Smithson to SmithsonianThe Birth of an Institution

The Smithsonian Institution is celebrating 175 years of the “increase and diffusion of knowledge.” Join us in exploring our history. What can we learn from looking back? How might the stories of the past put our present in a new light?"

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Lesson Plans

For secondary school teachers, the Smithsonian Office of Education has prepared three integrated classroom activities for grades 9 through 12 based on this exhibition.

The curriculum materials offered here are based on selected themes of the exhibition From Smithson to Smithsonian. Lessons are designed for upper division students in grades 9 through 12 and emphasize linking the past to the present through a series of object–based activities. All three lesson plans are available individually below or as a single file here.

These lesson plans require the use of the Adobe Acrobat Reader 3.0 (or higher).

Lesson Plan 1: Evaluating Historical Sources

In Lesson Plan One, students will identify methods historians use to study the past and will learn the relative strengths of a variety of primary source materials.

Lesson Plan 2: Who Was James Smithson?

In Lesson Plan Two, students will learn of the circumstances surrounding James Smithson's generous gift to the United States and examine primary source materials from Smithson's life.

Lesson Plan 3: Making the Connection - From Smithson to Smithsonian

In Lesson Plan Three, students will explore the national debate surrounding the acceptance of Smithson's gift, identify the divergent views of members of Congress, and examine the role of compromise in the American legislative process.