Skip to main content.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Website Search Box
ocean illustration

These student activities represent the diversity of science conducted at the Museum and encourage the development of science inquiry and critical thinking skills. Activities range from elementary through high school. They can be incorporated into classroom lessons or units.


Activity Groups:


Formation and Evolution of the Earth and Solar System

Decoding Mars
Examine geologic patterns on Earth, including microscopic patterns in thin sections, earth formation patterns in outcrops or roadcuts, and large-scale feature patterns in satellite images. As you advance through each level of training, you will gain skills to prepare you for the ultimate challenge: looking for evidence of water on Mars. 

This Dynamic Planet
An interactive map lets you explore 1,500 volcanoes, 44,000 earthquakes, 170 impact craters, and all the tectonic plates that make up the earth's crust. If a volcano erupts, or the crust trembles, you can find the event on this map. The back of the map would make a great poster for the classroom.


Human Culture and Diversity

Human Evolution in 3D
Students can examine 3D renderings of skulls from humans and their biological ancestors at this site developed by the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Nutrients for Humanity
In the Humanity Against Hunger web module, students become volunteers to help solve the severe food shortage faced in Africa. Through the interactive experience, students learn how nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous deficiencies can stunt plant growth in different ways. They also learn how replenishing the land with fertilizer can help farmers achieve higher yields of crops to feed more. Created for students in grades 6-12.

IPNI Academy
If students think soil science is boring, they should try this! The program contains three online games, lessons and facts to teach your students, grades K-5, the importance of N, P and K. Best of all, the fun, comic format is guaranteed to capture both their attention and imagination.


Discovering and Understanding Life's Diversity

Reefs Unleashed
Learn the techniques marine biologists use to document the extreme diversity of life in our planet's oceans, and then try them yourself! Identify the animals that took up residence on a plate in an autonomous reef monitoring structure, or “reef condo,” in Bali. See if what you found matches existing species.

Coral Reef Interactive
This web-based tool is designed for students to take on the persona of a local resident, a hotel manager, or a tourist. In these roles, they weigh the interdependence between the economic and social impact of human activity and the biological needs of a coral reef and its conservation.

North American Mammals
There is a web page for every species on the continent with great images of mammals, audio recordings, range maps, scientific illustrations, a glossary, and an interactive map that lets students create field guides for anywhere in Canada, the U.S.A. and Mexico. Mammals are searchable by location, by name, and family tree. Special information on conservation of endangered species is also provided.

Collections Database
Students can search the database to conduct virtual research on the Museum’s collections to make their own comparisons, using information and photos of the specimens in the collections.

[ TOP ]