Few crowds match the frenetic excitement of thousands of teachers looking for free classroom resources, and once a year, the Smithsonian embraces our local educators. Once a year, the Smithsonian invites Washington area teachers to explore classroom offerings from different Smithsonian units and encourage the local teaching community to use their Smithsonian as a classroom partner. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History hosted this year’s Teachers’ Night on Friday, October 23rd. The Postal Museum joined dozens of other Smithsonian units to promote our teacher resources, but you can see from the pictures, we might have had the most popular table there!
We choose particular programs to emphasize each year at Teachers’ Night, and this year we focused on programs accessible via the internet. The Postal Museum’s guided school tours are always popular, but we featured excellent resources teachers can use in their own classrooms. This year we highlighted the pre- and post-visit lesson plans for the Stamp Stampede school field trip for early elementary students. These lesson plans introduce the field trip content to students, emphasizing organizational skills and developing awareness of jobs people perform in the community. Another very popular program we promoted this year was the Design It! curriculum that emphasizes design elements of stamp production. Design It! lessons use art technique to highlight social studies curriculum, and were a big hit with Friday night’s teacher crowd. The third program we emphasized was the new middle school history website recently launched called Moving Mail West. The website features lesson plans about the role of mail in western history, and even features a Pony Express video game!
One of the lesson plans we offered turned out to be a surprise hit in a totally unexpected way. This year’s event attracted quite a few high school science teachers, many of which don’t regularly bring students to museums. With a little tweaking, the museum’s Stamp Stories program turned out to meet these teachers’ needs. Traditionally successful in history classrooms, this activity emphasizes topical stamp collecting as the basis for debate and essay writing. Friday night’s science teachers challenged us to re-envision the Stamp Stories program to fit the science curriculum, perhaps focusing on stamps that feature cumulus clouds or kelp forests! Now we’re eyeing the Design It! curriculum for opportunities to make connections to subjects such as science. Ida Marie, a docent helping with the event, commented that “…whether they are science teachers, resource librarians or special ed teachers—stamps are cool!” We want to hear how teachers might use science stamps in the classroom. We’re open to creative suggestions from classrooms around the country!