Skip to main content

The Q? Blog

Teens Use Museum Objects to Complete the 'Q?rius Collections Challenge'

by Erika Wright -- Nov 13, 2014

Erika Wright is a Q?rius Educator and the Science Communication Facilitator for the YES! (Youth...

Students take notes about collection objects in the Q?rius Collections Challenge school program. Smithsonian Institution photo.
Students take notes about collection objects in the Q?rius Collections Challenge school program. Smithsonian Institution photo.

Did you ever wonder what a Smithsonian scientist does when they have a question, or how they go about answering it? In the "Q?rius Collections Challenge," one of our free 60-minute school programs, students put themselves in our scientists’ shoes and use the more than 6,000 objects in the Margaret A. Cargill Collections Zone to find out.

One way scientists try to answer research questions is by examining collections – and if you want to look at collections the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is definitely the place to be! The Museum is home to over 126 million objects, the vast majority of which are in storage. Only a few are on display in the Museum’s halls. Scientists access the collections to assist their research. The "Q?rius Collections Challenge" school program allows students to experience collections-based research for themselves.

Students examine insects from the Q?rius collections. Smithsonian Institution photo.During the school program, students work in teams to answer a collections-based question in one of the seven research areas of the museum: Anthropology, Botany, Entomology, Invertebrate Zoology, Mineral Sciences, Paleobiology, or Vertebrate Zoology. Using components of the scientific process – including making observations, asking questions, and posing hypotheses – students make their own discoveries on topics ranging from what mammals’ teeth may indicate about their diets, to the evolution of tool technology, and more!

In seeking to answer these questions, each team creates their own collection of objects. Students can use hand lenses and microscopes to examine the objects and they have access to a host of Smithsonian resources, including the digital collections browser, to further their learning. This is often the favorite part for most students, as they combine their knowledge with close observations of real museum objects to create connections and new understanding.

After they have finished working with the collections, we encourage students to pose their own hypotheses and projects for further research. This reminds them that science is a never-ending process. To wrap up the program, each team of students shares their collection and defends their conclusions to the rest of the class.

"Q?rius Collections Challenge" is just one of six free staff-led programs we offer in Q?rius. All Q?rius school programs are designed for grades 6 through 12 and aligned to NGSS standards. Explore all of our offerings and register your group today!


Program Details: "Q?rius Collections Challenge" is a free, staff-led school program created for Grades 6-12. It is designed to keep students on task for 60 minutes. Subject areas: Biology, Ecology, Life Science, Social Studies.

How to Register: We offer onsite school programs Monday through Friday. To register, go to the school program registration page, choose your date and time, click the "Sign Up" button, and on the registration form select the "Q?rius Collections Challenge" program.

Categories: School Programs
--> -->