Several of these education programs apply to National Education Goal 1. In addition, the Institution is home to the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center (SEEC), whose primary purpose--the care and education of young children--is Goal 1-oriented. What follows is a description of Goal 1-relevant programs at the Smithsonian.
In the museums. Only a few of the Smithsonian museums offer programs designed specifically for young children, although virtually all of the museums are visited by preschoolers and their parents--and thus address Goal 1 informally. Some of the museums, like the National Museum of American Art, have occasional "family days," offering a variety of activities in which many preschoolers and their parents participate. Others have special exhibits, like "hands-on history," in the National Museum of American History, and the "Discovery Room" in the National Museum of Natural History, which provide multi-sensory, interactive experiences for visitors of all ages. These exhibits are especially popular with families, who frequently include preschoolers--and the Discovery Room has, in fact, four preschool programs on its premises, which groups can book in advance. In addition, the National Museum of Natural History has a number of popular preschool tours; and the National Air and Space museum offers, in its planetarium, occasional programs--on topics like "colors and shapes in the universe"--for preschool groups.
At the zoo. The National Zoo has the most appeal for preschool children among the attractions at the Smithsonian. Young children love to look at animals. . . and the Zoo affords them the opportunity to be outdoors in a relatively unconstrained environment. Consequently, they come in droves--both with their families and as members of preschool class groups. In addition to participating in special tours, they can also book visits to Zoolab, a hands-on exhibit that contains many things of interest to young children. In the Zoolab, they can try on a keeper's uniform, for example, or use a magnifying glass to get a close-up look at the hairs on an elephant's skin or the individual barbs on a feather. As a special bow to its preschool audience, the Zoo several years ago designed an area where preschoolers can get a close-up view of the tigers through a child-high window. This "Tiger Stop" also includes climbing equipment and a child-sized water fountain. In addition, the Zoo has loan kits--on the subjects of "birds," "reptiles," and "mammals," for preschool classes.
At the Discovery Theater. The Discovery Theater is a live theater for children operated by the Smithsonian Associates. Located in the Arts and Industries Building, the theater's productions are especially focused on the preschool through grade 3 set.
In addition, Smithsonian and OESE collaborate on a series of professional development courses for DC--area teachers. One of the courses, taught by the staff from the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center, is on using the Smithsonian as a resource for early childhood teaching and learning.
Ms. Ann Bay
Office of Elementary and Secondary Education
Arts in Industries Building
MRC 402 - Room 1163
Washington, DC 20560