Digital Resources From Museums: The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

The Education Techie reviews tech tools and websites that can help students and teachers. This week, the Techie is taking a look at some of the online educational resources offered by museums. Today's article explores the website of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Schools offering American History degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

smithsonian natural history

Located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) is a public institution that is free to all visitors. The museum is a great spot for a field trip, but if you can't make it there in person, its website also has a lot to offer. There are too many impressive features to discuss in one article, but here are some that I found most useful for students and teachers.

Ocean Portal

Interesting and informative, this site-within-a-site is a great resource for classrooms. The interface is simple enough for young students to use on their own. There are no ads or external links, so teachers can feel secure letting kids navigate around the site without much supervision. The content may not be as challenging for older students.

ocean portal website

The Ocean Portal features blogs, articles, interactive features, multimedia presentations and information about the NMNH's ocean-related exhibits. There is some information about conservation and environmental policy as well. A separate section for teachers is helpful for lesson planning; it can also help users find specific parts of the Ocean Portal site to focus on.

Web-Based Student Activities

There are multiple individual resources in this one section of the website, and they're so fun and informative, it was difficult to choose just one to focus on. Links on this page go to other places on the NMNH site and to external sites of other museums and federal institutions. In a few cases, links go to the websites of educational institutions, but on the whole, clicking around here will send users to other pages under the Smithsonian Institute umbrella.

virtual dinosaur dig

Offerings on this page are grouped into three categories: formation and evolution of the Earth and solar system, understanding life's diversity, and human culture and diversity. There are games and interactive features like a virtual dinosaur dig (pictured above) from the museum's Department of Paleobiology. These features provide significant educational content, but teachers may want to preview them before using for class, just to make sure the content is age-appropriate.

Resources for Teachers and Classrooms

Like the Web-Based Student Activities, the Resources for Teachers and Classrooms section has too many good resources to focus on one or two at the exclusion of others. If you're a teacher planning a lesson in earth or biological science, or if you're a parent looking for ways to bring more education into your child's Internet leisure time, this is a great place to start.

encyclopedia of life

These resources are grouped into the same three categories as the Student Activities, but the features themselves are different. One of the best links on this page goes to the Encyclopedia of Life (pictured above), a service of the NMNH and several other museums and academic institutions. This online resource is a multimedia repository for information about the Earth's multitude of plant, animal and insect species. There are videos, images and podcasts, along with written information.

This is the second article in a series about digital resources from museums. Previously, the Techie wrote about what the website of the American Museum of Natural History has to offer. Stay tuned for more of these articles from the Education Techie!

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