Teacher Resources

Welcome, Let's Do History!

Thank you for using Smithsonian's History Explorer! This page is designed to help you navigate the site and to provide you with additional teaching supports through our primary source guide, blog posts, and Thinkfinity Community group.

Learn more about teacher professional development at the Museum and our 10 city "Smithsonian's Let's Do History Tour"

Tips for Using History Explorer

History Explorer is a full-featured search of all the educational resources from the National Museum of American History. For tutorials, tips for searching, and advice on subscribing to RSS feeds, visit How to Use this Site.

Primary Source Guide Picture

Guides to Teaching with Primary Sources

Engaging Students with Primary Sources, a guide for teachers, includes brief introductions to using documents, photographs, oral histories, and objects for classroom learning. The guide includes student handouts, sample lessons, recommendations for finding primary sources by type, and more support materials for teachers.

Shoe Poster

If You Walked in My Shoes This teaching poster introduces students to the who, what, where, when, why, and how of object investigation and the personal stories in history through six pairs of shoes in the Museum's collection. 

Looking at Artifacts, Thinking About History, an essay developed for  The Object of History, a partnership between the National Museum of American History and the George Mason Center for History and New Media, was written by Museum curators and introduces teachers to the variety of stories objects can tell. The site includes links to other resources for interpreting primary sources.

Online Course: Teaching Historical Inquiry with Objects

Shoe PosterHow can you help your students to see history as a living, breathing record of the past? How can you motivate students to ask probing questions and seek complex answers? How can you bridge their historical knowledge with a lifelong commitment to civic action? Secondary social studies teachers looking for answers to these questions will find new ways to engage students in and out of the classroom in this online professional development course, "Teaching Historical Inquiry with Objects." Co-taught by Dr. Kathy Swan, Associate Professor of Education at the University of Kentucky, and Naomi Coquillon, Manager of Youth and Teacher Programs at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, "Teaching Historical Inquiry with Objects" will offer teachers accessible strategies and tactics for incorporating inquiry-based learning methods into their existing history lessons.

The course brings together the new College, Career and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies with the Smithsonian’s hands-on, museum-based educational techniques that bring historical artifacts to life for millions of visitors each year. Through explanation, demonstration, and dynamic examples, the course offers teachers practical ideas for how to entice students to craft complex and incisive questions; think critically about primary and secondary historical sources; form and support their opinions with evidence; and communicate their conclusions in ways that will prepare them to be engaged citizens of the world. Demonstrations will feature the Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s exhibitions and vast collection of historical artifacts and will offer ideas and resources to help teachers everywhere incorporate object- and inquiry-based teaching techniques and Smithsonian online resources into their own classrooms.

Course Dates & Requirements

October 7 - November 19, 2014; time commitment: 3-4 hours per week

To Register

Create a profile on edX then visit the course page to register. 

Upcoming Webinars

Join National Museum of American History educators on Wednesday afternoons at 4:30 pm Eastern for this monthly webinar series, where we will highlight key resources from the Museum’s online materials.  All webinars will be archived and made available immediately after the program. 

February webinar: Smithsonian X 3D
Learn about Smithsonian X 3D (3d.si.edu) and how it can be used in your classroom. About Smithsonian X 3D: Last fall the Smithsonian launched a 3D charter collection, including iconic, scientific, cultural, and historical objects. Students now have the opportunity to access, view, and in many cases download and reproduce selected objects in three dimensions. Using the website’s 3D Explorer, students can analyze every angle of an object, take true-to-life measurements, manipulate material properties, analyze cross-sections, and take curated tours to understand an object’s context.

March webinar: Podcasts
Hear ideas for using the History Explorer podcast series in your secondary classroom. The series is designed for students in grades 6 and up and provides 10-20 minute interviews with museum experts and first person perspectives on important events in American history, as well as behind the scenes views of artifacts in the collection. Visit http://americanhistory.si.edu/podcasts to preview materials.

April webinar: Civil War 
As the sesquicentennial of the Civil War continues, join us for an overview of the best of our Civil War online materials and a preview of resources in development. Designed for teachers of grades 5-8.

May webinar: OurStory and Summer Learning
Join us to explore resources to support children’s learning through the summer. Designed for elementary teachers and parents of children in grades K-4.

June webinar: Star-Spangled 200
In honor of the bicentennial of the national anthem and just in time for Flag Day, join us to find resources for teaching about the Star-Spangled Banner and learn how to participate in the Raise it Up! Anthem for America project, the largest simultaneous singing of a national anthem in history. Designed for teachers of grades 3-8.

July: No webinar

August webinar: Back to School with the C3 Framework
Start the new year with new resources following the new College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework! In this webinar, we will examine the Museum’s best resources for teaching the inquiry arc in the C3. Designed for secondary teachers.

September: No webinar 

October webinar: Research for National History Day
Are you and your students gearing up for this year’s National History Day competition? Find tips on searching for primary materials from the Smithsonian, podcasts, blog posts, and other resources that students can use to learn about the historian's craft.

November webinar: CANCELLED

December 10, 4:30-5 pm: Mobile-Friendly Resources
The results are in! Our December monthly webinar is teachers' choice, and you selected mobile-friendly resources, so that's what we'll do. Join us to learn more about our new mobile app, iBook, and mobile-friendly interactives.  

Additional Professional Development Opportunities

For ongoing professional development opportunities, view recorded webinars from Thinkfinity.org and its Thinkfinity partner sites, including the following:

Or, find online conferences and webinars with Smithsonian curators and educators on the following topics:

Suggestions for Planning a Visit

exterior of the museum

    Are you bringing your class to the National Museum of American History? Consider
    using the materials you find on History Explorer as pre- or post-visit activities, and
    take a look at our Plan Your Visit page for tips and details on events at the Museum. 



Staying in Touch

We love hearing from teachers, so be sure to keep in touch! You can find us...

In Edmodo

  • Educators from the National Museum of American History are active on Edmodo. Find new resources and ideas for social studies teaching on our page.

On Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube

  • Use the links above or at the bottom of the page to find the History Explorer team and the National Museum of American History on our social media channels. 

By Email