early learning in museums


Students from the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center explore shapes in a nearby sculpture garden.

In 2012, the Institute of Museum and Library Services hosted a series of meetings to inform the development of a groundbreaking report on the role of libraries and museums in early learning.  Among the advisors to those meetings were representatives from the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center, a model school on the Smithsonian campus that combines the best practices in both early childhood and museum education. 

In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama declared, “Study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road… I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every single child in America.”

Given the increased interest and discussion at all levels about the importance of early learning, the timing is prime for museums and libraries to articulate and advance their participation in this arena.  The IMLS report, to be released this month, will make the case for decision makers at the local, state, and federal levels to fully use the capacity of libraries and museums in their early learning efforts.  The role (both current and potential) that museums and libraries play in the effort to educate our youngest children is immense, powerful, and inspiring.

As the executive director of the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center, Dr. Kimberlee Kiehl is well-positioned to discuss how museums can take a leadership role in supporting early learning.  In her keynote talk at the Smithsonian Affiliations National Conference on June 12, Dr. Kiehl will focus on collaboration ideas between the Smithsonian and the Affiliate network, and how such partnerships can change the face of early learning in our country. 

Do you have ideas to share about what your organization is doing with young learners?

Do you have specific questions about integrating early learning into your museum?

Take a few minutes to let us know in this quick, 3-question poll, so we can make this session as useful and productive as possible!   https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/5NF7PRY

 The Smithsonian Affiliations National Conference is for current Affiliates only. If you are interested in becoming an Affiliate, please contact Elizabeth Bugbee, 202.633.5304, for more information. Click here for 2013 Conference hotel information, agenda and registration.




conference highlight: serving children and families on the autism spectrum

Smithsonian Affiliations is pleased to be working with the Smithsonian’s Accessbility Program to offer a special workshop during the 2013 Smithsonian Affiliations National Conference on the ways that museums can and are serving children on the autism spectrum.  The first part of the workshop will cover the basics of autism spectrum disorders, answering questions such as:

– what is autism and what does it look like?
– how do families with children on the autism spectrum engage with museums?
– what strategies can we use to engage and disengage a child on the autism spectrum?
– what are the best practices for teaching children on the autism spectrum?
– what techniques can be used to solicit necessary information from school groups and families regarding a child’s needs?

Expert speakers include Roger Ideishi, Professor of Occupational Therapy at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia; Beth Ziebarth, Director of the Smithsonian Accessibility Program; and Jahmar Hannans, Manager of Guest Programs at Georgia Aquarium, an Affiliate.  

In the second part of the workshop, participants will engage in hands-on activities in Smithsonian galleries, designed to address the needs of children on the autism spectrum and their families.  We will share a series of pre-visit materials, cart activities, and best practices that can be adapted by any museum.  

The workshop will draw on the experiences of all participants, combined with the information provided by other professionals in the field, to equip everyone with necessary tools to provide the highest quality of programming for  visitors.   Hope you can join us!

The Smithsonian Affiliations National Conference is for current Affiliates only. If you are interested in becoming an Affiliate, please contact Elizabeth Bugbee, 202.633.5304, for more information. Click here for 2013 Conference hotel information, agenda and registration.


Repurposing the Museum: Using Digital Tools to Re-engage Young People

On Tuesday, June 11, we’re kicking-off our 2013 Affiliations National Conference with an inspiring keynote address from Stephen Brown, President and Executive Producer at Mobile Digital Arts and General Manager of the New Learning Institute.   

Student using mobile technology in an exhibit.

Photo courtesy Smithsonian EdLab.

Conference attendees will hear Brown discuss the ways museums can be repurposed by young people with the new digital tools at their disposal. He’ll focus on museums and informal learning spaces, and the ways that they are connected to youth interests both inside and outside of school. He’ll also approach the idea of how exhibits can be jumping off points for civic engagement, interest-based learning, and the way these activities are enhances through the use of digital tools (mobile devices and apps, social networks, and media production).  

Make sure to mark your calendar to join us at the 2013 Affiliations National Conference! 

steve_brown2About Stephen Brown
Stephen Brown is President and Executive Producer at Mobile Digital Arts (MDA) and General Manager of the New Learning Institute. MDA was formed to improve young people’s access to digital arts programs and computers; to support teachers and community leaders eager to integrate digital arts within their classrooms; and to develop and share youth-based programs that make thoughtful, innovative use of the latest digital technologies. MDA uses film and video production to showcase and advocate for innovative educational practices, digital media programs, and 21st-century approaches to learning. Pearson Foundation’s New Learning Institute funds and develops engaging, personalized, project-based programming for young people and professional development for educators emphasizing the use of digital media.   

Brown produced Reborn, New Orleans Schools, a feature documentary about the school reform movement after Hurricane Katrina; A 21st Century Education, a series of twelve short films about innovation in education; and Digital Media and Learning, twelve short films profiling the work of leading researchers, educators and thinkers on the impact that digital media is having on young learners. Brown is also producing an on-going series of films with the the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) about the world’s best performing educational systems. 

Digital Media, New Learners of the 21st Century, produced by Mobile Digital Arts, aired nationally on PBS in February 2011.  

Brown is currently producing Is School Enough?, a one-hour program for PBS about the ways that young people are participating in their communities, both on- and offline.  

Formerly, Brown was a business development manager, product planner and MSN producer at Microsoft. He has been a publisher of adult educational programs at Learning Network and a producer for WOMAD, a music and dance festival founded by Peter Gabriel. 

The Smithsonian Affiliations National Conference is for current Affiliates only. If you are interested in becoming an Affiliate, please contact Elizabeth Bugbee, 202.633.5304, for more information. Click here for 2013 Conference hotel information, agenda and registration.

affiliations conference preview: spaces for learning

Do you operate an education center at your museum, or thinking about it?  Join us at the Affiliations National Conference on June 10-12  to meet colleagues who are opening or running new spaces for learning on the Smithsonian campus.  Through tours of these spaces, frank discussions with colleagues, exchanging resources and research, and hands-on activities, discover and share what makes an education center such a vital place in a museum.

Affiliations staff is currently working with the following museums to feature their education spaces:qurious

  • The National Museum of Natural History will be opening Q?RIUS in 2013, a new interactive 10,000 square foot programming space.  Q?RIUS will have access to a 20,000 specimen collection representing all departments of the museum, innovative programming and distance learning opportunities.
  • The National Museum of the American Indian’s imagiNATIONS activity center invites families to explore how Native peoples have adapted to natural environments with innovation.  Visitors can explore different kinds of transportation (snowshoes and skateboards), homes (tipis, adobes, igloos), hands-on activities (basket-weaving, Native percussion), and more.
  • The National Museum of American History is undergoing a major renovation that will result in new education spaces when they reopen in 2015.  Affiliates can talk to the staff about their planning and prototyping process, the “Object Project” and demonstration spaces, and explore possible collaboration opportunities.
  • The National Air and Space Museum’s Moving Beyond Earth gallery is an immersive space that puts visitors “in orbit.”  Affiliates can enter their Shuttle mock-up to learn about life in orbit (including the space toilet), or play the interactive SpaceFlight Academy, a group quiz that tests flight readiness.
  • The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden’s very popular ARTLAB+ is a digital media studio forARTLAB teens.  Staff will share how they provide access to professional technology and art, coupled with mentorship, to develop a community of young creators and innovators.   

Come to the Affiliations National Conference in Washington, D.C., on June 10-12, and bring your own experiences with education spaces to share with Smithsonian and Affiliate colleagues in these hands-on tours.  See you there!

The Smithsonian Affiliations National Conference is for current Affiliates only. If you are interested in becoming an Affiliate, please contact Elizabeth Bugbee for more information.

Recap: 2012 Affiliations National Conference

Thanks to everyone who was able to join us in Washington, D.C., June 12-14, 2012. At your request we’ve compiled all your post-conference resources below–from contact info to agenda, presentations to photos. In order to access the resources, please log in to the Affiliate-only section of our website.

Here’s what your fellow Affiliate colleagues said about this year’s conference:

The conference was fantastic!  I really enjoyed the various sessions and found the information presented to be very useful.  I am looking to sharing the information with my staff and seeing how to integrate some on the new information into what we do. I heard a number of attendees say that the Affiliates Conference is by far one of the most beneficial conferences available in the museum field today.  I have to definitely agree!
Angelica Docog, Executive Director, Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio, Texas.

The experience was enriching at both levels, the professional as well as the personal. Key speakers were magnificent and the presenters were all very inspiring. It was also amazing to be able to visit the Natiponal Museum of African Art, meet its director, and attend three social events that allowed us to extend the affiliate´s possibilities for networking.”
– Doreen Colón-Camacho, Director of Education, Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Every conference has been an enjoyable experience, but this year had a new feeling of energy and excitement.  We think that Secretary Wayne Clough has turned out to be an outstanding addition to the Smithsonian Institution.  He seems to have genuinely embraced the power and vision of the Affiliations Program.  He has discovered what all of you, and all of us have always known, that the Affiliations Program is the perfect method to deliver the Smithsonian to communities throughout America.”
– Kate Neumiller Schureman, Sr. V.P. of Programs, Lakeview Museum/Peoria Riverfront Museum in Lakeview, Illinois.

Who attended?

This year, 65 staff members representing 46 Affiliates attended the conference.  Registrants came from 21 states and Puerto Rico. Looking to follow-up on an idea with a fellow attendee? Click here for a list of registrants and their contact information.

Where can I find copies of session presentations?

Presentations which we had permission to share can be found here and include any additional resources the speakers thought would be helpful. REMEMBER, you must log in to the Affiliate-only section of the website to access this material.

Who do I contact if I have more questions?

Are we missing something you’d like to see? Is there a Smithsonian contact you’d like to have? Contact Elizabeth Bugbee (202-633-5304, BugbeeE@si.edu) for more information. 

Where can I view more of these fantastic photos?

View and download photos from the Conference from our 2012 Affiliations National Conference Flickr photostream.


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Building Funding Partnerships Together – Smithsonian and Affiliates

Photo courtesy the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO).

While we work together to bring collections, educational programming and a variety of resources to museums and communities across the country, we plan to offer Affiliates additional benefits by expanding  our partnership activities and identifying  support for our shared goals –  both Smithsonian and Affiliate goals. Through joint fundraising, the Smithsonian as a national organization can open doors to new funding opportunities and develop support for collaborative initiatives not easily accessible to regional museums and organizations.

Over the past year, Smithsonian Affiliations has taken a first step in scaling up partnerships and benefits by including Affiliates in Smithsonian funded grant programs. Affiliates have begun to play an integral role in Smithsonian projects and are providing a national voice in Smithsonian initiatives. Moving beyond these internal funding sources, we will be developing a model of fundraising that includes Affiliates and units from across the Smithsonian to engage donors, national corporations, government funding sources, and foundations with the goal of providing support for Affiliate projects.

NEH grants allowed five Affiliates to engage students and teachers both in person and via the webcast during the National Museum of American History, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the National Endowment for the Humanities collaboration “National Youth Summit: The 50th Anniversary of the Freedom Rides.”

In the conference session in June, the Smithsonian’s Development Director for Education and Access, Michael Dunagan, and the Director of the Office of Sponsored Projects, Scott Robinson, will discuss how the Smithsonian and Affiliates can build partnerships and collaborate to increase funding opportunities for joint initiatives.  The session will explore how we can work together more closely across the Affiliate network. We look forward to hearing from Affiliates, to create an ongoing dialogue to build this increased support, and to understand your priorities, as well as the needs of your audiences and communities.

We look forward to seeing you at our session, Fundraising as a Team Sport– We are the Team, on Wednesday, June 13, 1:30 – 3:00 p.m. View the complete 2012 Affiliations National Conference agenda here.