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Smithsonian Launches Environmental Education Program

The Shout Environmental Exploration Program, a resource from the Smithsonian for teaching about the environment, is returning for its second year.

Designed to expand current instruction, the program will offer a variety of tools that teachers can use when teaching about the environment.

Features of the program include:

  • Interactive webinars;
  • Lesson plans;
  • Hands-on activities; and
  • Involvement by Smithsonian scientists and other experts.

The theme this year is "Water Matters" and the series launches January 19 with a teacher preview session at 3 p.m. EST. Interested educators can register at shoutlearning.org.

The launch will be followed by three webinars. The first is "Water Questions: When We Want to Learn More," which is set for February 7-8, featuring seven sessions led by Smithsonian experts. Future webinars are set for March 21 and May 2.

The live webinars are designed for teachers to gain an overview and for students themselves to take part in as a classroom exercise focusing on a broad overview "from the art world to the zoo, from underwater to outer space, from current problems to future solutions," according to information provided by the Smithsonian. Afterward, the webinars will be archived for future retrieval and use.

To keep students interested and reward participation, a digital-recognition program called Smithsonian Badges have been introduced this year. Badges are earned as students complete a series of challenges that demonstrate their understanding of systems affecting water, human impact, and civic responsibility for water resources. Partners in Learning Network members are also eligible to earn a badge for their participation.

"Last year, Shout had more than 11,000 participants from 94 countries," said Stephanie Norby, executive director of the Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies, which leads the Shout program at the Smithsonian. "We expect participation to increase even more this year. With the addition of Smithsonian Badges, Shout gives educators tangible and practical ways to recognize and promote student learning with standards-aligned content and activities."

Educators who participated in last year's conference series focusing on land issues inspired teachers and students to take action in their own communities.

"After learning how much paper our school uses, my students developed a plan to reduce paper consumption," said Joli Barker, second grade teacher at Slaughter Elementary School in McKinney, TX. "Due to their efforts, our district implemented an online report card system and other paper-saving initiatives. This program opened their eyes to the world beyond our community and made them see that they can make a difference."

The program is a joint effort of the Smithsonian with Microsoft Partners in Learning, a 10-year commitment launched by Microsoft in 2003 for nearly $500 million to help education around the world, and TakingITGlobal, an international education effort launched in 2000 that today has 20 million users. Funding is provided by a Smithsonian Youth Access Grant and by LearningTimes, the conference's producer.

More information on the series including schedules, a list of webinar speakers, and tips can be found at shoutlearning.org.