Online Learning from the American Museum of Natural History

Welcome to one of the world’s great museums: the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Since 1869, the AMNH has pursued two missions: to explore the world, and to educate learners of all ages about the extraordinary diversity of nature, the cosmos, and human culture. Every year the Museum sends top-caliber researchers in anthropology and the natural sciences to the corners of the earth, and they return with additions to its extraordinary collection of over 32 million objects and specimens. Forty-five exhibition halls display and explain these ongoing discoveries to millions of visitors from around the world.

Scientific and technological advances of the late 20th century have made the Museum’s mission to foster universal science literacy all the more urgent. Part of thatmission, undertaken by the Education Department’s National Center for Science Literacy, Education and Technology involves taking the Museum’s resources beyond its walls to help people everywhere learn about real science where it happens: out in the world. So if you can’t join the visitors who pour through the Museum’s doors every day, join those who tap in every week to its remarkable online educational resources. Here’s a virtual tour. Your first stop is the Web site for the American Museum of Natural History (, where you may access all the educational resources of the Museum (as you also discover the latest exhibitions and public programs) by going to the “Kids & Families†and “Education†sections of the homepage.

Resources for Learning — A portal for science educators

Resources for Learning (RFL) is an online catalog that serves as the gateway to the Museum’s extensive collection of scientific and cultural educational materials. It’s free, it’s easy to navigate, and it’s real science — research, fieldwork, exhibitions, and collections — adapted for online use. RFL is geared to K–12 educators and anyone interested in teaching or learning about science. Contents include profiles of scientists and science topics, hands-on activities, interactives, videos, galleries of images, and reference lists. Each resource is a self-contained unit that can be used individually or combined with other resources. Lesson plans and curriculum units around a variety of topics are also available. RFL is easy to browse by topic, grade level, or resource type. Visitors can also narrow a search using keywords, which allows for easy connections to science standards. Topics (Anthropology, Astronomy, Biology, Earth Science, and Paleontology) and subtopics ranging from climate and cloning to microbiology and meteorites reflect the passions of the Museum’s more than 200 research scientists.

RFL also features Special Collections: resources developed around areas of particular or current importance to the Museum, such as Biodiversity, Antarctica, Vietnam, Ocean Life and Meteorites. Far more than a conventional database, this extensive site offers one-stop shopping (for free!) for innovative science educators. The development of Resources for Learning has been made possible by a generous grant from The Louis Calder Foundation. Significant educational and programming support has been provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Next stop: OLogy — the Museum’s science-rich web site for kids

A favorite destination for seven-to-twelve-year-old kids, OLogy taps into their innate scientific curiosity about the natural world. The suffix “ology†means the study of something, and each OLogy topic is a specific scientific discipline. OLogy topics to date include paleontology, astronomy, archaeology, genetics, marine biology, physical science (Einstein), and biodiversity. Kids can dig into these topics by playing games, meeting real “ologists,†asking questions, reading stories, and taking polls and quizzes. Probably the most innovative aspect of the OLogy site is that it allows kids to sign up for their own personal home pages, where they can “collect†OLogy cards (imagine hundreds of virtual, multi-faceted “baseball cards,†packed with facts, quotes, stories, and games) that kids have gathered throughout the site. Kids can sort their cards and use them to build online projects that can be submitted to the Museum and which may qualify for posting in the Hall of Fame for everyone to see. Whether kids head out on a “scientific expedition†or behind the scenes in the Museum’s research labs, they experience the delight of scientific discovery firsthand.

Educators who link to OLogy through Resources for Learning

Educators who link to OLogy through Resources for Learning will find added value in many forms: correlation with science standards; the After-School Educator’s Guide to OLogy (plus individual OLogy Content Guides); and related print and web-based resources.

The development of OLogy has been made possible by a generous grant from The Louis Calder Foundation.

Science Bulletins — Exploring the natural world

Another favorite stop is Science Bulletins: current research in astrophysics, Earth science, and biodiversity. This Web site presents the dynamic nature of natural processes at work from the inner Earth to the far reaches of the universe. Short video documentaries introduce world-class scientists on the job, from astronomers in Antarctica tracking the Cosmic Microwave Background to ichthyologists in the Colombian Andes searching for the legendary fat catfish. Comprehensive essays allow you to dig deeper into each of the stories. Eye-catching interactives give viewers a look at what it’s like to participate in an expedition to the South Pole, how meteorologists track storm damage via satellite, and how conservationists survey biodiversity. The Science Bulletins are also available through Resources for Learning as a Special Collection, where it’s easy to search by keyword or media type to find resources that match a curriculum or grade level or a report your child is writing for school — and which will keep you up-to-date on current science findings.

Significant educational and programming support for Science Bulletins has been provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Science Bulletins are also available as an RFL Special Collection.

Seminars on Science — Online professional development courses

Don’t miss Seminars on Science, the Museum’s online professional development program and a key component of its educational outreach. Co-authored and co-taught by Museum scientists and educators, Seminars on Science courses bring K–12 educators virtually into the Museum’s collections, laboratories, and exhibitions. Eight six-week online courses explore the life, earth, and physical sciences — from studying spiders to thinking about life in the universe or considering the ethical implications of genetic engineering. Each of these standards-based courses connects learners and teachers through weekly online discussions and activities, and is available for graduate credits and continuing education units. Participants join a remarkable learning community and come away with lesson plans, resources, and professional contacts to use in their own classrooms. A Course Tour offers in-depth description of the seminars, including what’s involved and how to register.

Seminars on Science is generously supported by The Atlantic Philanthropies.

Halls and Collections — Go where the Museum has gone

The Museum has devoted much energy to putting a vast array of general resources online, from artifacts from its extraordinary collections to exhibitions on everything from Body Art to Vietnam. For example, search more than 58,000 Asian artifacts for anything from abacuses to zithers, take a virtual stroll through the Museum's legendary Fossil Halls, or visit the online version of the Pearls exhibition, which explores the source, ecology and value of these coveted gems. Accessible and searchable through RFL, each destination is supplemented by capsule summaries, lists of resources across media types, and supplementary tips and suggestions for K–12 teachers and learners.

For over 130 years, Museum scientists have been exploring and studying this extraordinary planet. For the last decade, Museum educators and technologists have been working to make those discoveries available to teachers and learners everywhere the Internet can reach. There’s something here for kids, home-schoolers, educators, and the general public — anyone who wants to know more about science today.

Email: Eric Hamilton