Science Teaching Resources

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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


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

Are you surprised 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: Modeling and Measuring Volcanic Eruptions

How can you study volcanic eruptions without putting yourself in danger? Use these resources to learn more about how scientists model and measure explosive eruptions.

Photo of Eruption Simulator

Topic: Volcanoes and Plate Tectonics

How are volcanoes 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


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 hidden biodiversity of 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 since the last ice age ended.

passenger pigeon

Topic: Butterfly Colors and Biomimicry

How do butterflies come by their colors and do those colors help them in any way? Use these resources to explore what causes butterfly colors and how people might use similar processes to spark human innovation.

Pink Rose Swallowtail butterfly (Pachliopta kotzebuea) perching on a leaf. Smithsonian image by Chip Clark.

Topic: Deep Sea Urchins and Other Echinoderms

Do sea stars, sea urchins, and sea cucumbers live in the deep sea? Use these resources to look into the history of ocean expeditions that found, collected, and kept data on echinoderms.

Transparent, tear-drop shaped animal with whitish dots around a circular center with a tiny hole, on a black background.

Topic: Ferns, Spores, and Plant Reproduction

How do ferns reproduce without seeds? Use these resources to examine spores and other fern characteristics, and explore how dispersal plays a role in plant distributions.

Pattern of sori (made up of sporangia, containing spores) on the back of the green fronds of a fern. Photo by gailhampshire via Wikimedia, CC-BY.

Topic: Flies - Robbers and Relatives

What unique twist on being a fly gives the robber fly (also called the assassin fly) its name? Use these resources to learn more about the diversity of flies and their feeding behaviors.

Up-close view of tiny assassin (or "robber") fly, genus Holcocephela, that eats tiny prey such as mites. Smithsonian image by Torsten Dikow.

Topic: Forensic Science of Bird Strikes

When 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 makes airplane flights safer.

Photo of bird feathers

Topic: Freshwater Snails and Ecosystems

What role do snails play in nature? Use these resources to learn how freshwater snails fit into food webs, the extent of snail biodiversity, and what threats endanger them.

Four freshwater snails (Semisulcospira libertina) with opercula (hard covers over openings) showing. Photo by Hyun-tae Kim via EOL, CC-BY.

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: Octopods, Squids, and other Cephalopods

How many types of octopods are there? How do scientists study them in the deep ocean? Use these resources to explore the biodiversity and mysteries of cephalopods.

Whitish ocean creature with fins, big black eyes, and curled tentacles on a black background.

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.


Topic: Sexual Selection

What traits help animals attract and compete for mates? Use these resources to explore sexual selection through the variety of elaborate body characteristics used in animal courtship displays.

In this species of tiny animal called an ostracod, males are smaller than females and have special light organs that they use to compete for females by emitting flashes of bioluminesence. Photo by Jim G. Morin.

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.


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: Fossilization: How Fossils Form

What causes bones to fossilize? Use these resources to define fossilization, explore the ways different types of tissue are preserved, and learn about the technology used by taphonomists.

How does the fossil bone (black and grey) on the left differ from the modern, weathered bone on the right? Smithsonian image by Juliana Ollson.

Topic: Fossil Preparation from Field to Museum

How do paleontologists find, transport, clean, and prep fossils? Use these resources to learn about the intricate process of getting fossils ready for museum study and display.

Smithsonian Collections Manager Matthew Miller uses an air scribe to clean off vertebrae from the tail of a Ceratosaurus dinosaur. Photo by Michelle Pinsdorf, 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 Earth? Use these resources to see how scientists figured out what caused a mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous, 66 million years ago.

Asteroid impact

Topic: Plant-Insect Relationships Through Time

When did plant-insect relationships begin and how do we know? Use these resources to learn about the types of relationships and evidence of plant-insect coevolution.

Drawing of ancient lacewing insect eating pollen drops from a bennettitalean plant, reconstructed from fossil evidence. Drawing by Vichai Malikul.

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 marine evidence.


Topic: Triassic Life, Extinction, and Recovery

Who used to be the top predators, and what 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


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 a 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.

 Teeth with stains. 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.


Topic: Early Human Evolution and Culture

What did early humans eat, how did they procure it, and when did they start using tools? Use these resources to explore the factors that shaped the evolution of  meat-eating in 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 form and endure over time? Use these resources to explore the range from natural to cultural mummification in various settings, including ancient Egypt.

Mummified Egyptian ibis

Topic: World Languages: Diversity, Endangerment, and Revitalization

What can be done to revive endangered languages? Use these resources to explore linguistic diversity and learn about efforts to recover endangered cultures and languages.

Two men sitting in a wooded area. One has light-colored clothes and is looking at a stack of papers in his lap. The other has a straw hat.