How to Get Involved
The Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC) works to improve the teaching and learning of science for K-12 students throughout the United States, and ultimately, throughout the world. It develops innovative new curriculum, conducts Summer Science Academies for Teachers at the Smithsonian museums and labs, and fosters science education leadership among school and community leaders. As there are a wide range of opportunities for learning, SSEC accepts applications from students currently enrolled in undergraduate or graduate programs, as well as high school students (at least 16 years old). The SSEC is actively seeking a diverse applicant pool. The internship lasts for 10 weeks, which is flexible on the start and end dates determined by the student. Please visit our Internship Page for more details.
Volunteer opportunities are open to all individuals who meet the qualifications established for each project, including having successfully completed a Federal background check. All volunteer positions require that you be available during business hours, Monday through Friday, and be at least 16 years of age. For those who are able to commit to 3 months of service or more, the minimum time commitment is 6 hours per week.
- 1:1 interview with Volunteer Management Staff
- Successfully pass a Federal background check
- Parents of minors must complete and sign a Parent Consent Form prior to interview
Qualified applicants are referred to a volunteer opportunity supervisor for final consideration.
A one-hour orientation on Smithsonian regulations. If job-specific training is required, it is provided by the project supervisor on an individual basis.
Application and Selection Process
If you are interested in volunteering with SSEC, please click the following link on how to apply: Smithsonian’s Behind-The-Scenes Volunteer Program. Upon completion of your BTS application, personal interview, and the successful completion of a background investigation, qualified applicants are referred to SSEC staff members for consideration.
Typical Assignments for Volunteers at SSEC
Professional Services Division
The Professional Services Division of the SSEC work to transform science education by building partnerships with community stakeholders and assisting regions, districts, and, schools as they plan for and implement comprehensive, inquiry-based science programs. This division designs and implements courses for K-12 science teachers and teacher leaders, and engages educators at all levels from classroom teachers to superintendents, as well as academic institutions, corporations, and foundations. Volunteers can assist the staff with general administrative tasks such as:
- Prepare materials for workshops, institutes, and events
- Organize courses for teachers at Smithsonian Institution museums
- Attend and facilitate courses, institutes, and events
- Conduct online research
- Research and assist with grant writing
- Prepare mailings and marketing materials
Experience in science, science education, or teaching would be an advantage. Interest in science is essential. Internet and Microsoft Office skills required, as well as a willing to perform a wide range of tasks.
Sample Volunteer Tasks:
- Assist with the revision and updating of materials for professional and leadership development events promoting science education reform
- Attend and assist with the facilitation of Smithsonian Science Education Academies for Teachers (SSEATs)
- Assist in the planning of logistics for upcoming events
- Research new resources (articles, books, reports, etc.) in science education
- Organize and assemble participant materials for events
- Interact with teachers to provide course information
- Attend and provide on-site support as needed at local events and events across the country (for age 18+ only)
- Digitize and analyze participant evaluations from summer programming
- Other opportunities as they arise
Curriculum and Communications
The Publications Division produces and maintains high-quality, educational materials that include Science and Technology Concepts™ (STC™) science curriculum units in the life, earth, and physical sciences for grades K-8 and a series of science reading resources, STC Literacy Series™, that complement our STC Program™. We also develop, update, and maintain the SSEC website, ssec.si.edu, and new digital initiatives. Volunteers can assist our efforts to:
- Write, edit, perform photo research, and/or create databases to track development and revision of our educational materials
- Assist in work on the website, including development of new web components
- Aid in digital asset management of photos and documents
- Perform image and document scanning, cataloging, and metadata assignments
- Promote SSEC through social media
- Author blog posts about inquiry and science education
- Write lessons plans or teaching strategies to be shared on our newly launched website
- Conduct computer-assisted drafting of 3D models that could be used in science education (fossils, animals, airplanes, etc.,)
Experience working in an IT environment, writing, editing, proofreading, conducting photo research, computer-assisted drafting, blogging/ journalism and/or working with spreadsheets and databases is helpful but not required.
Sample Volunteer Tasks:
- Photo research
- Media research on Smithsonian resources to be used in new and revised curriculum units
- Research on best practices in science education
- Research standards related to next-generation science
- Contribute original lesson plans or teaching strategies to SSEC blog
- Author blog posts of interest in STEM education
- Use CAD software to design 3D models useful in science education
- Do curriculum development and revision (write, edit, and proofread as part of a team of writers, editors, education specialists, and scientists.)
Finance & Administration Division
Are you interested in learning more about the business of science education? The right hand of the Executive Office is the Finance & Administration Division.
Sample Volunteer Tasks:
- Format budgets in Excel
- Track budget expenditures
- Research potential donors for core operations development proposals
- Organize accountable property documentation
- Organize and perform contract file maintenance
- Perform document archiving
- Microsoft Word and Excel are helpful skills. Business majors with excellent organizational skills are encouraged to apply