The Smithsonian Institution, established in 1846 “for the increase and diffusion of knowledge,” is the world’s largest museum and research complex with 19 museums, 9 research centers, and more than 140 affiliate museums around the world. They also offer a multitude of free online resources.
The Smithsonian for Teachers
Lesson Plans & Resources – The Smithsonian’s resources for educators include ready-to-use lessons on Art & Design, Science & Technology, History & Culture, and Language Arts. Find lesson plans by subject, grade, and keyword, or simply browse through the lesson titles in each category. You can also search for educational resources that are aligned to national, common core, or state standards.
The lessons are rich in information, images, and interesting topics such as “The Music in Poetry,” “Introduction to the Nature Journal,” “Myths in Words and Pictures,” “Old Photographs: Windows to the Past,” “Textiles of the North American Southwest,” and “Teaching with Collections.” There are more than 2,000 resources ranging in technology from “Using the Yellow Pages as a Teaching Resource” to “Podcasting with Your Students.”
Smithsonian lesson plans emphasize inquiry-based learning using primary sources and museum collections. Each plan is print-friendly and provides you with all the materials you need—photographs, reproductions, handouts, activities, suggested strategies, standards information, and additional online resources. (Note: Some of the lesson plans are archival publications and their suggestions for off-site education may no longer be available.)
Field Trip Guides – Here you’ll find valuable ideas for bringing structure to a field trip while giving students the freedom to follow their own curiosity. The Smithsonian provides downloadable field trip handouts that can be used by any class, at any grade level, at any museum, art gallery, zoo, nature center, or historic site.
The Smithsonian for Students
Explore by Topic – This is an easy-to-use directory of dozens of Smithsonian educational websites of interest to children, all listed by subject matter. If your students are interested in art and design, science and nature, history and culture, or people and places, the Smithsonian has a site for them!
IdeaLabs – The Smithsonian’s IdeaLabs bring history, science, and art to life for young people. These dynamic and interactive sites are a place for students to learn about everything from rock collecting to American presidents to the Apollo 11 mission to the moon.
Activity Sheets – These PDF activity sheets, each on a single theme, include word and number games, art exercises, and fun quizzes. With each activity, kids learn about something new, from the anatomy of the giant squid to the history of chocolate.