A Global Goals Guide: From Start to Finish

You may be familiar with the action-focused aim of the Smithsonian Science for Global Goals guides. As explained by Laurie Rosatone, Division Director of Curriculum, Digital Media, and Communications at the Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC), the goal is “to have anyone picking up these guides feel like there is something that they want to and can do and that they can act in their local communities around these huge global challenges.”

So, how does the SSEC strive toward this goal while creating the Global Goals guides? How are topics selected among the many issues that the world is facing? What’s the process for developing activities that are as engaging as possible? How is each guide created with accessibility and impact in mind? As an intern for the upcoming Biotechnology! community research guide, I talked with the rest of the SSEC team to dig into these big questions. Here’s everything that goes into a Global Goals guide, from start to finish.

Each guide’s beginning traces all the way back to 2016–2018, when a deep dive into the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals produced a list of tentative topics. Since then, funders have helped to transform the early vision into reality: published guides used by young people around the world! The process of connecting with funders begins with Holly Glover, SSEC's Division Director of Advancement and Partnerships. She says, “Since the inception of the SDGs, interest from the funding community around education for sustainable development has grown significantly. These funding partners are excited to be a part of the Smithsonian Science for Global Goals Project. As we are seeking to achieve a joint impact with partners, I look at which guides and resources are left unfunded, and seek to align those priority areas with those of our partners. For the Biotechnology! guide, she explains, “Biotechnology! was funded by Johnson & Johnson, whose business and philanthropic priorities align to the topics covered within the guide.”

After receiving funding, the first step is getting organized. Hannah Osborn, Project Manager at SSEC, starts by creating a schedule. She says of her work, “I start with the questions, ‘What have we been tasked to do?’ ‘What is our timeline?’ ‘How does our budget line up?’ I then backflow a schedule from there.”

Once the timeline is constructed, the research begins. The curriculum developers start to explore by digging into big issues surrounding the guide’s topic and consulting key players in the field. That research is synthesized into an outline detailing the proposed parts of the guide and the essential understandings students will develop while using it. After high-level review and approval of the outline, the guide is ready to move onto the drafting stage.

As an intern, I worked with Curriculum Developers Heidi Gibson and Logan Schmidt to conduct further background research and develop activities for the upcoming Biotechnology! guide. Along with our five-strong intern team (made up of high schoolers, college students, and teachers!), I identified sources, probed through research papers, and conducted interviews with subject matter experts to get a strong understanding of each topic. We then worked on integrating key takeaways into engaging activities, which involved brainstorming, gathering data and information, and writing drafts. As we wrapped up our work, Heidi and Logan incorporated the research and activities into writing the initial draft of the guide.

This first draft then goes through a rigorous review process that involves a number of voices. Field testing is done with teachers around the world to obtain their feedback as guide users. Technical reviews by experts ensure that the information shared in the guides is scientifically accurate and clear. Internal feedback, involving reviews by Laurie Rosatone and SSEC Director Dr. Carol O’Donnell, provide further suggestions that make the guide as user-friendly and impactful as possible.

After all of this feedback is integrated into improving the draft, the guide is copy-edited and designed by professionals. Then, it is finally ready to be published! SSEC’s Marketing & Communications team spreads the word about the completely free, newly released guide through digital marketing (i.e. social media posts and paid advertisements), blog posts, and press releases.

Once the guide is released and shared, students and educators everywhere can access it from their devices. To expand the impact of Global Goals, Katherine Blanchard, Assistant Director of Professional Services, and Jackie Kolb, Program Specialist work with educators to implement the guides in their learning communities. Katherine says of their work, “When a guide is first released, there’s a balance between marketing and implementation—who’s sharing that this exists versus who’s providing training to actually use it. That gap between knowing about it and using it is one of the biggest things we work to fill. There’s a lot of recruitment of interested educators, building out and developing partnerships for projects (e.g. implementation in certain countries), and working with educators to implement the guides.”

Finally, the guide enters the final, paramount stage: being used by youth around the world! From beginning to end, youth’s interests and their ability to ignite change are the foundation of the guides themselves, as Laurie explains:

“Bringing respect for different people’s backgrounds, lived experiences, and perspectives of problem-solving into the classroom is at the heart of these Global Goals guides. You’re starting with the youth—who are they? Instead of ‘Who am I to think that I can do science?’ it’s ‘Here I am and here’s what I’m bringing to this.’ It is really powerful to think about that subtle shift being that important to unlocking students’ confidence, curiosity, and sense of connection. It’s not about empowering them, it’s tapping into their own sense of agency. I want to give them the confidence that they have the knowledge to step forward.”

Guide users and the change they have created around the world inspire the SSEC, and we’re incredibly glad to be a part of that process. Although this post details the development of the Smithsonian Science for Global Goals guides from beginning to end, we know that sharing them with youth is just the beginning of everyone working together towards a sustainable future.

About the Author

Emily Chen

Emily Chen was a Summer 2022 intern with the Smithsonian Science for Global Goals team. She contributed to the Biotechnology! community research guide and is excited to continue exploring the world of biotechnology in college. Emily is currently a senior at University Laboratory High School, where she is involved in research, science outreach, and social justice initiatives. In the future, she hopes to lead teams working to better global health through science.