Keep learning with Smithsonian Museum of Natural History webcasts

Smithsonian Science How

Bring a Smithsonian Scientist into your classroom with Smithsonian Science How! Check out the Science How schedule below to get started, or preview our formats by watching a program from our video webcast archives.

Video Webcasts

These free, interactive, live video webcasts take questions from your students while introducing them to science concepts and practices through the lens of Smithsonian research and experts. The shows provide opportunities for your students to interact via live polls and Q&A with the scientist.

  • Grades 3-8; optimized for students in grades 3-5
  • Developed in collaboration with the Smithsonian’s children’s theater, Discovery Theater
  • Scientists take your questions
  • Complementary teaching resources
  • 30 minutes long
  • Aligned with national science standards

Schedule

Here is the webcast schedule for the 2019-2020 school year. Want to suggest a topic for a future show? E-mail us at ScienceHow@si.edu.

Upcoming Shows

We’re moving our popular webcast series to video webinars to connect your learners to natural history science and careers more often. Webinars will be presented on Zoom video. All times are Eastern Time.

Completed Shows

Video Archives

We’ve produced 52 Smithsonian Science How webcasts over the last six years. They feature Smithsonian experts and cover specific topics in the disciplines of Earth Science, Life Science, Paleontology, and Social Studies.

Browse the video archives.

Ask Science How

Teachers and students: Do you have a question for our science experts? Send us your questions, either before or after a webcast. We’ll send you the answer. Ask Science How

From the Humane Gardener: The frogs are calling. Will we listen?

Suffering from their own global pandemic, frogs have few places to hide from mowers, pesticides and fungal disease. But helping them starts at home, right in your own backyard.

As Italians sang in hope and unity from their balconies last week, a different kind of national anthem played outside my window an ocean away. American toads trilled their hearts out. Clucking wood frogs plucked the bass strings. Spring peepers chirped a staccato soprano….

The eve of spring, normally a joyous occasion, was unfolding in a world very different from the one we lived in last spring, last month and even last week. And yet it wasn’t different at all, at least not for the frogs, whose symphony reminded me that for so many creatures living here among us, life goes on.

Read the rest of Nancy Lawson’s story

And register to watch her webinar Sunday, April 26th

Service opportunity to do from home: Edit captions for VMN continuing education webinars

VMN HQ is looking for volunteers willing to do a very tedious, at-home computer task of editing the captions for VMN Continuing Education webinar videos. If this fits your skills and interest, see below for details. Volunteers chosen to assist with this project will be able to report their hours to the VMN Statewide Administration project. Cheers,  Michelle

Are you looking for a VMN volunteer opportunity you can do from home? This is a project that I’ve been trying to figure out how to do for a long time, and I think I finally have a way, with your help.

As you know, we have many years’ worth of recorded videos from our Continuing Education Webinar Series. Accessibility best practices for videos include having captions available for people who are deaf or otherwise unable to hear the audio well. The video software we use from Virginia Tech does do automatic captions, but they are done from computer speech recognition and are full of errors. Sometimes the errors are so bad that the text is nonsensical!  

What You’ll Do:

We are seeking volunteers to edit the captions for our recorded Continuing Education webinar videos. For each video, I have an unedited captions file that I will send as a starting point. I will also send you a link for streaming the recorded video. You will be asked to:

  1. Open the captions file in a text editing program such as TextEdit (on the Mac) or Notepad (on a PC). 
  2. Start playing the video using the link I provide to you.
  3. Listen to the video and follow along with the captions. When you see an error in the caption text, pause the video, edit the text, and then start the video again. Be sure to hit save on your captions file periodically.
  4. Follow some basic guidelines and conventions for captioning. I will send those out to the people who volunteer for this project.
  5. Work on the project whenever you want. You do not have to do the whole video in one sitting. The videos are generally about 1 hour, and you’ll find that it takes at least 2 to 4 hours to complete the caption editing because of all the stopping and starting. 
  6. When you’ve completed all the caption editing, save the file in a particular format (I’ll provide more directions on that) and then email the file to me.
  7. Complete the captioning for your video by approximately April 30. If you need longer, that’s OK, too. That is a somewhat arbitrary deadline.
  8. Report your volunteer time to the “VMN Statewide Administration” project on the VMS.

What You’ll Need:

  1. Access to a computer with a plain text editing program such as TextEdit or Notepad. Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and other word processing software are not what you want for this purpose.
  2. Access to an internet connection that allows you to stream video. I don’t have a practical way to download the videos and send the files to you, so you will need to be able to watch them online.
  3. Lots of attention to detail and an incredibly high tolerance for very tedious jobs!

To Volunteer:

Please contact Michelle Prysby by March 31. I will send out the assignments shortly after that date. I’ll just assign a video to you based on what is available. If we have more volunteers than videos, I will prioritize volunteers who have physical disabilities or injuries that prevent them from doing more physical volunteer work and after that I’ll just do first-come, first-chosen. Please only volunteer if you feel comfortable finding and using the text editor on your computer and feel like you have the necessary attention to detail that this project requires.

This is a great opportunity for volunteers who may need an at-home project, who really like our Continuing Education webinars, who don’t mind tedious tasks, and who have a good eye for details!

Join the U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions

In November 2016, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the formation of the U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions group and presented the first set of 2030 Champions.

U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions are businesses and organizations that have made a public commitment to reduce food loss and waste in their own operations in the United States by 50 percent by the year 2030.

The staggering amount of wasted food in the United States has far-reaching impacts on resource conservation and food security, while costing businesses and consumers money. To help galvanize national efforts to reduce food loss and waste, USDA and EPA announced the United States’ first-ever food loss and waste reduction goal in September 2015, calling for a 50-percent reduction by 2030. Government alone cannot reach this goal. It will require effort and action from the entire food system. The 2030 Champions have heard the Call to Action and are committed to do their part to help the nation reach this critical goal.

EPA, FDA, and USDA co-hosted a Food Loss and Waste event at USDA’s Whitten Building on October 18, 2018, in Washington, DC. The purpose of the event was to celebrate the commitments of the 2030 Champions to reduce food loss and waste in their industrial operations by 2030 and to sponsor a panel to highlight some innovative ways and best practices to educate American consumers on the impacts of food loss and waste, environmentally, socially and economically. The leaders of EPA, USDA, and FDA signed a formal agreement aimed at improving coordination and communication across the federal agencies attempting to better educate Americans on the impacts and importance of reducing food loss and waste.

Learn more about reducing food waste

Message to Master Naturalists from Michelle Prysby

Dear Virginia Master Naturalist volunteers—I hope that you all are safe and well. I’ve been in contact with all the VMN chapter board members and advisors regularly over the last week, and I wanted to take time now to reach out to all of our volunteers.

First, I would like to holler three cheers for all of our chapter leaders. They have been doing a great job pivoting as necessary given the ever-changing circumstances. They have had to gather information and preferences from a lot of people, make decisions about canceling events, learn new technologies to move meetings online, and a lot more. Terri, Tiffany, and I are all extremely appreciative of their efforts.

Second, I want to use this platform to ask all of you to take the guidelines from the Virginia Department of Health, the CDC, and the Governor’s office regarding COVID-19 very seriously. The most civic-minded act we all can do right now is to avoid in-person interactions and physically distance ourselves as much as possible. I know you all are very committed to your VMN volunteer work. Please put that work on hold if you cannot do it safely. Some people may even want to stop some volunteer work and projects that don’t require group gatherings, just because they want to conserve their mental and physical energy right now. That’s completely fine. Other projects may continue because people have the energy to do them and because they can be done safely.

Third, you’ll notice I did not use the term “social distancing”, and that’s because your fellow volunteers, friends, and family need connection now more than ever. Use the time you might have spent at all those events that are now canceled instead reaching out (in a safe way) to people you know. If there are safe ways to volunteer in your community to help the COVID-19 response effort, that could be a good way to re-direct your inclination to volunteer. 

Fourth, in the spirit of staying connected, I plan to be ramping up our Continuing Education webinars in the coming weeks. I had a couple of our regular webinars already lined up, and I will add to these so that there are more learning experiences available to you. I’ll announce those on our CE webinar webpage at http://www.virginiamasternaturalist.org/continuing-education-webinar-series.html and via our CE Webinar mailing list. You can join that mailing list by going to http://www.virginiamasternaturalist.org/receive-communications.html and clicking the “Email Alert Sign-Up”. 

Fifth, I am very proud and fortunate to work with Virginia Cooperative Extension, an agency that is providing great leadership, community assistance, and public information during this crisis. VCE now has a public webpage with COVID-19 resources at https://ext.vt.edu/covid-19updates/resources.html. Every day, additional fact sheets and other information is added there.We are so fortunate that spending time in nature, so long as we are not in close contact with other humans or sharing our binoculars, is safe! I have noticed more families than ever spending time outside in the park and trail near my house, which gives me a lot of hope. 

Spring is springing, and I hope that you will be able to spot your favorite wildflower in bloom, hear the birds singing, and watch the forests turn green again as the leaves emerge.

Stay well, Michelle Prysby, VMN Program Director

Bluebells at the Bend Festival, April 11th–CANCELED!

Riverbend Park
8700 Potomac Hills St., Great Falls VA
Saturday, 11 April 2020
10am – 3pm

Celebrate the Virginia Bluebells that carpet the early spring forest at Riverbend Park!

Pre-sale tickets are $7 online until April 10th, regular tickets are $9 at the gate.

Enjoy
• Wildflower Walks
• Live Music
• Face Painting
• Live Animals
• Moon bounce
• Obstacle Course
• Wagon Rides
• Puppet Show
• Eagle Scope
• Crafts, games, and more!

Bonus: Friends of Riverbend Park will be selling bluebells from a native plant nursery. Pots will be $10/plant. Proceeds benefit FORB and help us assist Riverbend Park.

Event is rain or shine. For questions call 703-759-9018.

Local Native Plant Sales in Full Bloom

Native plants help baby songbirds, butterflies, our ecosystem and support clean water. They need no fertilizer, no extra watering once they are established,no pesticides and no lawn mowing.

Check out this list of native plant sales and start digging!

City Nature Challenge Educator Workshop, Mar. 28th

National Geographic headquarters
1145 17th St NW, Washington DC 20036
(near Farragut West and Farragut North Metro stations)
Saturday, 28 March 2020
9:30am – Noon
Breakfast will be provided

Over 250 cities around the world are participating in a friendly competition to see which metro area can observe and identify the most wildlife. You can contribute with your students or youth group! Your observations will help document the many species that live in our region, contribute to a worldwide database of urban wildlife—and help the Washington DC metro area win the City Nature Challenge (CNC)!

Come to National Geographic to learn about the CNC, practice collecting observations, and share ideas about how to integrate CNC activities into your classroom or group.

The workshop will be a great resource for educators, formal or informal, who have been thinking about participating in the City Nature Challenge but want to get better acquainted with the tools.

There is no cost, but registration is limited. Please do share the invitation with others; each person needs to register separately for security purposes.

Register here. Contact Mary Ford with questions.

5th Annual Watershed Cleanup in April

April 4, 5, 11 and 18th
9am – 12pm
Over 20 local parks—find one near you!

The Nature Conservancy is partnering with the Fairfax County Park Authority to host their Fifth Annual Watershed Cleanup at parks throughout Fairfax County. This spring cleaning will remove tires, plastic bottles, can and other debris from local waterways, preventing trash from reaching the nation’s largest estuary, the Chesapeake Bay. One thousand volunteers are needed!

Online registration is available starting March 16th.

Questions? Contact Holly Lafferty, AmeriCorps Volunteer Coordinator for The Nature Conservancy.

Earth Day Fairfax Festival (formerly Springfest), April 25th–CANCELED!

Sully Historic Site
3650 Historic Sully Way, Chantilly VA
Saturday, 25 April 2020
10am – 4pm
Parking $10 per car

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, so come out to celebrate at the Sully Historic Site! There will be a fun day packed with entertainment, activities, food vendors, Touch-A-Truck, prizes, and more! Learn more about how we can all support our event theme of “Healthy People – Healthy Planet” and all that Fairfax County is doing to support environmental sustainability.

Volunteers needed!

Download the flyer.