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Monday, June 15, 2015

5 Good Online Educational Resources from the Smithsonian Museums

Earlier today I wrote a post in which I expressed disappointment with the Smithsonian Science Education Center's new video series. To balance that out, here are five resources from the Smithsonian that I do like and think that you will like too.

Shutterbugs Wiggle and Stomp is a new educational game produced by the Smithsonian. The purpose of the game is to help children recognize the movements of animals. In the game children move through a virtual zoo with a zoo keeper. As they go through the virtual zoo the zoo keeper will ask students to take pictures of animals who are demonstrating running, jumping, stomping, and other movements. Shutterbugs Wiggle and Stomp can be played online. The game is also available as a free iPad app and as a free Android app.

How Things Fly is a feature from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. How Things Fly contains an interactive module in which students design their own airplanes. The activity starts with a simple and slow airplane that students have to modify until it reaches a target speed and altitude. As students modify the wings, fuselage, and engines of their airplanes they are given instant feedback on the effects of those modifications. In some cases the feedback includes the airplane crashing and the students having to start over again.

Ask Smithsonian is a fun video series featured on the Smithsonian Magazine website. All of the videos in the series are less than two minutes long. Each video tackles a fun topic in science. Some of the videos address questions that are less serious topics than others. For example, on the first page of Ask Smithsonian there is currently a video about zombie rats alongside a video on the effects of Daylight Saving Time on the human body.

The Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage has some neat resources for teachers and students. One of the resources that I like is the Masters of the Building Arts Activity Guide. The Masters of the Building Arts Activity Guide provides the history of six types of buildings and architectural features. At the conclusion of each section there is a hands-on activity for students to try in your classroom. For example at the end of the section on timber framing you will find directions for an activity in which students attempt to create a model building with straws or pipe cleaners. At the end of the section on stained glass students can try to create their own "stained glass" panels with tissue papers, ribbons, and glue.

Expedition Insects is a neat interactive book from the Smithsonian Science Education Center. The new book was written to helps students in third through fifth grade learn about insects from all over the world. The book is full of pictures and videos to complement the text. Throughout the book students can click or tap on underlined words to quickly access their definitions. Expedition Insects was created for the iBooks platform. It is interactive if you read it on a Mac or on an iPad. A non-interactive version of the book is available to read too.