July & August in Review

Smithsonian Science Education Center & Thailand


On July 5th Smithsonian Science Education Center Director, Carol O'Donnell, presented at the Thai-US Joint Committee on Science and Technology meeting. The primary focus areas of the meeting were natural resource management, global one health, and STEM education & and outreach. O’Donnell presented with Assistant Professor Rawin Raviwongse of the National Science Museum Thailand (NSMT) and Dr. Chaiwuti Lertwanasiriwan of the Institute for the Promotion of Teaching S&T on STEM Education: Museum Outreach Modules.

Later in August, O'Donnell traveled to Thailand for the National Science and Technology Fair. During the visit O’Donnell and Raviwongse signed a letter of intent to collaborate on opportunities to educate youth on the science behind mosquito-borne diseases and a licensing agreement, which grants NSMT rights to translate the Smithsonian’s “Mosquito! Community Research Guide” into the Thai language and implement it through NSM’s outreach programs. This was the first of many agreements to come between the Smithsonian and other nations who collaborate through the InterAcademy Partnership Science Education Programme (IAP SEP) to advance inquiry-based science education for youth in their communities. Dr. Aphiya Hathayatham, Vice President of NSMT and O’Donnell are members of IAP SEP’s Global Council. O’Donnell also toured NSM and had a chance to visit a version of NMNH’s DYI Outbreak exhibition.


Under the leadership of Dato Lee Cheong, Chair of IAP SEP Global Council, O’Donnell and colleagues from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), attended the “Exclusive Forum on Promoting Science Literacy through the National Museums of ASEAN Countries” in Nonthaburi, Thailand. In O’Donnell’s keynote address, she talked about the role of museums in promoting science literacy onsite, in communities, in schools, and online. O’Donnell shared with attendees’ information on the Smithsonian Science for Global Goals, which uses the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework to encourage yuth ages 8-17 to engage in sustainable actions that are student-defined and implemented.  



Purpose Built Schools

In July O’Donnell traveled to Atlanta, GA to discuss the Smithsonian Science Education Center’s possible involvement in providing STEM education support to Atlanta’s lowest-performing schools in collaboration with Purpose Built School” - a locally based non-profit that is committed to breaking the cycle of poverty by turning around failing schools and putting all children on a trajectory for success through college and in their careers. Purpose Built Schools, along with East Lake Foundation, were founded by Tom Cousins, Warren Buffet, and Julian Robertson and represents one of the most respected and successful examples of philanthropy applied to education in the United States.

O’Donnell returned to Atlanta in August for the Building Awareness for STEM Education event at The East Lake Foundation’s Charles R. Drew Charter School (who served as co-host).  The day began with welcoming remarks O’Donnell and moved onto Smithsonian Science Education Center Division Director for Professional Services, Amy D’Amico who spoke on The Changing Landscapes of STEM Education and A Share Vision of Effective Learning & Teaching. Purpose Built Schools attended the event, and Smithsonian Science Education Center Board Member, Jeff Martin, was integral in coordinating.

Geospatial Semester

Lauraine Genota of Education Week interviewed O'Donnell to get her opinion on a new project-based learning program called "Geospatial Semester" as a way of engaging high school students in authentic STEM experiences. The program originated at James Madison University (JMU) in Virginia, where faculty guide high school students through STEM project and award them college credit upon completion. The goal is for students to develop an understanding of spatial concepts and refine their critical thinking skills while using geographic information systems technology to solve problems within their community. National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a $2 million grant to JMU, Northwestern University, and the Chicago public schools to implement the program in the 370,000-student school system, the nations third largest.


K-8 STEM Investments Innovation Lab Workshop

On August 8th O’Donnell and Smithsonian Science Education Center Division Director for Advancement & Partnerships, Eric Nastasi, traveled to New York, NY to participate in the K-8 STEM Investments Innovation Lab Workshop at NYMEX. The K-8 STEM Investments Innovation Lab aims to create stronger understanding of and business case for elementary school and middle school STEM education efforts among national corporate funders. The workshop allowed 25-35 corporate funders and subject matter to enrich their own understanding of the issues and develop a framework for supporting K-8 STEM education.


Kid-to-Kid Cultural Exchange

O’Donnell participated in her second Kid-to-Kid Cultural Exchange session at the McMath Middle school in Denton, TX via video conference. The exchange works to educate 8th grade students with respect to the larger world and other cultures. Carol answered student's questions about her role as Smithsonian Science Education Center Director and what the Smithsonian does. The purpose of video conference was to encourage all students to study science and to encourage girls to stick with science, as statistics show they tend to abandon the field more than boys do.




First three Images courtesy of C. O’Donnell. JMU Geopatial Bannder courtesy James Madison University via http://www.isat.jmu.edu/geospatialsemester/ 

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About the Author

Kate Echevarria
Human Resources Liaison & Acting Executive Office Manager



Kate Echevarria is the Human Resources Liaison & Acting Executive Office Manager. She is responsible for handling all projects, contracts, recruitment, events, etc., associated with the Executive Office and Human Resources Office. Prior to SSEC, Kate was in Human Resource Management having worked for an international hotel chain, the U.S. Government, and a science non-profit.