assumptions and demands that they take part in a wider, richer communication with the spiritual and the world.
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Collection of Political Cartoons from the late 1800s/early 1900s
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 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
Movie Posters from Puerto Rico
Introduction to feature film’s narrative stories
Arch of the story – Beginning, middle, & end
Introduction to the Lesson Plan
Constant scrolling through social media platforms and click bait headlines, many of us uncritically consume vast amount of visual media every day. This lesson plan asks student participants to make observations of visual media and to transform those impressions through the creative medium of cinematography. The goal of the lesson plan is to help develop a more nuanced, informed visual literacy among young learners.
The use of visual impressions in this lesson plan allows the student to construct cinematic narrative stories based on Puerto Rican culture and daily life. The images printed on these posters relate to themes that explored art and exhibitions, medical education and prevention of diseases, natural disaster awareness and relief actions, community engagement in medical campaigns, as well as rural life in Puerto Rico. In order to write this narrative story, the student will interact heavily with the poster visuals and the stories they represent in order to awaken the student’s imagination and intellect as they engage in an exercise of writing fiction, allowing them to learn about Puerto Rican culture and cinematic history.
-Exposure to film archival material
-Development of writing skills for film narratives
-Analyses and comprehension of the screenwriting process and structure
-Exposure to Puerto Rican culture and daily life activities
-Teamwork and ability to multitask
Concluding Questions to Students
- What did you know about Puerto Rico and its culture before the lesson plan, and what are new things that you learned about it after engaging in this exercise?
- What visuals impacted you the most and why?
- After completing step # 3, how did you initially envision the characters of your story to be or to behave?
- Do you feel confident about using the beginning-middle-end structure to write a screenplay?
- What are a few things that you can take from this exercise and how do you see implementing them in future–artistic, cinematic, writing–projects?
The following seven images are screen printings of movie posters from Puerto Rico. These screen-prints are housed at the Archives Center at the National Museum of American History in Washington, DC.
The purpose of this lesson plan is to help you create a narrative story (aided by the poster’s images and scenarios) following a movie scrip sequence of “beginning, middle, and an end.” Then compare your story with others in your classroom and see how close or far were you from the stories–of the films–these posters represent.
Here are the steps you need to follow:
- Choose 3 (out of the 7) posters.
- Once you have selected your posters, assign them a place in your narrative story as follow;
- Poster # 1 - Beginning
- Poster # 2 - Middle
- Poster # 3 - End
- Look at the characters, the setting (place and/or type of surroundings), objects, symbols, and the text on your posters (we will provide attendees with Spanish to English translation for this lesson plan).
- Give Names to the characters in the posters. Names can repeat if you want a character in one poster to be the same character in another poster (this might be helpful to write your narrative story). Or! each character in a poster can be unique and have its own story.
- Go to the lesson plan images and read the description and keywords for each of your 3 choices.
- Combine your text from step # 4 and incorporate it into your narrative (in your own words) with your observations from step # 5
- Arrange your narrative, shuffle the order of your posters (beginning, middle, end), move characters around, change names, etc. Have fun.
You will have the option of shuffling the order of your posters at any time in order to re-arrange your narrative.
Your narrative does not have to be perfect or make any sense. The purpose of this lesson plan is to put you in the mindset of the writer and director of a feature film. Using as inspiration movies made in Puerto Rico as you analyze the meaning and stories behind the posters you chose in order to make your own Puerto Rican movie.
This lesson plan was an assignment completed as part of University of California, Berkeley Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program with PhD candidate, Amanda Guzman.
This collection supports the free Smithsonian Science How webcast, Exploring the Amazing World of Lichens featuring Dr. Manuela Dal Forno, scheduled for March 28, 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 March 28, 2019. Sign up and view the program here: https://naturalhistory.si.edu/...
Using the Project Zero Visible Thinking routine "What makes you say that?," students will investigate a photograph from the Civil War taken by the studio of Mathew Brady, one of the most prominent American photographers of the 19th century. The Civil War was the first major war captured on camera and photographs, like this one, played a pivotal role in shaping public perceptions of the conflict.
This activity can be used as an entry point into studying soldiers' experiences during the Civil War, photography's effect on public perspectives about war, and more. Resources to extend this activity include: a Smithsonian American Art Museum lesson plan investigating this and other photographs from the Civil War, a blog post discussing connections between Civil War photography and President Abraham Lincoln, a Smithsonian Magazine article about Civil War photographer Alexander Gardner, a Learning Lab collection on Alexander Gardner's Photographic Sketchbook of the War, and an article discussing the National Portrait Gallery's recent exhibition The Face of Battle: Americans at War, 9/11 to Now.
Keywords: photo, battlefield, inquiry strategy
In this activity, students will analyze an artwork that celebrates the idea of Manifest Destiny and western expansion - Emanuel Leutze's 1861 mural study for Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way, the final version of which rests in the U.S. Capitol Building. Through the use of two Project Zero Thinking routines - What makes you say that?, a Visible Thinking routine for interpretation and justification; and Parts, Purposes, Complexities, an Agency by Design routine for looking closely - students will consider what message this painting conveys, how choices made by the artist convey that message, as well as what perspectives are portrayed and what perspectives are missing. After looking critically, students will watch a video and learn from senior curator Richard Murray how to read this painting and what messages/images they may have missed.
This activity can be used as an entry point or supplement in studying westward expansion, the idea of Manifest Destiny, how public perspectives are shaped, and more. Resources to extend this activity include: a website about the final mural located in the U.S. Capitol Building and a Smithsonian American Art Museum lesson plan about both the mural study and the final mural.
Keywords: Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze, manifest destiny, westward expansion