A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

Achieving the Goals: Goal 1--All Children in America Will Start School Ready to Learn

The Smithsonian Institution

Consisting of fifteen museums, the National Zoo, and a number of research facilities at locations around the world, the Smithsonian is a highly decentralized institution--and this affects the way its educational mission is carried out. Each one of the Smithsonian museums has its own education department, which offers programming for children and adults, relating directly the collections and research expertise of that particular museum. In addition, these are several central offices responsible for education. They include: The Smithsonian Associates (the Institution's membership and continuing education arm); the National Sciences Resources Center (a joint endeavor of the Smithsonian and the National Academy of Sciences to promote hands-on science in schools); and the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (which draws upon the Smithsonian as a whole to serve a national school audience.)

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.

From the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The Smithsonian Institution, the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) and the Santillana Publishing Company have produced an early childhood curriculum, One World, Many Children, in both English and Spanish. The curriculum was field tested at the Smithsonian's Early Enrichment Center and with a number of early childhood programs across the country. It is being marketed by Santillana.

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
Smithsonian Institution
Arts in Industries Building
MRC 402 - Room 1163
Washington, DC 20560

(202) 357-2111

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