Project-Based Learning | News

Smithsonian Launches Quests Program To Encourage Discovery and Collaboration

The Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies has launched Smithsonian Quests, a digital badge program designed to foster project-based learning and inspire students to explore their own ideas and interests.

To earn digital badges, students complete a series of online activities and submit their work for review by Smithsonian education experts. All quests engage students in exploring a topic of interest, either as part of a formal standards-aligned school curriculum or as a student-driven after school activity.

Activities offered include subjects such as creative writing, photography, oral histories, and graph-making. The cross-curricular, standards-aligned programs are intended to prepare students for college and future careers by incorporating knowledge and skill-building into the quests, according to a Smithsonian release.

The Smithsonian Quests badges are integrated with material from the Smithsonian Online Education Conferences. The first badges aligned with the 2013 Smithsonian Online Education Conference Series, "Community Historian" and "Portrait Reader," debuted Wednesday.

Additionally, 14 badges piloted during the SHOUT Environmental Conference Series and the recent Inauguration Conference--including Arts Advocate, Dirt Detective, H2O Hero, and Symbols Spotter--are currently available.

Teachers can also earn digital badges for their work. These badges will document an educator's participation in Smithsonian online conferences, online professional development sessions, and the completion of class projects. All quests will be reviewed and badges awarded by a team of Smithsonian experts.

Educators can register at Within a few days, registrants receive a Welcome Toolkit email with a username and password, along with an "invite code," which is unique for teachers and students to use and join the same group, enabling interaction with fellow members.

Founded in 1846, the Smithsonian is the world's largest museum and research complex, consisting of 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoological Park, and nine research facilities. There are 6,000 Smithsonian employees and 6,500 volunteers, and approximately 30 million people from around the world visited the Smithsonian in 2012.

About the Author

Kevin Hudson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached at [email protected].