The Center uses inquiry-based learning and measures progress not by rote memorization but by how well students, guided by teachers, develop experimental and analytical skills they can use.

Smithsonian Science Education Center

$16 Million raised

Smithsonian Science Education Center

Sparking Discovery

The Smithsonian Science Education Center enables elementary and middle school students and their teachers to learn science the way scientists do: through firsthand experience and inquiry-based research. It creates authentic science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) experiences, improving educational achievement outcomes in the nation’s classrooms, particularly for students who are economically disadvantaged, English language learners or students in individualized special education programs. The center reaches students in all 50 states and in 25 countries.

Douglas M. Lapp was the center’s first executive director when it was founded in 1985, jointly with the National Academy of Sciences. Lapp was a mentor to current Director Carol O’Donnell, who writes science curricula. The center approached Lapp’s wife, Anne Keiser, with the idea of setting up an endowment in his name. She gave an immediate $55,000 gift, then changed it to a $1 million bequest toward the endowment, surprising her husband at an event featuring Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton. The couple plans to continue contributing to the endowment until it reaches $5 million to name the director’s position.

Johnson and Johnson’s Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Peter Fasolo gave $1 million on behalf of the company to support the center and K-8 STEM teaching.

The center’s largest-ever gift was a $1.85 million bequest from a K-8 private school headmaster in New York City who gave anonymously to the campaign. The donor stated that he gave to the Smithsonian because it is a global, trusted, “forever” organization reaching children where  educational resources are most needed.

Smithsonian Science Education Center
Leadership Message

Leadership Message

The Smithsonian Science Education Center is developing a scientifically literate citizenry and a 21st-century workforce by transforming the teaching and learning of science for all P-12 students in the United States and world.

We have developed instructional materials that approach science education through an interdisciplinary lens—bringing the science, history, art, and culture of the Smithsonian into science classrooms throughout the world. We have built awareness for science education among corporations, community stakeholders, and educational leaders; helped develop science education leadership; and conducted programs to support the professional growth of teachers.  We have rigorous third-party evidentiary data demonstrating efficacy of our products and services.

Since 1985, our work has made a significant and long-term contribution to the establishment of effective science education across the United States and in many countries around the world.  With the support of the Smithsonian Institution and our collaboration with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, we are nationally and internationally recognized for the quality and impact of our education programs.

Please join us in fulfilling our vision and teaching the next generation to embrace scientific curiosity and the teaching of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) as the pathway to successful careers and lives.

Thank you.

  • Carol O'Donnell headshot
    Carol O'Donnell
    Director, Smithsonian Science Education Center
Smithsonian Science Education Center
Campaign Case

Funding 21st-Century Science Education

Our goal is to significantly increase scientific literacy in the next generation, and we have evidence that scientific literacy is the key to literacy itself. Your gifts will transform science education for teachers and help ALL students improve their science, reading, and math skills.

The challenges of the 21st century require a citizenry educated to think critically, acquire new knowledge and produce and apply creative solutions. The Smithsonian Science Education Center is ideally positioned to apply proven strategies in the teaching of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to increase student achievement for ALL students and improve teacher practice in P–12 classrooms and beyond.

Gifts to the Smithsonian Campaign will enable ALL youth to excel in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM-related) trades and careers. Students will become better readers, critical thinkers, and math problem solvers. They will be prepared for higher education and become responsible citizens who make informed decisions about their health, careers, the environment, finances and government.

The Smithsonian Science Education Center is extending the reach of our knowledge and resources by developing digital assets. These will inspire students to explore scientific phenomenon through digital activities, games, simulations, and online activities.  They will provide teachers across the nation and beyond with professional development.

By investing in the Smithsonian Campaign, the Smithsonian Science Education Center will create a robust library of digital assets accessible to students, teachers and lifelong learners.  Gifts to the Smithsonian Campaign will ensure that teachers in all corners of the world can engage in authentic STEM experiences that can be immediately applied to their science classroom.

The Smithsonian Science Education Center seeks to create professional learning communities (PLC's) among educators, scientists and community leaders. These PLC's with rich online resources will help teachers improve their understanding of scientific concepts, engage teachers in informative dialogues with scientists and engineers and expand teachers’ awareness of the application of history, culture, and art to science, engineering and technological innovation.

Gifts to the Smithsonian Campaign will enable the Smithsonian Science Education Center to give teachers the confidence they need to prepare students for the 21st Century workforce.

Smithsonian Science Education Center

Smithsonian Science Education Center

is raising $13.5 million of the Smithsonian Campaign’s overall $1.5 billion goal. 

Campaign Priorities

Access to Education

$6 Million

We seek a total of $6 million to enrich our science education offerings and initiatives. An investment of $215,000 will support the development of one of 24 new curriculum units.  Investing in our curriculum will ensure that students learn scientific and engineering practices as part of a comprehensive STEM curriculum. We synthesize the latest research in cognitive science with the frontiers of knowledge about the designed and natural world.  At the Smithsonian, we are motivating students from all sectors to engage in authentic inquiry-based STEM experiences to prepare for college and career. Learning by doing - it's the great equalizer!

Spaces for Education

$4 Million

We seek a total of $4 million for enhanced technology and digital assets. An investment of $2 million creates a digital learning center, including games, webisodes, simulations, and infographics that bring Smithsonian resources into high need classrooms and respond to the needs of today's educators and students. A gift of $2 million helps to build our "Good Thinking! The Science of Teaching Science" series webisodes for teachers.

Leaders in Education

$3.5 Million

We seek a total of $3.5 million to sustain and extend our teacher professional development programs. A gift of $2 million creates professional learning communities amongst educators with rich online resources to ensure our resources are reaching all teachers.  An investment of $1 million creates professional development programs that bring scientists into classrooms in high need schools. A gift of $500,000 provides a series of professional development sessions that help to bridge the gap between formal and informal science education and support teachers from high need schools to attend our Smithsonian Science Education Academies for Teachers (SSEATs).

Smithsonian Science Education Center

Contact Us

Smithsonian Science Education Center Campaign Officers

Smithsonian Science Education Center Board

  • Kristin Richardson, Chair
  • Erin K. Hogan, Vice Chair
  • Simone Acha
  • Terry Bergeson
  • Robert M. Chell
  • George DeBakey
  • Morad Fareed
  • Carol Feinberg
  • John Jacobson
  • Jeffrey Martin
  • Michelle Moore
  • Irwin Shlachter
  • Fredericka Stevenson
  • Peter Vesterbacka
  • Frazier Wilson
  • Christos Zahopoulos

Smithsonian Science Education Center

Total Goal:
$16 Million


$16 Million Raised

As of November 30, 2017

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