October 16, 2009
Friday, October 16: The Woman Behind the New Deal
Come on out to the American Art Museum where Kirstin Downey is on board to tell you about Frances Perkins, an economist and social worker who, as FDR’s Secretary of Labor, shaped the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, the National Labor Relations Act, the Social Security Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act. A book signing will follow the lecture. Free. American Art Museum, 7:00 PM
Saturday, October 17: Owl Prowl
Owls have a reputation for being rather intelligent animals—but how wise are you to these creatures of the night? Come on out to the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center and spend an evening prowling for owls along the Chesapeake Bay shoreline while learning all about how they live. Cost is $5 per person. Registration is strongly recommended, although walk-ins will be allowed to go on the tour if there is still room. To reserve a spot today, please call 443-482-2300. Also note that the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center is about a 30-minute drive outside of the Washington, DC area. For directions, go to this website. The Owl Prowl will begin at the Reed Conservation Center. Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, 8:00-9:30 PM
Sunday, October 18: The Texture of Night: Etchings by James McNeill Whistler
Some of you may be familiar with the cheap-but-intellectual pickup line, “Would you like to come up and see my etchings?” Well, if you’re James McNeill Whistler, you’ve got etchings worth seeing. Come on over to the Freer and immerse yourself in the world created by Whistler’s nighttime visions of London, Amsterdam and Venice. After viewing the art, head down to the ImaginAsia classroom where the younger members of your family can participate in an art activity where the little ones will get an opportunity to create their favorite real or imaginary nighttime scene. Free. Freer, 2:00 PM
For more information on events and exhibitions at the Smithsonian museums, check our companion website, goSmithsonian.com, the official visitor’s guide to the Smithsonian.
September 3, 2009
Back to school season is upon us! Students are spazzing over course schedules and the teachers they have to expand their minds. Teachers are sure to wonder what young minds they get to contend with over the course of the next school year and parents are prepping for an onslaught of PTA meetings and kids needing a helping hand with their homework.
That said, let the Smithsonian give you a helping hand with its open buffet of online educational resources. There’s a little something for everybody here–teachers, students and parents—to enhance the experiences in the classroom and to keep young minds active at home. So, for your convenience, here is a listing of educational materials and hopefully they’ll help make this year’s return to the classroom an exciting—and enriching—experience.
American Art Museum
Picturing the 1930s is an immersive multimedia experience that provides a vision of what life was like during the Great Depression. Browse a virtual movie theater where you can watch interviews with artists working during the period, view artwork, listen to radio programs, watch short films and even create a documentary movie of your own. You can find this and other media-rich learning aids on the Classroom Activities site. For grades 6-12.
Teachers: get your pupils involved in the world of art with Student Podcasts. This program invites students to discuss pieces in the museum’s collection. For grades K-12.
Educators are also encouraged to browse the museum’s Education Resources, a page chock-full of lesson plans and ideas on how to incorporate the arts into the classroom. These guides encompass a wide variety of subjects such as history, science and literature. There are currently 28 guides available, and new guides are added three times a year. For grades K-12.
Environmental Research Center
Check out the Environmental Research Center’s Education and Outreach Programs for a host of hands-on science programs and activities that foster learning experiences in the field as well as in the classroom. If you’re a college undergrad or graduate student, also be sure to check out the Environmental Research Center’s professional training programs. For grades K-12 and collegiate students.
Smithsonian Folkways—the Institution’s nonprofit record label—offers a Tools for Teaching website that promotes cultural understanding through a series of lesson plans and education kits. Through studying music, students can enhance their understanding of other subject areas, such as history, geography, language arts and social studies. For grades K-12.
National Air and Space Museum
The Classroom Resources site offers learning guides and online activities that allow you to test your knowledge of the science and history of aeronautics. For grades K-12.
Educators can make use of the museum’s Teaching Resources, which include posters and teaching packets that cover a wide range of topics from how things fly to the structure of the universe. Also be sure to check out Educational Videoconferencing—programs that feature the museum’s staff and volunteers who use artifacts and photographs to teach the history and science of aeronautics. The videoconferences are geared to students in grades 3-5 and grades 8-12.
National Museum of American History
History Explorer is a resource for teachers, students and their families that invites you to investigate the museum’s artifacts and the stories they have to tell. For teachers, there are lesson plans and activities, as well as interactive media, designed to enhance the learning experience. For grades K-12.
Our Story is a resource for parents who would like to expand their child’s classroom experiences at home. This website is chock-full of activities, recommended reading and field trip ideas. For grades K-4.
National Postal Museum
The museum’s Curriculum Guides site offers a host of educational opportunities for students in grades K-12. Not just a means of exploring postal history, these guides will expand your knowledge of history and the visual arts. For grades K-Adult.
Also, be sure to check out Arago, the Postal Museum’s free online guide to the study of philately. Not only for people who are interested in stamp collecting, a host of online exhibits are available that will enhance your understanding of art, science and history. To see how stamps have been used in educational activities—and perhaps to generate some ideas of your own—check out Heroes on Stamps. For grades K-Adult.
Especially for educators, the zoo’s Curriculum Guides site offers a wide range of interdisciplinary student activities. For grades K-12.
If you’re planning a trip to the zoo this school year, be sure to check out the Field Trip Resources site for pre- and post-visit lesson materials and resources, as well as ideas for activities to do during your visit. For grades K-12.
The Smithsonian Biodiversity in the Classroom page will encourage students to explore the natural world and hone their math and science skills with a series of classroom lessons and outdoor activities. For grades 3-6.
Conservation Central, sponsored by FujiFilm, is designed to help kids learn about the importance of conservation and the challenges faced in preserving temperate-forest habitats—home of the Giant Panda. For grades 6-8.
UPDATE: We were remiss to not include the clearinghouse for Smithsonian education materials: SmithsonianEducation.org
Registration is now open for the Smithsonian Education Online Conference: Climate Change held September 29 to October 1, 2009. This installment of the online conference series that started this past February will focus on Smithsonian exhibitions and research related to the global issue of climate change.
The conference will feature museum curators and scientists presenting evidence, explaining the impact of such evidence and talking about the response. Scott Wing, Curator of Fossil Plants at the Natural History Museum, used fossils to estimate carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere millions of years ago and will lead the “Evidence” portion of the Wednesday, September 30th session. Other speakers include Bert Drake, plant physiologist and senior scientist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Mark Haddon, director of education at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, and Don Moore, associate director for animal care at the National Zoo.
Interested in climate change, but not based in DC? Don’t fret. Because it’s an online conference, you don’t have to be anywhere near the Mall to participate. The sessions take place in a virtual meeting room of sorts. Audio from the speaker is broadcast and conference attendees can pose questions to the speaker via a real time chat application. You don’t even have to be available during the conference to watch the sessions. All sessions will be broadcast live and archived on the conference’s Web site for future viewing. Discussion boards and additional resources are on the Web site.
The first conference in the series was held February 4-5 to coincide with the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln. All of the resources are still up on the site. In fact, comments are still coming in even though the conference wrapped up half a year ago.
The conference is free and open to everyone. Register now to reserve your spot. Until the conference date, follow researchers, curators and others on the conference’s blog.
June 3, 2009
In a paper published last month in PLoS One, a team led by ecologist Whitman Miller, showed that the shells of Eastern oysters, Crassostrea virginica, the jewels of the Chesapeake Bay, will be slightly smaller (16 percent decrease in shell area) and weaker (42 percent reduction in calcium content) in the waters of 2100. The other species tested, the Suminoe oysters from Asia, showed no change in an acidic ocean.
“We are bound to our bodies like an oyster is to its shell,” said Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher.
But that was over 2,000 years ago, long before rising levels of carbon dioxide began to trap heat in our atmosphere and seep into our oceans. As CO2 dissolves into seawater, it is broken down into carbonic acid and hydrogen ions. Hydrogen determines whether a liquid is acidic or basic. The more hydrogen ions that leach into the ocean, the more acidic it becomes.
As more of the green house gas, carbon dioxide, is released, the world’s oceans are slowly becoming more acidic, and shellfish, like oysters are especially vulnerable to this kind of change. An acidic ocean hinders the ability of some species of oyster young to build their shells, scientists with the Smithsonian’s Environmental Research Center found.
According to the scientists, the results suggest that acidification may be tied to a species’ unique evolutionary history, implying that predictions may be more complex than previously thought. “In the Chesapeake Bay, oysters are barely holding on, where disease and overfishing have nearly wiped them out,” Miller says. “Whether acidification will push Eastern oysters, and the many species that depend on them, beyond a critical tipping point remains to be seen.”
April 28, 2009
The Chinese mitten crab is one of the ocean’s more fashionable invertebrates. With a sleek four-inch wide shell, a light brown-olive green color, and thick mats of hair on its pair of white-tipped claws, it seems odd that a looker like that would have environmental scientists so concerned.
But the mitten crab, native to East Asia, is slowly invading East Coast waters. It doesn’t pose a physical threat, however, its squarely an ecological matter. Once established, the crab quickly reproduces and soon hundreds are clogging fishing equipment and power plant cooling systems. They can also out-compete local species, like the Maryland blue crab.
Fortunately, we haven’t reached a high-level crab threat yet. Forty-four mitten crabs have been formally identified in the eastern United States since 2006. They were found primarily in the Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay, and more recently the Hudson River and New Jersey.
Scientists at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center are asking sharp-eyed beachgoers, fishermen and crabbers for help to capture and collect information about the invasive mitten crabs. “At this point we’re trying to understand if they’re here and what that might mean ecologically,” scientist Gregory Ruiz recently told HometownAnnapolis.com.
Though, they’re not the easiest crabs to locate. Mitten crabs live in both freshwater and saltwater,
can burrow underground and are able to leave the water and walk around obstacles while migrating.
If you catch a mitten crab, do not throw it back alive. Note the precise location and date where the animal was found. Take a close-up photo of the crab and send it to SERCMittenCrab@si.edu. If possible, freeze the animal on ice, or preserve it in rubbing alcohol, and call The Mitten Crab Hotline at 443-482-2222.