Creativity in the Classroom: Mission In Progress

Special thanks to our Smithsonian Affiliations summer interns Lisa Hung (University of California, Irvine) and Neema Amadala (University of Calgary) for participating in the Smithsonian’s EdLab Teacher workshops in order to share their experiences with us. This is the second of four guest posts in their “Teaching in a 21st Century Classroom” series.   

Creativity in the Classroom: Mission In Progress
By Neema Amadala

We may have been running into the museum on Tuesday but do students? What does a typical field trip to the museum look like? Perhaps there are students clustered in groups around a painting listening to the docent tell them about the artifact attentively but can’t seem to bridge the gap between the artifact and themselves.  Or maybe they’re running around room to room disengaged and bored or possibly, upon hearing the word museum, felt sick that day. Why is it that a field trip to the museum doesn’t seem as engaging as a trip to the science center? 

On Tuesday, June 19, mission control was headquartered in the Smithsonian American Art Museum. To unleash our creativity the group started with writing six word stories; it’s remarkable what can be said in six words. In this case, we studied Frank Romero’s Death of Rubén Salazar and let our words tell a story. This was only the beginning of the immersion into art.   

Examining the power behind what six words can say. Photo courtesy Smithsonian EdLab.

Tuesday’s mission was to take a piece of artwork and create a story with two alternative endings, to tell a tale in which the ending reflected the complexity and ambiguity of conflict and resolution. Given that this mission is broad, if you were to assign this to a group of high school students, you could witness their creativity and excitement skyrocket. This would become evident as you observe them analyzing the painting, building a moral behind their story and capturing the complexity of the piece in a short story. This is what happened in my team of educators. We immersed ourselves in the painting and abandoned all fear of technology (and had fun doing it!) to create a comic we aptly named Benton’s Midwestern Fable.  

Finding the words to interpret the story of Achelous and Hercules. Photo courtesy Smithsonian EdLab.

What educators may forget is that students have grown up with this technology. Many have no fear of jumping into a new tool if it means they get a chance to play and learn. Therefore why are lesson plans made with only the teacher’s evaluation goals in mind? Why not create plans that will engage students and be enjoyable to evaluate?  

The first page of our creation, Benton’s Midwestern Fable, based on Thomas Hart Benton’s painting, Achelous and Hercules.

 Stay tuned for Part 3 in our EdLab series! And for more information, contact the EdLab team at .

Teaching in a 21st-Century Classroom: Mission Impossible?

Special thanks to our Smithsonian Affiliations summer interns Lisa Hung (University of California, Irvine) and Neema Amadala (University of Calgary) for participating in the Smithsonian’s EdLab Teacher workshops in order to share their experiences with us. This is the first of four guest posts in their “Teaching in a 21st Century Classroom” series.   

Teaching in a 21st-Century Classroom: Mission Impossible?
By: Lisa Hung

Head tilted, eyes down, arms under the desk, occasionally glancing to see if anyone else can tell what she’s up to. Sweat drips down her brow as she struggles to fix the series of ‘autocorrects’ that can’t help but get her chuckling – the sound of the footsteps draw near and her heart is racing, she looks up in the nick of time and exhales in relief. As the teacher walks away, she picks right back up where she left off. We’ve seen it before, kids on their phones getting pulled away from the classroom. Technology in the hands of a student in a formal classroom environment has become a stigma, something that many feel are taking the students away from their learning. But why turn the other way when you can face the issue, why allow technology to take away from learning when we can use it to enhance it?

Smithsonian’s EdLab Teaching in the 21st Century workshop is aimed to allow educators to explore and launch new media practices for their classrooms providing a safe environment for the educators to come together and work in teams to develop tools and skills that can be applied in their classrooms. On Monday, I was able to partake in this experience. Kim Skerritt and Jeff Meade led the workshops and assigned a warm up by having us write what we thought a 21st-century classroom looked like. Going around you could see words like “classroom without walls”, “interactive”, and “technologic”.  Upon discussion, many of the participants raised some good points and we ultimately asked – are our kids running into school with the same excitement they have running out?

Educators sharing what they felt a 21st-century classroom looks like. Photo courtesy Smithsonian EdLab.

The mission for the week was to ask how you can solve real conflict, whether that’s in or beyond the classroom. Today’s particular mission was to use objects to inspire activism, so we were split into groups and asked to explore the Smithsonian Castle and search for that piece of artwork and apply it to our weekly theme of “conflict”. Each group member took on a role, and altogether partook in a mission to interview, research and put together a final product. In the Smithsonian Castle, there are cases that represent the 19 different Smithsonian museums and each group chose a different one to represent their cause. For example, the group I was in chose Seed Catalogues in order to represent the issue of eating healthy non-processed foods.  At the end of the day, we were able to immerse ourselves in an environment in which all the participants were able to connect with each other and we left the classroom enthusiastically knowing that we will be running in the same way on Tuesday.

Interested in more information about EdLab? Contact the EdLab team at

At the Smithsonian Castle finding an object to inspire activism. Photo courtesy Smithsonian EdLab.

Jazz Appreciation Month and International Jazz Day

The 1st Annual International Jazz Day, formulated by the United States and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)will be held on April 30, 2012. UNESCO officially proclaimed April 30 as International Jazz Day to pay tribute to this uniquely global art form, with distinctly American roots, that is played and enjoyed across cultures, languages, and musical traditions.  Jazz is a powerful unifying force that builds bridges and brings people together. 

In celebration, the U.S. Department of State is partnering with the Smithsonian Institution to showcase jazz events and programs taking place across the country. We have several programs already in the works that you and your community can get involved in, including:

  • UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock will headline a series of concerts on April 30 that will take place at sunrise in New Orleans and at sunset that same evening from New York City. The concerts will be streamed live via the internet.  Stay tuned for the web address.
  • Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM), held every April and recognized by public law, was launched by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in April 2002. JAM aims to draw greater public attention globally to the extraordinary heritage and history of jazz. For more information on JAM events worldwide, as well as recordings, educational resources, oral histories, blogs, articles, and links to archived and streamed jazz concerts, workshops and discussions, please visit

Are you interested in joining the celebration of the first-ever International Jazz Day?

Here are a few ways to get involved:

  • Host a Herbie Hancock Listening Party featuring one of the April 30th concerts streamed live on the web.
  • Arrange an International Jazz Day concert in your school or community.
  • Tweet your thoughts on the importance of Jazz: #JazzDay2012
  • Request a 2012 JAM poster featuring Frank Sinatra to alert your community to jazz events or artifacts at your organization.
  • Keep an eye on the JAM events calendar and take part in an event in your community, or add your own by emailing!
  • Visit Smithsonian Jazz and discover 112 ideas for celebrating Jazz Appreciation Month.   Many of these ideas will also work for International Jazz Day.

Have any ideas of your own? We’d love to hear about them. Please let us know at, and we’ll add them to the JAM U.S. and International event calendar to showcase jazz events around the world.

Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos Program

Teach kids astronomy by controlling real telescopes over the internet, and create images like these!

Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos Program is a special opportunity for 25 Affiliates from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) and Smithsonian Affiliations. Qualified Affiliates that successfully complete the online professional development program to facilitate the use of the MicroObservatory online telescope system will be awarded $1500 for implementation of Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos Program. Funding has been provided by the Smithsonian Youth Access Grant Fund.   

  • Are you an Affiliate educator interested in sharing the art and science of astrophotography with youth in your community?   
  • Does your organization have an informal education program, partnerships with area community centers or middle schools and interest in providing enrichment activities for students based on STEM? 
  • Can your museum or organization implement a workshop for middle school students, underserved by science and technology educational programs, ages 12 – 18   (minimum of 10 or more students) and facilitate an 8 – 20 hour program? 
  • Would you like to learn how to organize and promote an exhibition of youth-created astronomy photographs? 

For more information on the program, join us for a Teleconference to discuss implementing Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos Program on Tuesday, March 6, 2012, at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. 

Dial In:  1-877-860-3058
Participant Pass code:  607773
Call in and learn about participating in this program before registration goes live.  

Talk to SAO astronomy educators Mary Dussault and Erin Braswell. Smithsonian Affiliations representatives Christina Di Meglio Lopez and Caroline Mah will also be available to answer questions.

Follow the MicroObservatory’s Twitter feed; Facebook page; and Flickr photostream.

Telescopes "Ben" and "Cecilia" at the Whipple Observatory in Amado, AZ. Along with "Annie," located on the roof at SAO, they are three in a network of telescopes, controllable over the internet, helping students learn more about astronomy. Photo Credit: Dan Brocious/SAO.

Native Film Festival Collaborations

A postcard annoucing the event with Elizabeth Weatherford at the Agua Calinte Cultural Museum


Later this month, the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum (Palm Springs, CA) will host their annual Festival of Native Film & Culture in collaboration with the Film and Video Center at the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI).  Elizabeth Weatherford, Director of the Film and Video Center at NMAI, works closely with Agua Caliente staff to identify exciting films and filmmakers working from a Native American perspective.  A highlight of this popular event is the commentary Elizabeth provides prior to screening the films and an engaging Q&A afterwards.  This year Elizabeth will give an illustrated lecture about the emerging world of indigenous films.

Michael Hammond, Executive Director at Agua Caliente, talks about the partnership:

“Elizabeth has been our guest programmer for several years now.  Our Festival of Native Film and Culture deals with Native American and Indigenous films from around the world.  Elizabeth has her finger on the pulse of the Native and Indigenous film world.  From cutting-edge shorts to feature films, she has given us the best that the genre has to offer.  Under her tutelage, we have grown in both quality and stature.”

The Native Eyes Film Festival at the Arizona State Museum/ Hanson Film Institute

Elizabeth has also worked with other Affiliates on film festivals; she continues to work with the Arizona State Museum and the Hanson Film Institute, both at the University of Arizona on an annual event, the Native Eyes Film Showcase.  Lisa Falk, Director of Education and Associate Curator at the Arizona State Museum, discussed the ways that Elizabeth Weatherford has worked with them:

“Elizabeth, her staff and the resources of the Film and Video Center are invaluable to us as they provide a depth of understanding of Native filmmaking and festival organization as well as connections to filmmakers.  We have worked with Elizabeth Weatherford and her staff on our Native Eyes Film Showcase for years- consulting with them about new films and filmmakers and receiving recommendations.  The NMAI Film and Video Center helps us add breadth and depth to our programming, in particular enabling us to learn about and include films from Canada, Australia, and New Zealand to our offerings.”

Let us know if you’re interested in a film series of your own- we can connect you with Elizabeth Weatherford at NMAI or other resources at the Smithsonian.  (Special thanks to Michael Hammond and Lisa Falk for images and insights!)

Exchange Boards: Post Your Exhibitions, Programs, Jobs Here

Are you looking for a job or have one to announce? Are you searching for a new exhibition or a program for your museum? Do you have an exhibition or a program you’d like to travel to other Affiliates? 

You may have forgotten that the Smithsonian Affiliations website is your one-stop-shop for these types of announcements. On our Exchange Boards you can post a job you’d like to fill, announce a new traveling exhibition, or promote a program that’s available to other Affiliate organizations.  

Further your reach by submitting your job, exhibition, or program announcements with us and we’ll not only post on our website, but also promote it across our new media platforms.

Exhibition Exchange
Emails requesting exhibition exchange postings must be submitted in the following format:

  • Complete Affiliate name, city, and state
  • Brief description of available exhibition (1 or 2 short sentences)
  • Contact information for anyone interested
  • Attached PDF or Word document including all the necessary information about the exhibit
  • Complete link to the traveling exhibit page (if not using PDF)

Example: George Mendoza: Colors of the Wind
Presented by the Ellen Noel Art Museum in Odessa, TX.
New Mexico artist George Mendoza paints with a passion, revealing a unique inner vision and confidence, coupled with insight and creativity. His work, abstract in nature and brightly colored reflects his current physical “sight” intertwined with his dreams, memories, and emotional experiences. The exhibition includes 25-30 oil/acrylic paintings ranging in sizes from 20×30 to 48×60; fabric panels and quilts; text panels; label and educational material available on disk. Affiliates who are interested in hosting the exhibition should contact Doylene Land at

Program Exchange
Emails requesting exhibition exchange postings must be submitted in the following format:

  • Complete Affiliate name, city, and state abbreviation
  • Description and details of the program (including cost and available dates)
  • Attached PDF or Word document including all necessary information about the program

Example: Falling to Earth: An Apollo Astronaut’s Journey to the Moon lecture and book signing event opportunity with Apollo 15 astronaut, Al Worden.

Jobs Exchange
Job announcements must be submitted as a separate attachment (Word document or PDF) including:

  • Complete Affiliate name (and logo if possible)
  • Job title
  • Full job description
  • Deadlines
  • Contact information

Example: Flushing Town Hall

For more information, or to post an announcement, contact Elizabeth Bugbee.