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National Museum of American History

Logo, National Museum of American History

The National Museum of American History, as stated on its website, has amassed more than 3 million artifacts in order to "inspir[e] a broader understanding of our nation and its many peoples."

The main page of the museum's website can be a bit overwhelming, so let's get you to their teacher resources straight away. This section offers an immensely helpful search tool. Choose grade level, resource type, and/or historical era, and see what resources the Smithsonian can offer. Available resource type choices are artifacts, interactives/media, lessons/activities, primary sources, reviewed websites, reference materials, and worksheets.

Pleasantly, the museum didn't stop there in designing useful tools to engage children in learning history. Try, for example, the timeline. This feature lets you view a historical overview or an era's chronology through its material culture. Compare the artifacts of two eras, or use it as a basis to plan lessons within one time period. You can also take a look at the museum's thematic collections of activities and books for young children on topics such as Japanese internment, women's history, and life in sod houses. And who doesn't like games? "Got Ramps? Architectural Barriers Game" is a great way to introduce the Americans with Disabilities Act, comparing the difficulties of navigating life in a wheelchair in 1955 and 2005.

Still other options offered include more than 55 online exhibits, ranging from "¡Azúcar! The Life and Music of Celia Cruz" to "Within These Walls . . . ," which discusses the contributions of everyday people to major historical events; a collections search feature; and the museum's blog. Don't overlook the blog, automatically assuming that it's irrelevant to teaching. As a matter of fact, if you scroll down to the category options in the right hand column, you can select "Teaching & Learning." This will tell the blog to only display entries related to teaching. Examples include "Using objects with English language learners" and "My tweenage historical bookshelf."

And, as always, if you're in the area (DC in this case), consider a field trip. The museum has a variety of activities designed for kids.