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August 10

The Smithsonian Institution was founded in 1846.

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The Smithsonian Institution was founded in 1846.

Grades 1 – 8
Calendar Activity Type Historical Figure & Event





Founded in the United States in 1846, the Smithsonian Institution is considered the "nation's museum." Today, the Smithsonian is comprised of 19 museums and 129 affiliate museums—including the National Zoo and the National Air and Space Museum.





In addition to the exhibits at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., the Institution has an extensive website, with information on exhibits and special events. Many online resources are available right in your classroom. Visit the Students Page and explore a variety of interactives. You and your students can build a sod house, play a Viking board game, and learn about the American presidents.

After exploring an exhibit online, have students use the information that they learned, along with some imagination, to write "A Day in the Life" narratives that tell about a person, animal, or object that they saw in the exhibit. Urge students to make connections to the specific details and facts they learned.




  • Smithsonian's History Explorer

    This website has standards-based online resources for teaching and learning American history, designed and developed by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Find lesson plans or sign up for the artifact RSS feed.


  • Smithsonian Education

    Online resources are available for educators, families, and students. In the Educators section, you will find lesson plans, information about planning a field trip to the Smithsonian, and professional development resources.


  • Smithsonian IdeaLabs

    This collection of interactive learning labs for teachers and students includes online tutorials that bring the Smithsonian to life. Exhibits include Walking on the Moon and Kids Collecting.


  • Portrait Medal of James Smithson, 1817

    This page has an interactive image of a coin featuring James Smithson's portrait, as well as information about Smithson, whose bequest of money founded the Smithsonian. Also of interest is a coin from 1838 created from Smithson's original bequest.



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Grade   9  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

A Harlem Renaissance Retrospective: Connecting Art, Music, Dance, and Poetry

Students research, evaluate, and synthesize information about the Harlem Renaissance from varied resources, create an exhibit, and highlight connections across disciplines (i.e., art, music, and poetry) using a Venn diagram.


Grades   9 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Unit

Designing Museum Exhibits for The Grapes of Wrath: A Multigenre Project

Using The Grapes of Wrath as a backdrop, students conduct research on issues that the novel addresses, publishing their findings in a multigenre museum exhibit.


Grades   6 – 8  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Creative Communication Frames: Discovering Similarities between Writing and Art

Graphic organizers assist the development of comparative vocabulary and generate discussions of analogy and metaphor in art as students go on a real or virtual tour of an art gallery.


Grades   3 – 5  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Artistic Elements: Exploring Art Through Descriptive Writing

Paint a vivid picture in your reader's mind with good descriptive writing! Artwork provides the perfect starting point for practicing descriptive writing that conveys color, shape, line, and mood.


Grades   9 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Unit

Connecting Past and Present: A Local Research Project

In this unit, students become active archivists, gathering photos, artifacts, and stories for a museum exhibit that highlights one decade in their school's history.