Smithsonian Science Education Center in North Carolina
On the morning of Monday, July 22nd, 60 educators representing 11 school systems from around the world made their way toward a ballroom in Washington, DC. Nametags were retrieved, coffee was poured, handshakes were exchanged, and eventually each chair in the room was claimed. As the room’s volume grew by the minute, so too did the palpable mix of enthusiasm, determination, and eagerness for each team to dive in to their task for the next five days: devising a five-year strategic plan for their school system’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) program using the Smithsonian Science Education Center’s (SSEC) Leadership and Assistance for Science Education Reform (LASER) model. At 10:00 am, the welcoming remarks began, kicking off the 2019 Smithsonian Science Leadership Development & Strategic Planning Institute.
The institute consistently brings in a diverse group of participants, as each team contains a mix of individuals that may include administrators, teachers, department chairs, community members, and government officials. Yet from this first morning, it was clear that the 2019 institute was special in regard to both its participants and the populations they represented. Some teams were creating strategic plans for individual schools, others for counties around the United States, and others for entire countries. In the room there were representatives of three continents and three primary spoken languages. Thanks to simultaneous translation services, it became routine to see a wave of headphones come on and off as presenters switched between these languages.
No one bothered to close the door as the plane started rolling forward. I sat, straddling the bench and facing the back of the plane, with a line of new and seasoned divers behind me. As I stared out the opening, watching the ground get farther and farther away, I felt my instructor, Charlie, behind me fumbling with hooks and chains at my shoulders. I looked to my right. On the other bench, my best friend was also getting strapped to his instructor. Within minutes, I saw my friend’s instructor pointing him to the opening, beyond which I could only see blue sky. They shuffled to the doorway. Before I had time to process what was about to happen, I saw them fall out of the plane and disappear. Seconds later, Charlie ushered me to the same ledge. There was nothing but 14,300 feet of air below me. I felt a gentle push, and then suddenly, just…falling.
Thanks, Charlie! Tina Zdawczyk
Still preparing for the new school year? We've got you covered! We have curriculum, professional development, and digital media resources to help you start the new school year off right!
Smithsonian Science for the Classroom
Curriculum | Grades 1-5
Smithsonian Science for the Classroom was designed from the ground up to meet the Next Generation Science Standards.
Smithsonian Science for the Classroom is a new curriculum developed by the Smithsonian Science Education Center. It is designed to engage, inspire, and connect your students firsthand to the world around them. The curriculum has been developed in consultation with teachers and field tested in a range of schools with diverse populations. It draws on the latest findings and best practices from educational research.
For decades, the Smithsonian Science Education Center has been a leader in providing curriculum, professional development, and leadership development in support of inquiry-based science education.
I have a friend from when I lived in Ohio. We dealt with lots of lake effect snow and the occasional blizzard warning. She moved to Seattle and she experienced lots of rain. Then she moved to Charleston just before Hurricane Matthew hit in 2016. About a year ago, she moved to southern California. Last week I received a text from her. "I do not like earthquakes."
New Science Curricula Summit & Workshop
Smithsonian Science Education Center Director, Carol O’Donnell, traveled to San Francisco, CA to participate in the New Science Curricula Summit & Workshop on June 7th. The summit focused on generating new ideas and/or possible collaborations for experiments aimed at spreading science and scientific thinking more widely across both the US and the world. O’Donnell presentation to the group was centered around Community-based citizen science, specifically on SSEC’s Smithsonian Science for Global Goals Mosquito!.
What comes to mind when someone mentions the abandoned 14th century city of Angkor, Cambodia, and the modern capital city Santa Fe, New Mexico? Most people would agree that there aren’t many similarities; however, the ATLAS Water team of explorers at Piñon Elementary School may disagree.
ATLAS stands for Always Think Like A Scientist. Courtesy of ATLAS Water
Buzzwords––they seemingly permeate every space we interact with these days: office meetings, TV advertisements, every nook and cranny of the Internet from TED Talks to presidential tweets. Here are some from Wikipedia’s intriguing list: Empowering. Sustainability. Paradigm. Globalization. You get the gist. We’re going for broad reach and bling.
Yet how elusive the actual meaning of buzzwords remains, despite how frequently we encounter and use them ourselves. Let’s also admit how tired we sometimes get of them, even if they stand for some very important movements and ideals within our society. It’s human nature, after all, to prefer something concrete and tangible, and big-picture jargon doesn’t always cut it.
Scientists have unique skills and unique tools. That’s a bit of an understatement when describing one scientist who has recently found some unexpected fame. That’s Melissa Scruggs. She lives in California and is working toward her PhD in volcanology. She used her science savvy in an unexpected way.
Imagine waking up one morning and finding a boulder in front of your car. That would stop most of us in our tracks for a good long time.
This boulder was placed in front of Melissa Scruggs' car. Melissa Scruggs
How much water did you use today? Did you take a shower, flush a toilet, wash dishes, or put on clean clothes? Did you have any problems getting the water you used? Half of the people living in the world today have limited access to water for at least one month of the year. And 500 million people don’t have enough water all year. Meghalaya, India, is one place that suffers from water scarcity. But thanks to a new technology, some people living in Meghalaya can now trade resources they have, such as cow manure and rice husks, for freshwater.
A dishwasher uses between 5 and 15 gallons of water per use. SbytovaMN/iStock/Getty Images Plus
With the recent release of Tami's Tower: Let's Think About Engineering, the SSEC wanted to take a look back at our inspirations. Those inspirations were the two-dimensional, physics-based videogames that helped generations of learners visualize gravity, Newton’s laws of motion, simple machines, structural stability, and numerous other physics principles. With such great influences, it’s no wonder Tami’s Tower has received an outstanding reception!
Tami's Tower: Let's Think About Engineering, a new engineering design game from the Smithsonian Science Education Center.
From July 29-August 3, 2018, I had the opportunity, along with 22 other teachers from around the country, to get close up and personal with rocks on a once in a lifetime adventure thanks to the Smithsonian Institution and The Dow Chemical Company! Starting from the evening of July 29th, I knew that I was going to experience an educational journey that would expand my knowledge and curiosity. We started the week with a dinner and overview of what to expect during the week. After going over the agenda, I knew that I was glad that I brought good walking shoes.
When I attended SSEAT Energy's Innovations and Implications in 2018, I was a 4th grade teacher looking to deepen my own knowledge so I could better help my students understand the complex and abstract issues involving energy. It can be seriously hard to get a 9 year old to care about energy consumption! I came home from Washington, DC, with a renewed passion for my job, and I will forever consider it a life-changing event. I do not know how a teacher could experience what we did at SSEAT and not be changed, for the better, FOREVER!
Engineering is the practice we use to solve problems. Because of its importance in our world, there is a celebration for it every February. This year’s National Engineers Week (E-week for short) is February 17–24. Here are two ideas for your E-week celebration. The first is a hands-on build that can be easily adapted to your time and classroom. The other is a digital challenge called Tami’s Tower, which can be played online or downloaded to an Apple, Android, or Amazon device.
The Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC) has announced the release of Tami’s Tower: Let’s Think About Engineering, an educational engineering design game that will help teach students how to design a solution to a problem using basic engineering design principles. In the game, students must help Tami, a golden lion tamarin, reach fruit by building a tower with blocks. Students will need to be on the lookout for alligators, pandas and elephants that may topple the tower as they run by.
The new CoSTEM 5-year Strategic Plan was released at the White House on Tuesday December 4th, "Charting a Course for Success: America's Strategy for STEM Education." Dr. Carol O'Donnell, Director of the Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC)--and a member of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) SubCommittee on Federal Coordination in STEM Education (FC-STEM)--was one of many cross-agency authors of the plan. Smithsonian Secretary Skorton sits on the NSTC Committee on STEM (CoSTEM) and was one of the speakers at the event.
The data is clear: McKinsey reported late in 2017 that the future of labor will “create demand for millions of jobs by 2030…[and] these trends include…[an] investment in technology, infrastructure, and buildings…” McKinsey estimates that almost 400 million global workers will need to learn new skills in response to the predicted rapid automation adoption.
Before this information was made available, it was clear STEM education is critical to everyone’s future, and the company I work for, Jacobs (who recently acquired CH2M, where I have been employed for nearly 15 years) is showing up in these spaces.
The Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC) has announced the release of Smithsonian Science for Makerspaces, a series of free online engineering design challenges for students to engage with emerging technologies through hands-on learning. Inspired by Smithsonian Science for the Classroom, these activities bridge formal science education and the exciting makerspace movement by helping educators and teachers engage with digital and physical technologies within the context of science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) by asking them to make something new.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Visit
Smithsonian Science Education Center Director, Carol O'Donnell, traveled to Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University on September 7th to meet with Engineering Professor Lisa McNair, who is the Director for the Center for Researching Science, Engineering, Art and Design (CRSE). CRSE is part of the University’s Institute for Creativity, Arts and Technology (ICAT) and houses ICAT's education work related to outreach and engagement, research and evaluation, and partnership and advocacy. O’Donnell had the opportunity to meet the CSRE team, as well as ICAT founding Director, Ben Knapp, and ICAT Associate Director, Tom Martin. O’Donnell also shared with the teams SSEC’s work in K-12 STEM Education, specifically recent work in educating youth in engineering practices. O’Donnell and McNair discussed mutual points of interest between the two centers and possible collaborations.
People once thought the red panda, also known as the lesser panda, was related to bears or raccoons, but they are actually their own genus, Ailuridae. Within the genus, there are two species: fulgens fulgens and fulgens refulgens. Both species live in Eastern Asia, in high-altitude, temperate forest.
Red pandas are especially cute*. They grow to be 22-24 inches with a 14-18 inch tail and weigh 8-13 pounds, which is roughly similar to a large house cat. Red pandas have russet and white fur with distinct face markings. Their fur is very thick on their body and tail, which helps keep them warm in the mountainous habitat.
A red panda at Smithsonian's National Zoo. Katie Fancher, Smithsonian Science Education Center