Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Unseen Connections – A Natural History of the Cellphone


  • Title: Unseen Connections – A Natural History of the Cellphone
  • Air Date: June 4, 2015
  • Series: Smithsonian Science How webcasts, which are designed to connect natural history science and research to upper-elementary and middle-school students.

This video features Dr. Joshua A. Bell, cultural anthropologist at the National Museum of Natural History. Have you ever considered that a little part of everywhere in the world is inside your phone? Joshua studies the natural history of cellphones, from cradle to grave. Take a journey with him along a supply chain, from the mines that produce cellphone minerals to the millions of discarded cellphones. Consider how cellphones have revolutionized our communications and changed our personal interactions. Reflect with Joshua about the emerging social implications of a cellphone being one of our most intimate possessions.

Teaching Resources

Cellphone Science

National Middle School Standards

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

Earth Science

MS-ESS3 Earth and Human Activity

  • MS-ESS3-3: Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.
  • MS-ESS3-4: Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth's systems.

National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies (NCSS)

Production, Distribution, and Consumption

  • People have wants that often exceed the limited resources available to them.

Science, Technology, and Society

  • Science, and its practical application, technology, have had a major influence on social and cultural change, and on the ways people interact with the world.

Global Connections

  • Global connections have intensified and accelerated the changes faced at the local, national and international levels.

People, Places, and Environments

  • The study of people, places, and environments enables us to understand the relationship between human populations and the physical world.
Resource Type
Videos and Webcasts
Grade Level
Learning Standards
National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies, Next Generation Science Standards
Earth Science, Anthropology and Social Studies