Educators Smithsonian Education
Teaching with Collections
Getting Started

The two lessons in this issue were created by educators at the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center (SEEC), a preschool and kindergarten on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. One of the missions of SEEC is to foster critical-thinking skills through “real-world learning,” which includes explorations of the Smithsonian’s many art, history, and science collections.

The lessons here bring collections into the classroom to give tangibility to mathematics—to turn numbers on a page into numbers of actual things. In the first, “A Collection of Artifacts,” young students take a close look at something we use every day but rarely think about until it’s missing—the button. In early-algebra exercises of sorting and classifying, they organize a collection of random buttons, counting and multiplying them according to attributes. In the second, “A Collection of Natural Objects,” students work with seashells and come to see how sorting and classifying relates to the work of scientists.

To learn more about SEEC and the professional-development programs it offers to teachers across the country, visit

Download "Teaching with Collections" (PDF).

Required Materials

Download the Complete Lesson PDF

Download Lesson One, Graph A Enlargement

Download Lesson One, Graph B Enlargement

Download Lesson One, Graph C Enlargement
Teaching with Collections

Smithsonian in Your Classroom is produced by the Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies. Teachers may duplicate the materials for educational purposes.

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