• Image promoting the Smithsonian Science Education Center's new e-Book, Expedition: Insects

Life Science

Bear and cubs in the woods

With support from an NSF grant, Smithsonian Science Education Center developed the Science and Technology Concepts Program™ (STC™): A basal, science and engineering-practices centered program for grades K-10.

Physical Science

Water droplet 
Each STC™ unit provides opportunities for students to experience scientific phenomena firsthand. The units cover life, earth, and physical sciences with technology.

Earth & Space Science

Rocks in the sunset
Carolina Biological Supply Company creates kits for each STC™ unit, supporting the teacher with everything needed for meaningful learning experiences.

Innovation in Education

The Smithsonian Science Education Center received a 5-year, $30 million Investing in Innovation (i3) grant to improve K-8 science education. We are working with researchers, communities, districts, schools, and teachers in three regions to evaluate the effectiveness of our inquiry-based science education model (LASER: Leadership and Assistance for Science Education Reform). 

A Community of Support 

The LASER model addresses classroom instruction using a research-based science curriculum with aligned professional development for teachers.  LASER also provides the entire support system with excellent science education. This prepares students for the opportunities of our 21st century economy.

Diversity of Classrooms 

Our goal is to develop practices and procedures that can be replicated in other schools, districts, and states. LASER i3 is currently working with over 75,000 students and 3,000 teachers from urban and rural schools in grades one through eight. Learn more

Smithsonian Institution

Founded in 1846, the Smithsonian is the world's largest museum and research complex, consisting of 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoological Park and nine research facilities. The Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC) was established by the Smithsonian and the National Academies in 1985. Its mission is to improve the learning and teaching of science for all students in the United States and throughout the world. Go to the Smithsonian home page

  • Leafsnap Turns Students into Hands-On Botanists

    Photographing a leaf with the Leafsnap app
    Photographing a leaf with the Leafsnap app

    “I’m working with our app, Leafsnap,” the scientist said.

    I hesitated before joining her. Visiting the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History for a before-hours event, I had wandered into the room hoping the butterfly pavilion would be open early. (It wasn’t.) Instead, I found a lone scientist working with her iPhone and a few plants.

    “Leafsnap is a free app based on facial recognition software,” she elaborated, gesturing to her phone. “You take a picture of a leaf, and it tells you what kind of plant it is.”

    I stopped. It did what?

    Leafsnap: The Interactive Field Guide for iPhone and iPad

    The scientist, Ida Lopez, turned out to be the Smithsonian program coordinator for Leafsnap and was delighted to explain more.
    Leafsnap, she explained, was started in 2003 when several computer science professors from Columbia University and the University of Maryland approached the Smithsonian with an idea: They wanted to apply facial recognition software to the natural world. With their technology, a field botanist could pack a computer, a camera, a GPS, and a small Wi-Fi antenna, then snap a photo of a leaf and immediately know what kind of plant it was.

    A camera, computer, GPS, and small antenna? It sounded cumbersome, but Lopez continued.