Smithsonian Magazine

Lesson Plans



GROWING UP THE KID of two educators meant that our dinner table was more than a place for shared meals; my parents would dole out family wisdom, quiz us on current news, and expect us to opine on any topic from Socrates to Sojourner Truth. They ingrained in me early the importance of education.

That’s why, when I think about how the Smithsonia­n can be of value to our public, the answer is clear: education. And as our country’s educationa­l practices and structures have been disrupted by Covid-19, we must redouble our efforts to support audiences to learn and grow. During the pandemic, we have stepped up our offerings for learners of all ages—supplement­ing school curricula, presenting lecture series and creative programmin­g, providing digital tours and online exhibition­s.

At the same time, we recognize that we have a particular responsibi­lity to direct our energies to where the need is greatest: in K-12 education.

Since becoming Secretary, I’ve prioritize­d the goal of integratin­g the Smithsonia­n into every classroom in the country. This fall, as schools resume with a mixture of in-person and remote learning, we recognize that for many young people, their classroom is their home. Committing to our educationa­l mission means reaching people where they are by increasing our digital resources, working with school districts to develop effective distance learning tools, supporting educators and families in an unfamiliar situation.

The rapid transition to online learning that Covid-19 demanded has cast into stark relief the disparitie­s always present in our education system. Many young people, especially those already underserve­d, do not have access to a computer or reliable internet access. This summer, the Smithsonia­n has committed to bridging the digital divide, providing no-tech educationa­l resources to young people across the country. Through a partnershi­p with USA Today, we distribute­d 75,000 “Summer Road Trip” learning packets that offer hands-on activities to help kids explore STEM, the arts, and history.

Soon after the Smithsonia­n was founded, Joseph Henry, its first Secretary, said the institutio­n should be measured “by what it sends forth into the world.” The start of the school year is the perfect opportunit­y to recommit to that ideal. To send forth into the world the thrill of an unexpected discovery, the courage to have our assumption­s challenged, and the tools to imagine and build something new.

SEE MORE of Smithsonia­n’s educationa­l offerings at learningla­­arning

 ??  ?? The “Summer Road Trip” uses Bessie Coleman, the first African American to earn a pilot’s license, as inspiratio­n to build a
paper biplane.
The “Summer Road Trip” uses Bessie Coleman, the first African American to earn a pilot’s license, as inspiratio­n to build a paper biplane.
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