Artist concept of snow line in TW Hydrae
Credit: Bill Saxton/Alexandra Angelich, NRAO/AUI/NSF

Science Technology Art Engineering and Math (STEAM) at the Smithsonian

Issues of Smithsonian in Your Classroom:

Botany and Art Students examine illustrations, photographs, and dried specimens of the plants as they consider this question: If a scientist can take a picture of a plant, are there advantages in having an illustration? They go on to consider some of the big questions that botanists themselves must ask: Which of these species are most in need of conservation efforts? Are any of these plants more worth saving than others?

Introduction to the Nature Journal With a subject as great as all outdoors, nature journals lend themselves to a wide range of expression. Sketches are often the most immediate way to capture the way things look. Deeper, written observations can be the basis for all kinds of creative writing.

Every Picture Tells a Story This lesson plan closely examines four of the 13 million photographs in the Smithsonian. The pictures represent four important steps in the history of the medium: 1) introduction of portrait photography; 2) invention of a photographic printing process; 3) capture of instantaneous action; and 4) advent of amateur photography. Through the lessons, students see that, while not every picture tells its own story, every picture has a story behind it.

What’s Your Problem? A Look at Environmental Science in Your Own Backyard. In 2010, a second-grade class in Colorado took part in a Smithsonian online conference on environmental issues. One session was on the exploding population of deer in the United States, a subject that really hit home. Their town of about nine thousand had been overrun in the last few years by hundreds of mule deer. The conference was one in a series that challenged students not only to learn about the environment, but also to take action to improve it. After researching the larger issue of deer populations and environmental change, the second-graders began looking for ways to educate the rest of the town and to offer possible local solutions.


Poster, "Designer's Saturday", 20th century.
Tom Geismar. Offset lithograph on paper.
Gift of Various Donors. 1981-29-399.

Online Conferences

Understanding Astrophotography: Where Science and Art Meet Learn how to access the MicroObservatory robotic telescope network operated by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Just like professional astronomers, you and your students can remotely control the telescopes over the internet, and use image processing software to enhance, colorize, and analyze your own images of Solar System objects, stars, nebulas, and galaxies.

Do-It-Yourself Astrophotography: Applications for the Classroom and Beyond The MicroObservatory online telescope network provides an innovative tool for engaging students in important scientific practices as they explore key Earth and Space Science concepts. From project-based learning that engages students in creating their own public Astrophotography exhibitions, to authentic investigations of moon phases, light and color, size and scale in the universe—The MicroObservatory telescopes can be used in a variety of ways to facilitate powerful STEAM learning for your students alongside the Smithsonian.

How Does Design Solve Everyday Problems? From the chair in which you’re sitting to the town in which you live, everything around you is the result of the work of designers. Some of it is successful and some of it isn’t, but it all exists to fulfill human needs. Curator Ellen Lupton and educator Caroline Payson look at the ideas behind cutting-edge household items, from a glow-in-the-dark electrical cord to a camera for the blind. Discover how designers came up with these wild ideas and how you and your class might follow their lead.

Smithsonian Quests

Smithsonian Quests From the art world to the zoo, from underwater to outer space, from current problems to future solutions, your students will have the freedom to explore their interests and make connections across subjects. They’ll develop skills and enhance their learning through discovery, while earning digital badges as credentials along the way. Whether you’re in DC, Detroit, or Dubai, it’s never been so easy to have Smithsonian learning resources available at your fingertips!

Interactives Sizing Up the Universe If the Earth is the size of a Brussels sprout, how big is the Sun? If the solar system is the size of a fried egg, how big is our galaxy? In this interactive challenge, you can guess relative sizes in outer space, and then do the math to check your guesses. You can also see relative distances by using an online map. If the Brussels sprout Earth is in your backyard, how far away is the shrunk-down Sun? Type in your own address to find out!

Additional Links

Catalog of Botanical Illustrations The Department of Botany in the National Museum of Natural History is building a database of botanical illustrations curated by the department's scientific illustrator, Alice Tangerini (view illustrations by Alice Tangerini). One of the goals of this long-term project is to make an on-line illustrated catalog of these illustrations available for our staff and others needing access to this information.

Animation Flip Books

Podcasting with Your Students

Science and the Artist's Book

Fragile Beauty: The Art and Science of Sea Butterflies

Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef

Creativity & Innovation is a cooperative effort organized by the Smithsonian featuring resources and examples of interdisciplinary Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM).

My Smithsonian (MySI) is Smithsonian's Participant Access System (PAS) initiative originating from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Education and Access (ASEA).

My Smithsonian is being  developed to engage and educate audiences using content, resources, and programming from Smithsonian and collaborating agencies and organizations.

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