Our Year in Review

This year was quite the year for the Smithsonian Science Education Center! We celebrated our 30th anniversary, released several digital products, held many professional and leadership development programs, and have been hard at work expanding our curricular offerings! We are excited to see what 2016 will bring! Until then, see what some of our staff have to say about their work in 2015!

Patti Marohn, Project Editor 

This year I transitioned from being the SSEC’s resident style and grammar guru to taking an active role in planning and writing a new literacy series for elementary students. I started by researching best practices in the integration of literacy strategies into science content. Writing for young learners presented a challenge, but I was eager to write stories for children about real-world examples of how the Earth changes on the largest scale and even in our own backyards.

Ashley Deese, Digital Media Specialist

Woah! This year was very busy! I had the incredible opportunity to produce four game apps with the help of Filament Games! FOUR! BumperDucks, Morphy, Showbiz Safari, and Disaster Detector are aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and a lot of fun to play no matter your age. I also had the opportunity to lay the groundwork for my upcoming video project, Ada Asks. You can take a peek at a test project here! Stay tuned for more!

Ada Asks


Katya Vines, Ph.D, Science Curriculum Developer

A January trip to Wisconsin may not be everyone’s idea of a good time but it was definitely one of the highlights of 2015 for me. It was my first time in Wisconsin, my first visit to a game design studio, and my first experience of cheese curds. The reason for the trip was to kick off development of two elementary science games aligned to NGSS.  Our host was the fantastic Filament Games, who have a young and dynamic studio outside of Madison.  We spent two days with their developers discussing whiskers, wings, webbed feet and other animal features.  The results? Two fun, beautiful, animal based educational games for 6-9 year olds, Showbiz Safari and Morphy. The cheese curds were pretty good as well!



Taryn White, Curriculum Product Specialist

This year at SSEC felt like a whirl wind. I worked on many different projects including helping to write readings for our curriculum, conducting photo research and one of my favorites, managing the development of the Anyone with a Question can be Scientist poster. But one project that really stands out was taking on a lead role in the redesign of SSEC’s new website. I thoroughly enjoyed working with our contractor Interactive Strategies, helping with the design and concept of the new site and learning a lot about website design and functionality. I am extremely happy with the results and can’t wait to see what SSEC has in store for me in the coming year.


Brian Mandell, Ph.D, Science Curriculum Developer

There are so many projects I’d love to reminisce over, from games like Disaster Detector to writing about Earthworms, Volcanoes, and What it Means to be a Scientist, but if I had to pick just one it would be the Weather Lab. It’s not every day you get to embrace your inner weather nerd and develop an app that helps children and adults visualize how North America’s weather is formed.

Weather Lab


Jean Flanagan, Science Education Research Specialist

This year was an exceptional one for me! As a project lead on the development of our web series for teachers, Good Thinking!: The Science of Teaching Science, I got to work with professional artists, animators, TV writers, voice actors, and more, through our friends at FableVision Studios! Not the usual year in the life of a “science education research specialist.”  

Good Thinking!


Margaret Chmiel, Ph.D, Division Director of Curriculum and Communications

This year I had the opportunity to meet a variety of people who love and support Smithsonian through my involvement with People Passion Purpose. I loved connecting with audiences in Boston and Los Angeles to tell them about all the work Smithsonian does with educators in their area. It also gave me a chance to better understand the work my colleagues are doing around the Institution. Expect to see some of their work in our future curricular offerings!

Marjee Chmiel presenting at People Passion Purpose. Image courtesy of Smithsonian People Passion Purpose. 



About the Author

Ashley Deese
Acting Division Director of Digital Media & Communications



Ashley Deese is the Assistant Division Director for Digital Media and Communications at the Smithsonian Science Education Center, a part of the Smithsonian Institution, where she leads the digital media and communications team throughout the production and distribution of Smithsonian STEM products such as games, apps, eBooks, and videos for children around the world. Ashley has produced internationally acclaimed and bestselling products for the Smithsonian such as “Pick Your Plate! A Global Guide to Nutrition,” “Disaster Detector,” and “Stories of Women in STEM at the Smithsonian.” “Aquation: The Freshwater Access Game” was a 2018 nominee for The Webby Awards inaugural games category for Public Service & Activism. Ashley was named to the 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 list for her work at the Smithsonian. In 2020, “Tami’s Tower: Let’s Think About Engineering” and “Aquation: The Freshwater Access Game” was named to the 2020 American Library Association’s Notable Children’s Digital Media list.

Ashley is a voting member of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, a member of the Smithsonian Networks Review Committee for Smithsonian Channel, a Smithsonian unit editor for the Smithsonian Magazine Voices blog, member of the digital advisory board for the Smithsonian’s American Women’s History Initiative, and a founding member of the Rolling Stone Culture Council. She earned her BS in Biology from Methodist University and a MA in Interactive Media from Elon University.