The Smithsonian’s Secretary, Lonnie G. Bunch III learned the value of education from his parents. Since COVID-19 he is making it a priority to integrate the Smithsonian into every classroom in the country.
In an article in the Smithsonian magazine, Bunch says that following the pandemic disruption to education he has been considering how the institution can help: “when I think about how the Smithsonian can be of value to our public, the answer is clear: education.”
The Smithsonian has created online educational offerings across all age groups including digital tours and exhibitions. However, he writes that “rapid transition to online learning that Covid-19 demanded has cast into stark relief the disparities always present in our education system. Many young people, especially those already underserved, do not have access to a computer or reliable internet access.”
Museums bridging the digital divide
For this reason “The Smithsonian has committed to bridging the digital divide, providing no-tech educational resources to young people across the country.”
In partnership with USA Today, The Smithsonian created and distributed 75,000 “Summer Road Trip” packs filled with activities and information to spark interest in STEM, the arts, and history. The collection of activities for 6 to 12 year olds include making a biplane from a paper towel roll and cooking Louisiana-inspired red beans and rice, to compliment learning about exhibits at the National Air & Space Museum and the National Museum of American History.
With the new school year ready to begin Bunch says that it’s time to re-commit to the Smithsonians educational idea and support K-12 education with outreach programmes.
“Since becoming Secretary, I’ve prioritized the goal of integrating the Smithsonian into every classroom in the country. This fall, as schools resume with a mixture of in-person and remote learning, we recognize that for many young people, their classroom is their home. Committing to our educational mission means reaching people where they are by increasing our digital resources, working with school districts to develop effective distance learning tools, supporting educators and families in an unfamiliar situation.”
Image: Bessie Coleman courtesy National Air & Space Museum