Science Teaching Resources

Smithsonian Geologist Elizabeth Cottrell talking with students

Smithsonian geologist Dr. Elizabeth Cottrell talking with students. Smithsonian photo by Wei Qian.

The links below provide packages of topic resources for middle school students and teachers. Resources include webcasts and podcasts, lessons, click-through activities, literacy resources, videos, and science expert role models. Use the resources to create a lesson plan, develop a research project, generate an interactive class experience, or otherwise engage pre-teen and teen learners in a science topic. Relevant national science standards are provided for each resource package.

Click a link below to jump to list of topics in each discipline.

Earth Science | Life Science | Paleontology | Social Studies

EARTH SCIENCE

Topic: Antarctic Meteorites

How are meteorites that are found in Antarctica traced back to Mars and elsewhere? Use these resources to explore how chemistry reveals the origins of Antarctic meteorites.

Brilliant mix of shapes colors like stained glass of a thin section of Antarctic meteorite.

Topic: Asteroids and Meteorites

What do meteorites reveal about asteroids and the rest of our solar system? Use these resources to learn more about these mysterious space rocks and why they are important.

Allende meteorite

Topic: Geology of Gems and Minerals

Did you know that most gems come from elements that crystallize during the creation of rocks? Use these resources to learn more about the geology of gems and other mineral products.

Crystals of garnet on muscovite

Topic: Minerals and Microbes

Did you realize that microbes, such as fungi and bacteria, have relationships with minerals? Use these resources to learn more about where microbes live and what defines a mineral.

handful of soil

Topic: Volcanoes and Plate Tectonics

Did you know volcanoes are windows into the geologic processes happening in the Earth’s interior? Use these resources to learn more about volcanism and plate tectonics.

Photo of Mount Cleveland volcano

LIFE SCIENCE

Topic: Adaptations of Insects and Other Arthropods

How do insects and spiders survive in the various environments they live in? Use these resources to examine adaptations of the most diverse group of animals on Earth.

Photo of bees

Topic: Ants: Social Insects and Farmers

What has allowed some ants to become excellent farmers like us? Use these resources to see how ants' social characteristics have set the stage for their farming abilities.

Leaf-cutter ants on fungi. Photo by Ted Schultz, Smithsonian

Topic: Biodiversity of Deep Coral Reefs

What is the ecology of deep coral reefs and their inhabitants like? Use these resources to see how scientists explore the variety of life on little-explored  deep ocean reefs.

Photo of a deep reef

Topic: Biodiversity of Ocean Invertebrates

Did you know that the vast, open waters of the ocean are teeming with life, such as worms, shrimps, and jellies? Use these resources to learn more about the hidden biodiversity of the oceans.

ocean amphipod

Topic: Bird Extinctions in Recent Geologic Time

How many bird species have gone extinct as a result of human activities? Use these resources to look into bird extinctions in the Holocene, the period of time since the last ice age ended.

passenger pigeon

Topic: Forensic Science of Bird Strikes

After a bird hits an airplane, how do scientists determine what species it was and why it was in the flight path? Use these resources to see how forensic ornithology helps keep airplane flights safe.

Photo of bird feathers

Topic: Mammal Biodiversity 

How can museum collections contribute to discovering new mammal species? Use these resources to explore how and why new mammal species are found, named, and catalogued.

The Olinguito, discovered in Ecuador by a team led by Smithsonian'

Topic: Ocean Biodiversity and Biocoding

Why is it important to get measures of the entire biodiversity of a reef habitat, or elsewhere? Use these resources to explore how – and why – marine biologists study ocean biodiversity.

Photo of coral reef

Topic: Parasites and Parasitism

Why should we pay attention to parasites and their relationships with hosts? Use these resources to explore the ins and outs of parasites and their impacts on us.

White, segmented tapeworm on a black background, wound back and forth more than 10 times to fit on the rectangular screen.

Topic: Plant Collections and Citizen Science

Why are plant specimens kept in huge herbarium collections valuable for science? Use these resources to see how plant collections can be used to map ecosystem changes over time.

Mesquite

Topic: Spiders as Predators

What adaptations allow spiders to be effective predators? Use these resources to explore the diversity of ways that spiders lure, catch, and consume their prey.

This assassin spider (family Archaeidae) preys on other spiders with its impressive jaws. Photo by Hannah Wood, Smithsonian.

PALEONTOLOGY

Topic: Dinosaur Lives and Ecosystems

Have you thought about what sorts of environments dinosaurs lived in? Use these resources to learn how paleontologists are piecing together evidence of dinosaur ecosystems.

Swampy forest ecosystem in Maryland 110 million years ago. Depiction by Mary Parrish, Smithsonian.

Topic: Fossil Whales and Whale Evolution

Do you know how whales and other marine mammals evolved? Use these resources to learn how scientists use fossils as clues to unlock the mysteries of whale evolution.

Image of llanocetus baleen whale

Topic: Mass Extinction of Large Dinosaurs and More

Why do large dinosaurs no longer roam the Earth? Use these resources to see how teams of scientists figured out what caused a mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous, 66 million years ago.

Asteroid impact

Topic: Reading Climate Change from Fossil Leaves

How do scientists use plant fossils as climate indicators? Use these resources to learn more about interpreting past ecosystem changes, including global warming, through fossil leaves.

Photo of fossil leaf

Topic: Tracking Global Change Through Ocean Fossils

Have you ever wondered what conditions on Earth were like millions of years ago? Use these resources to understand how scientists track global conditions through forams and other evidence from oceans.

forams

Topic: Triassic Life, Extinction, and Recovery

Who used to be the top predators, and what events opened the door for the rise of dinosaurs? Use these resources to explore life during the transition from the Triassic Period to the Jurassic.

Photo of Phytosaur skull

SOCIAL STUDIES

Topic: Arctic Conditions and Cultures

How have people survived and moved around in the Arctic for thousands of years? Use these resources to find out how Arctic people have adapted to life in an ever-changing icy environment.

Photo by Edward S. Curtis, Library of Congress  LC-USZ62-89847.

Topic: Bones and Environmental Health

How do environmental contaminants affect bones as they develop? Use these resources to find out how the environments we live in leave a record on our skeletons.

 Smithsonian photo.

Topic: Bones and Forensic Anthropology

What can skeletons tell us about how people lived and died? Use these resources to find out how forensic anthropologists glean information from studying human bones.

Skeletal remains

Topic: Cellphone Science

Have you considered that a little part of everywhere in the world is inside your phone? Use these resources to explore the environmental and cultural impacts of cellphones.

cellphone

Topic: Early Human Evolution and Culture

What did early humans eat and when did they start using tools? Use these resources to explore the factors that shaped the evolution of human diets.

Photo of stone chopper

Topic: Island Biodiversity - Past to Future

Have humans ever lived in a way that doesn't impact on other species? Use these resources to visit island and coastal settings where human impacts on biodiversity are easier to tease out.

Island fox

Topic: Mummies and Mummification

How and why do mummies get made? Use these resources to explore the range from natural to cultural mummification in various settings, including ancient Egypt.

Mummified Egyptian ibis