Futures! Curriculum Toolkit Resource Site

Futures! Curriculum Toolkit Resource Site

Organized around the concepts of Futures Past, Futures that Work, Futures that Inspire, and Futures that Unite, this toolkit encourages students to embrace their own role, both as individuals and as a community, in shaping the future. It asks students to examine questions about sustainability and relates them to hands-on Common Core and NGSS-aligned activities. This toolkit will not offer a single solution for the future, but instead will ask students to envision and share futures that make sense to them. The toolkit should help students feel that the future is not a fixed destination; it’s a decision. We all play a part in making it.

There are eight activities in this toolkit. Each activity has three sections called Examine, Investigate, and Share. In the Examine sections, students are presented with a question about sustainability. Students focus on understanding background information regarding this question and how the question relates to an object or objects found in FUTURES. In the Investigate sections, students perform an NGSS-aligned hands-on activity relating to the sustainability question. In the Share sections, students put their existing and new knowledge into action by speculating about the future and sharing their ideas and dreams.


This toolkit presents objects and ideas that explore sustainability. But there is so much more to explore in FUTURES! Visit to learn more or plan your visit.

Futures Exhibition Guide

Developed in conjunction with this toolkit, the Field Guide to Sustainable FUTURES is a printed exhibition guide for visitors ages 10 to 14. When visiting FUTURES, pick up copies at the Welcome Desk.

FUTURES! Field Guide


A collection of 3D models used in the Citizen Science exhibit, Park Planner activity

Park Planner 3D models








Activity 1: Synthetics Sustainability

Students learn about the Bakelizer, the machine that made world’s first plastic. Students explore synthetic and natural materials, discuss the sustainability of plastic waste, and design artwork using repurposed materials.

Learning Lab Collections for Synthetics Sustainability
Bakelizer Image

Activity 2: Tough Like an Egg

Drawing inspiration from the geodesic dome, students build different types of structures, including domes and cubes, and compare their capacity to withstand force.

Weatherbreak, Geodesic Dome Image

Activity 3: Sustainable Structures

Students learn about sustainable building materials, including mushroom bricks. Then they design their own futuristic building using sustainable and recycled materials.

Mushroom Bricks Image

Activity 4: Fashion Forward

Students investigate the common materials that make up our clothes and evaluate those materials using a sustainability score. They design a futuristic outfit using sustainable materials, inspired by the Elisa Palomino’s fish skin fashion items.

Learning Lab Collections for Fashion Forward
Fish Skin Image

Activity 5: Change Is in the Air

The Oceanix City model presents a possible solution to rising sea levels due to climate change. Students then write a news article about climate change.

Oceanix City Image

Activity 6: Skateboarding to Sustainability

Inspired by Leo Baker’s skateboards in FUTURES, students help a community member move from fossil fuel–burning forms of transportation to cleaner options. They track the carbon emissions for the community member and suggest how they can change their transportation habits to reduce carbon emissions.

Skateboard Image

Activity 7: Park Planner

Students learn about Smithsonian’s citizen science programs and then design a park while trying to balance plant and animal habitats and human structures.

Learning Lab Collections for Park Planner
Citizen Science Image

Activity 8: Cryo-Creature

Students read about the Smithsonian Cryo-Initiative, how it is trying to save endangered species, and the successful conservation of the black-footed ferret. Students then create their own creature while doing a genetics activity.

Learning Lab Collections for Cryo Creature
Cryo-Initiative Image